Mayor names Clay Warnstaff as new police chief

<p align=Photo by Gary DeVon

Oroville Mayor Chuck Spieth shakes hands with newly appointed Oroville Police Chief Clay Warnstaff. Warnstaff has been serving as interim police chief during Randy Wheat’s absence.

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Photo by Gary DeVon

Oroville Mayor Chuck Spieth shakes hands with newly appointed Oroville Police Chief Clay Warnstaff. Warnstaff has been serving as interim police chief during Randy Wheat’s absence.

OROVILLE – Oroville Mayor Chuck Spieth asked and received the city council’s approval of his choice of Clay Warnstaff as the city’s chief of police.

Warnstaff was appointed interim police chief after Chief Randy Wheat was diagnosed with cancer and while he was undergoing treatment. Wheat later succumbed to the disease and the mayor asked Warnstaff to remain in the interim position until a final decision was made on who would be chief.

“One of my pleasures in this job is to appoint a few department heads and I’d like to appoint Clay Warnstaff as our police chief,” said Mayor Spieth, at the Tuesday, Aug. 5 council meeting.

The council members concurred with the mayor’s choice and moved to approve Warnstaff to the position and the new chief was sworn in.

Earlier in the evening, Steve Morberg discussed his plan to construct a hotel on property he owns along Highway 97 on the south end of town. Morberg’s 54,372 square foot triangle-shaped property, a former trailer park, is located between the highway and Fir Street and is north of a lot used to store apple bins.

Morberg does not live in Oroville, but owns several pieces of property in the area. He plans on building a three-story, 56 unit hotel with a pool and a small coffee shop or wine bar, he said.

He told the council that his biggest concern was over parking and that ideally he could use about 43 additional feet to the south, but the adjoining property owner told him that he did not wish to sell.

Although he has never owned or built a hotel before, Morberg feels Oroville is in need of more and better accommodations than are currently available in town. He said he was quite interested in getting the council’s opinion, as well as opinions from the community about what the hotel should look like.

“There are a lot of great things you can do with the exterior,” he said. “It doesn’t have to look like a Best Western.

To illustrate his point he showed the council and those present at the meeting several designs in a book on Doo Wop architecture. Many had a retro or 1950′s and 1960′s flair. The would-be hotel developer said the designs in the book were fun, but might not be exactly what the town was looking for, although certain aspects might make it into the completed project.

“Other than parking is there anything we can do to help? We surely would like to help,” said Mayor Spieth.

Oroville City Planner Chris Branch said it would help Morberg’s plans if someone had the ability to convince the neighboring property owner to sell a small piece to alleviate a potential parking problem.

“We will also be looking at the various options like raising the height maximum. That would require we address the views in the surrounding area, however,” said Branch.

A taller building might not be prudent because in case of fire it would require a ladder truck with greater capability than anything in the fire department’s fleet.

“With that in mind I’d like to open before the 2010 Olympics… ideally I’d like to open in the spring,” he said.

The mayor said he would approach the adjacent property owner and discuss the situation with him. Other options might include making a deal with the Oroville Grange Association for use of part of their parking lot at the hall.

Morberg has offered to let this newspaper run illustrations of the top two to four designs and poll the community to see which it likes best.

About Gary DeVon

Gary DeVon is the managing editor of the Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune and celebrated his 25th year at the newspaper in August 2012. He graduated from Gonzaga University with a degree in Communications - Print Journalism, with an emphasis in photojournalism. He is a proud alumnus of Oroville High School. His family first settled in Okanogan County in the late 1800s. His parents are Judy DeVon and the late Larry DeVon and he has two younger brothers - Dante and Michael. Many family members still call Oroville home. He has a grown daughter, Segornae Douglas and a young granddaughter, Erin.

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