Swimming pool yes, Heavy Haul no

“(The Heavy Haul dispute) is about our infrastructure and communication. This is a vital piece to us. We live and die on US-97.” Patrick Plumb, Tonasket Mayor

Tonasket looks to move forward with swimming pool, questions highway designation

TONASKET – The possibility of a rebuilt Tonasket swimming pool again took center stage at the Tuesday, Jan. 29, Tonasket City Council meeting. And while a meeting the previous week brought the desire of the community further into focus regarding what such a pool might look like, getting from Point A to Point B in terms of funding is still going to take some doing.

City planner Kurt Danison of Highlands Associates, who “MC’d” the swimming pool town hall meeting on Jan. 21, said that after the discussion and various votes taken by the 50 or so attendees, his proposed solution would cost in the neighborhood of $1.5 million.

“I’d propose adopting a plan for a 25×75 lap pool, with a 12-foot 6-inch diving well, 1-meter diving board and a water slide,” Danison said. “Joining that would be 20×30, somewhere in that realm, zero depth entry recreation pool with connection to the lap pool, and new building.

“The reason I suggest the zero-entry instead of a ramp, the ramp isn’t that wide. If you are in a wheelchair or with a toddler, the lap pool will be a minimum three feet deep and that’s too deep to be in. With zero entry, you can go in as deep as you are comfortable with, and still have a connection to the main pool if you are comfortable with that.”

The next step, Danison said, would be to have either the city or the community pool committee (which is still sorting out its leadership) to pay Pool World to provide a final revised site plan and cost estimate based upon those recommendations.

“We need to determine if you are ready and willing to proceed with a grant request to the Recreation Conservation Office,” Danison said. “If we’re going to do that we need to very soon (to meet deadlines for the current grant cycle).

“The committee should meet and prepare and implement a fundraising strategy, and find out if the committee is going to stay together and move forward. Also we can explore doing the job without grant funds and the limitations involved with the public works process… (but) if we’re not asking for grant funds then the amount of money that needs to be raised doubles. We’re talking in the vicinity of $1.5 million.”

Regardless of the method used for raising funds (public or private), Danison said architectural and design costs will be about 30 percent of the project’s cost.

Council member Jill Vugteveen noted that if the city were to apply for a grant that required matching funds, it currently doesn’t have money on hand to match a large grant.

Finding a source of funding to maintain the pool is still a priority as well. Mayor Patrick Plumb said that past maintenance costs, including staffing, ran at about $36-40,000 per year, with money generated from entry fees cutting about $7,000 off that figure.

“The city is asking how we can continue to do that,” he said. “We can’t. And there’s no contingency. The last 10 years, when pumps broke we spent money to just get buy, or we didn’t turn the heaters on. There wasn’t the volume of heating capacity.”

He noted that an endowment fund helps pay the maintenance costs at a similar pool in Davenport.

Council member Scott Olson, who has been the council’s primary interface with the community pool committee, said he would take the proposal back to that group to determine what to do next.

“There was some grumbling and some dissatisfaction that we didn’t move forward on an indoor pool,” Olson said. “I feel like we have given the community enough chance where we enabled another committee to take off and do it, and I’m just convinced that it’s time for us to move forward with our own pool … I think we did as much as we could for that option.”

Heavy haul?

The mayor has been at odds with the Okanogan County Commissioners over a proposal to extend a heavy haul transportation corridor from Oroville to Pateros, which would run on US-97 through Tonasket’s business core. Plumb said he was upset that the city was not included in the discussions that led to the proposal and were not even informed directly about it, but learned of it through media reports.

“The issue is for me, not about how many axles and how that works and whether or not I support heavier trucks (running through town),” he said. “But when I saw the documentation, it was decided at a higher level than us, and implied that everyone was already in agreement about it.

“We know what the infrastructure issues are on our mile of 97. We have aging infrastructure. The stormwater capacity is not good by any means. It will affect our downtown business core. We’ve been clear the last 15 years, that (repairing Whitcomb Ave. with a) grind and mill is what we’re looking for, not just patching the driving lanes.”

Oroville does have a heavy haul corridor, but it was implemented in a far different fashion.

It has aided existing businesses in Oroville like Oroville Reman and Reload, which takes dimensional lumber from Canada and other Canadian products that arrive by truck and reloads them onto rail cars. In addition, the designation has led to new customers for the Cascade and Columbia River Railroad.

Building permit administrator Christian Johnson, on hand to discuss other issues, said that the proposal would be a departure from what other heavy haul corridors are used for and could undermine that good it has done for Oroville and the railroad.

“The idea was to make it more advantageous for the trucks to not go on the highway through Tonasket, that they get on the rail,” Johnson said. “It makes it more competitive to provide for this rail, which is an immense infrastructure investment that is already here that does two things: fuel economy, and keeping trucks off the highway for safety.

“It mirrors what’s around the state. Nothing about trucks from Oroville to the south end back and forth, or trucks that were originating in Okanogan and moving elsewhere. Nothing about that. It was narrow and specific. And that’s why Oroville supported that.”

“We also have no idea who it is supposed to benefit,” Danison added. “There’s only speculation.”

“It’s not about money,” Plumb said. “It’s about our infrastructure, and communication. This is a vital piece to us. We live and die on US-97.

“The commissioners said, ‘We had a state representative and this state senator discussing it,’ but where were we? Was there not some big controversy in Okanogan over putting a roundabout in on US-97? The commissioners’ point (at the time) was that a decision was made behind their backs and they didn’t like it.

“Well, join the club.”

Miscellany

Other actions taken by the council include the denial of a peddlers’ permit for selling wood in town; the approval of the Mill Drive Long Plat after Christian Johnson answered a number of questions from the council; and the authorization of the police department to pursue grant funding for an additional vehicle.

Danison also said that the city will receive $192,000 in grant funding fro the Washington Surface Transportation Program (STP) for a bridge that will cross Bonaparte Creek to give access to pedestrians from town trying to access the U.S. Armed Forces Legacy Park. The project will be combined with a separate project that will add a sidewalk from there to the corner of Whitcomb and Fourth Street.

The Tonasket City Council next meets on Tuesday, Feb. 11, at 7:00 p.m.

About Brent Baker

Brent is a reporter for the Gazette-Tribune. Prior to working at the G-T, he was the sports editor for Sunrise Publishing from 2000-2005 in Michigan. He subsequently owned and operated Buckland Media, a high school sports website, in Michigan until 2010. He and his wife Kim, who have an adult son, moved to Tonasket in 2010. Brent started work at the G-T in 2011.

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