Tonasket City Council clarifies sewer responsibilities

TONASKET – The Tonasket City Council amended Ordinance No.755 regarding side sewer ownership, operation and maintenance to clearly read that property owners are responsible for all costs of hooking up to the sewer, from their home all the way to the sewer main. Property owners have always been responsible for costs of operation and maintenance out to the sewer main, but the wording in the ordinance needed further clarification.

Mayor Patrick Plumb reported the Economic Alliance Infrastructure Committee reviewed the list of seven applications submitted from throughout the county for funding from the .09 Infrastructure Funds, with the top three projects sent to the North Central Washington Economic Development District (NCW EDD) to be ranked at the regional level. The federally designated NCW EDD serves Okanogan, Douglas and Chelan Counties along with the Colville Confederated Tribes. The projects recommended for regional funding are a Brewster Water Reservoir Replacement, a Pateros Water System Project, and Winthrop Ice Rink Refrigeration. Fourth on the list was the Tonasket Pedestrian Bridge and Sidewalk project, and the Tonasket EV Charging Station Install was last on the list.

Plumb and City Planner Kurt Danison received a letter from Jack Anderson, Project Manager for Plug-In NW, who said he feels Tonasket fits the criteria for placement of an electric charging station. Plumb said he remains hopeful there may be funding to be found for this project elsewhere.

“All roads may lead to Tonasket, but not all cars can get there,” said Plumb, adding that Twisp and Winthrop have charging stations for visitors traveling over Highway 20 from the coast, but if they continue on over the Loup, they can’t turn north until a charging station is in place.

Plumb also reported back from meetings with the Okanogan County Council of Government (OCOG) and the Okanogan County Transportation Authority (OCTA).

OCOG, formed in part to take the place of the Regional Transportation Planning Organization Tonasket belonged to before it broke apart, is spearheaded by Twisp Mayor Sue Ing Moody and Omak Mayor Cindy Gagne.

“We had to make our own transportation authority, not just to focus on transportation but other things as well, and they’ve been very effective in getting this going,” Plumb said. “We need to work together as all the cities in Okanogan County to better understand each others’ perspectives, to advocate for each other and to coordinate better in an emergency such as a fire.”

Plumb said he expected the OCAG to branch out once it got established, helping with communication between county and cities.

“All the cities have different needs, and there are only three county commissioners, so this will help streamline the ability to communicate together,” said Plumb.

Plumb said the OCTA was formed after county voters elected to have four-tenths of one percent of sales tax in Okanogan County go towards establishing a bus system, with all the city mayors within the county and the county commissioners having a seat on it.

“All the mayors and the county commissioners have been meeting monthly, but there’s a lot of regulations and insurance issues to figure out,” Plumb said. “There’s also the need to hire a lot of people who are multi-talented and can deal with animals and the elderly. We need to get a radio system implemented and a lot of other administrative things to be straightened out before you see a bus. We are trying to establish an organization from the ground up, and the leader (Director Kelly Scalf) is trying to make sure it is done correctly.”

The tax has been accumulating since January 2014.

The OCOG and OCTA both meet at Omak City Hall the second Monday of the month, starting at 5 p.m.

A letter received by Plumb from the Utilities and Transportation Committee (UTC) regarding the possibility of construction of a new railroad crossing to ease access to Chief Tonasket Park is recommending an on-site meeting and appraisal of the situation. The UTC asked city staff to include representatives of the Cascade and Columbia River Railroad (CSCD) in the meeting, along with Okanogan County staff. UTC urged the city to consider several issues prior to the meeting, including: getting support from the railroad for a new crossing as it would be a financial burden for CSCD; the necessity to include sidewalks due to high pedestrian traffic; the sole existing route to the Park via Railroad Ave does not appear suitable for current park use; and the UTC would like to see the First Street railroad crossing closed off with no access to traffic, including pedestrians.

The state auditor’s office announced an Open Government & Transparency Training Session to be presented Tuesday, March 24 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the State Auditor’s Office in Tumwater. According to State Auditor Troy Kelley, this free training is being offered to local government leaders as a follow-up to Sunshine Week (March 16-22), which he described as an initiative to promote open government. The training is designed to help elected and appointed local government leaders excel in records management and compliance with the Open Public Meetings Act and the Public Records Act.

For the public comment portion of the meeting, local pilot Leroy Orr appeared to thank the council for supporting the Okanogan/Ferry County Pilots Association booth at the Aviation Conference and Training Show held in Puyallup last month.

The council gives a portion of the hotel/motel tax fund to the pilots association to help promote the area of Tonasket at the trade show. Orr reported having between 10,000 and 20,000 people come through the show, and handing out about 1200 apples supplied by the Tonasket Chamber of Commerce.

“We answered a lot of questions about our area and county; a lot of people over there are still looking for somewhere to go. A lot of people still don’t know where Okanogan is—even pilots,” reported Orr. “This year a lot of people were interested in real estate. Some years people are more interested in recreation, and we did have some asking about being able to ride ATVs and snowmobiles over here.”

Orr received permission from the council for the Tonasket Airport Improvement Club to use the airport for the 26th annual Father’s Day Fly In, and reported having two new hangars going up at the airport this year.

A resolution was passed to allow city clerk-treasurer Alice Attwood to increase the petty cash in city hall from $50 to $150.