Oroville Mayor Chuck Spieth loses battle with health issues

Councilman Jon Neal sworn in as new mayor

OROVILLE – The sad news that Oroville Mayor Chuck Spieth had succumbed to pneumonia after battling cancer was shared at the Tuesday, May 16 city council meeting.

Mayor Chuck Spieth
Mayor Spieth

Mayor Pro Tem Jon Neal, who had been sitting in for Spieth, who had served his hometown as police chief, city council member and mayor, was selected by the council to fill the mayor’s position until the next election. The council will entertain letters of interest from qualified candidates to fill Neal’s now vacant position on the council.

Among the scheduled appearances for Tuesday’s meeting were Okanogan County Commissioner Jim Detro and Planning Director Perry Huston. They were present to discuss EMS Services and rather than asking the city to merge into the rural EMS District, they asked that the two entities pay Lifeline Ambulance Services the levy dollars that each earns. The council agreed with the suggestion and the city will receive bills for the city’s portion of Lifelines calls and the county will receive the bills for those services rendered outside the city limits. In the past, during the short time Lifeline has been running the ambulance after being hired temporarily when the volunteer crew resigned en mass, the city had been paying all the bills and the county would reimburse the city for its portion of the calls.

“Rather than merging the city’s part of the EMS District with the Rural EMS District everyone would administer their own part,” commented Commissioner Detro after leaving the meeting.

Vicki Hinze and Jeff Bunnell were at the Tusday meeting as well and discussed the upcoming Rally at the Border Blues Festival, as well as the Run for the Border motorcycle charity ride. They described how the blues festival had been moved from Deep Bay Park into downtown Oroville this year, utilizing a variety of venues.

“There are going to be more people on the street, lots more people,” said Bunnell.

Salley Bull discussed the library renovation and had large blueprints, as well as folders breaking down what will be done to improve Oroville’s Public Library.

“We will be making improvements to the electrical and plumbing, as well as insulation, windows and doors and refinish the old wooden floors,” she said, adding that upgrades will be made to make the building ADA compliant.

“When it’s done the windows will all be cohesive,” she added, “and the Tonasket gym floor we got after the fire of 1968 and the gym floor from the high school on the hill will be much nicer,” said Bull, about the floors which have seen their share of wear and even been covered in glue to attach carpet in some areas.

When finished the library will be “L” shaped, she said, adding that the basement, which she referred to as the “dungeon,” had been cleaned out, with the exception of the old oil furnace and an old water heater.

“There were 28 people that were personally involved in helping with the building design and raising money. We still have some money coming in, but at this point I think we are ready for you people to bid the project out,” said Bull.

Rod Noel, superintendent of Public Works, said the bid package will go out to prospective contractors on the small works roster.

Oroville City Councilman Jon Neal, who had been filling  in for Mayor Chuck Spieth, in Neal's capacity as Mayor Pro Tem, was sworn in as the new Oroville Mayor after it was announced that Spieth had died. Gary DeVon/staff photo
Oroville City Councilman Jon Neal, who had been filling in for Mayor Chuck Spieth, in Neal’s capacity as Mayor Pro Tem, was sworn in as the new Oroville Mayor after it was announced that Spieth had died. Gary DeVon/staff photo

“I’d like to give an attaboy to Salley, she’s been pushing hard… this project has been on the books for some time now,” said Noel.’

John Taffola, advisor to the Oroville Border Patrol Explorers, asked the council for permission for the explorers to construct Life Jacket Stations to be placed at Oroville’s Veteran’s Memorial and Deep Bay parks. These stations will hold several life jackets for people using the beach who are not as sure in the water. Taffola spoke about a 12-year-old boy that drowned in Osoyoos who might have benefited from having life jackets available to borrow while at the beach.

“I saw a life jacket station at another lake and that started me thinking that this was something the Border Patrol Explorers could do. I don’t think it would cost too much and we would use donated materials.”

Councilman Tony Keopke said he thought it was a fantastic idea.

City Clerk JoAnn Denney said that she had checked with the city’s insurer and they said it was okay to do as long as the life jackets met State of Washington regulations.

Noel, who said he thought it was a good idea asked who would be in charge of maintenance.

“The Explorers will check regularly for maintenance,” said Tafolla, an agent with the Border Patrol.

Councilman David McElheren made a motion to give the Explorers the city’s approval and it was seconded by Councilman Walt Hart and approved.

It was under old business that Denney said she thought the mayor’s position should be addressed.

Koepke moved that Neal should serve as mayor and Hart seconded the motion, which received unanimous approval from Neal’s fellow council members.

“I guess I can’t be a fireman anymore,” said Neal, referring to a policy that makes the mayor ineligible to serve on the city’s volunteer fire department.

The council did not find any issues with allowing the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board from renewing liquor licenses to Alpine Brewery and Akins Harvest Foods.

The mayor of Omak has contacted the city and asked for Oroville’s support of Resolution 548, which asks the county commissioners to maintain a Juvenile Detention Facility in the county, rather than shipping juveniles to Martin Hall at Medical Lake, Wash.

While there was some council support, Councilman Hart said he was not in favor of the resolution.

“I have some background information… my grandson went through the program and I am not in favor of it,” said Hart.

“Even with the added expense of sending the kids out of the county?” asked McElheren.

“I don’t think we’ve had a presentation that has told us what’s going on. I would like someone to come here and fill us in on this,” replied Hart.

Noel said that after three years of negotiation with the Department of Ecology about transferring a water right given to the city by Veranda Beach in return for water service, it appears the city and Ecology have finally reached an agreement.

“We’ve had the thing on hold since the 1980s, if it is finalized it will be ‘interruptible’ and we won’t be able to pump during minimum flows,” said Noel. “I don’t know if it will be challenged on appeal, we should know in 30 days.”