Oroville extends hearing on street vacation until next meeting

Keeping railhead open for heavy industry benefits several businesses

OROVILLE – After some discussion at the Tuesday, Aug. 2 council meeting, Oroville will take up the matter of street vacation near Oroville Reman and Reload at their next public meeting.

The petition was made to vacate parts of two roads near the business in the heavy industrial area after it grew to include both sides of the road. Reman and Reload feels that as well as helping their wood manufacturing business operate more efficiently, it is also a safety issue for neighboring residents who use the road. The city hopes to secure a grant from the Economic Development Administration in order to make changes to the road’s configuration so that heavy industrial traffic like trucks and forklifts would be separated from other uses, as well as eventually secure an additional railroad crossing near the railhead.

“Oroville Reman and Reload had to go across the road to actually get enough land to store their lumber products,” said Chris Branch, Oroville’s director of Community Development, who discussed the history of the company, as well as the other industrial users in the area.

Branch showed the development of the area over the years using several arial maps and how they relate to the comprehensive plan.

“What we end up with is non-conventional uses, which presents a challenge because there are a lot of mixed uses. The transportation plan was also done in 1995 and it planned on a crossing, but it puts in right in the middle of where Oroville Reman and Reload is now.

“That’s a little background of what we are up against now.

Branch said expansion of the economy is important and that once the Heavy Haul Corridor was in place, Reman and Reload invested more into the company in both equipment and personnel.

Michael Guss, director of the North Central Washington Economic Development District (NCWEDD) said while the grant application has not yet been approved, he said there was a high likelihood it would be.

Branch asked that the road vacation hearing be continued to the Tuesday, Aug. 6 meeting and the council approved.

There was only one person who spoke up from the audience about the potential road vacation. She asked how it would affect the residential neighborhood that has grown up next to the industrial area. How emergency vehicles would get to them if needed. She had concerns about the truck and forklift traffic, as well.

“I believe this would funnel that traffic so forklifts would go that way anyway,” said Councilman David McElheran.

“Forklifts currently drive around as a regular practice around the heavy industrial area,” said Branch. “People locate next to industrial areas for a number of reasons, some for convenience to their work, some because houses go for less in the heavy industrial area,” said Branch.

Guss said keeping the ability of Reman and Reload doing business in the area, not only helps the local economy, but helps all the other businesses who utilize the railroad from Oroville to Wenatchee and it is also in their interest to make sure the railroad keeps serving the area.

“There’s 156 jobs mostly retained, but another 30 jobs could be added. If Oroville Reman and Reload can’t grow out here maybe they go to Blaine or somewhere in Idaho,” Guss said. “If we lose the railroad it not only affects Oroville, but Tonasket and the mine down the road and all the way to Wenatchee.”

Guss added that changes in the softwood agreement between the U.S. and Canada may make the railhead in Oroville even more desirable.

Councilman Ed Naillon added, “My feeling is that vacation of that segment probably won’t put more people at risk, but rather make the risk less.”

In other business, Mayor Jon Neal named his committee appointments and Councilman Tony Koepke was chosen by the council as Mayor Pro Tem.

When considering whether to sign a resolution requesting Okanogan County PUD not reenergize Enloe Dam, the council seemed unwilling to do so at that time.

“As a matter of fair play I’d like to hear the other side of the story,” said McElheran.

A lawyer for Gold Digger Apple Inc. wrote a letter to the city saying it would pay its late water and sewer bill if the city would drop the penalties.

“I’ve never seen a nicer blackmail letter,” said Councilman Walt Hart.

“He’s asking to pay up until last month… are they going to pay after that. I’m totally disgusted with this letter,” said Koepke.

“I think we should accept the payment for what they owe us today and say they need to continue to pay their bills or we will proceed by the letter of the law,” said Rod Noel, superintendent of public works.

Koepke made that in the form of a motion and it was passed.

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.