Six-year or three-year EMS Levy?

OROVILLE – The Oroville City Council discussed whether they should ask for a six-year replacement of the EMS levy which will soon expire or seek a three-year levy as suggested by the rural EMS district.

“This is the last meeting before the deadline to put before the measure before the voters,” said Kathy Jones, Oroville City Clerk. “Monte [Drummond] said the EMS board wants a three-year levy at 25 cents.”

Jones said she favored asking for 25 cents for the city as well, rather than raising the amount.

“To me sticking with 25 cents is okay, I’m almost a little nervous even 25 cents may not pass,” said Jones, “I was in favor of raising it last time, but I’m not so sure this time.”

Jones explained the rural EMS Board’s reasoning behind just asking for a three-year levy has to do with the increase in property valuation that the district experienced and the fact that during that time they were locked in at 25 cents.

“Their rational is that property may go up again within six years and they are only able to increase the tax by one percent a year,” Jones said.

If they go for a three-year levy then they could put a higher rate before the voters if property valuations increased, rather than waiting a full six years, according to Jones.

Councilman Tony Koepke made a motion to approve the city running a special six-year EMS levy at the amount of 25 cents per $1000 in evaluation. The motion was seconded by Councilman Walt Hart III and passed.

The EMS District board was meeting later in the week to decide what they would ask for and for how many years.

The council heard a presentation from a representative of the Colville Confederated Tribes regarding their recycling program and were told that the Tribes were looking to join in partnership if the city ever decided to pursue a recycling program of its own. The mayor and council expressed their appreciation for the presentation and was surprised by the large amounts of old tires and other recyclables the Tribe had collected since they implemented the program.

Police Chief Clay Warnstaff told the council that the city’s moratorium on medical marijuana collective grows and dispensaries would expire soon.

“The moratorium expires in September and I wanted to bring it to your attention,” said Warnstaff, adding there were really no new developments on the state level.

“There is no talk of legalizing it in the state, the legislature is not action on it. There has been no direction from the state, which is not surprising,” said the chief.

Warnstaff said the City of Chelan had passed an ordinance allowing collective gardens as long as they were within accord with state and federal law. The police chief called this “misleading” as the grows are not legal under federal law.

“Chris [Branch, Director of Community Development] and I talked about being more straight forward. The staff has recommended going with (city attorney) Mick Howe and just not allowing them, citing federal statute,” said Warnstaff.

In a discussion on the mosquito spraying program, City Clerk Kathy Jones said the city was waiting for certification of the pilot and once that was done and the high water had receded the city would give 48 hours notice to people living in the spray area. (Update: The mosquito spray program has been cancelled this year, according to Jones, due to the inability of Omak, the lead-agency in the program, to find a replacement pilot for the regular pilot who was injured earlier in the year).

There was also discussion about an agreement the county wants the city to sign regarding the Public Works Trust Fund loan. The county sought and received an extension of the pay back of the PWTF loan they took to construct the Eastlake Sewer Project. The extension adds 10 years to the current 20-year payback period. The city also used a small portion of the loan to improve its sewer lines and wastewater treatment facility to handle the additional sewage that is generated in the Eastlake Project. The city makes payments on this portion of the loan to the county.

“Our payment was due at the end of July. Since we did not hear from the county as to the decrease in our payment because of the loan extension we went ahead and made it from the $115,000 we had budget for,” said Jones.

“I was directed to write a letter saying that we would like to participate in the extension with no penalties for early pay off and asked for a new amortization of the schedule. We received a letter in response saying the county will extend, but wants Oroville to show more willingness in their level of commitment to support a special assessment area,” said Jones.

Mayor Chuck Spieth asked how the city can form an assessment area on people living in the county.

“Isn’t this what they were talking about doing themselves when they got so much negative feedback from the people living in the area, how can we do it?” asked Jones.

Noel said the city did not have an operational agreement in place that said the county would turn the system over to the city.

“I think they’re asking us to collect for them,” he said.

Councilman Ed Naillon suggested the city continue to budget for and make the original payment agreement.

“If we keep making the original payment and if they can’t make their payments they’re attempts to try and make us collect for them won’t have teeth,” Naillon said.

Noel added that the county hasn’t even made all the developers connect to the sewer line. “The Health Board is going to ask the county when they are going to enact its policy that when someone connects to city water they also connect to the sewer,” said Noel.

“They don’t want to adopt the policy so they try to make us do it,” said Jones.

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 the Judy DeVon and the late Larry DeVon and he has two younger brothers - Dante and Michael. Many family members still call Oroville home. He is single with a grown daughter, Segornae Douglas and a young granddaughter, Erin.

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