Tonasket council discusses airport, affordable housing

TONASKET — Tonasket City Council members heard requests for hotel/motel tax funds from several community members Nov. 8.

“The current requests total over $9,000 and we typically get around $7,000, so we’re going to have to crunch some numbers,” said Council Member Jill Vugteveen.

Requests included advertising dollars for several businesses and organizations and the salary for the manager of the Tonasket Visitor and Business Resource Center.

City Planner Kurt Danison reported attending an aviation conference in Leavenworth with Airport Improvement Club President Lee Orr, where they were advised to revise the Capital Improvement Plan to prioritize the project design permitting for runway reconstruction.

“We could do half the runway one year and half the next. We felt pretty good about our chances,” said Danison, adding they were looking to the legislature for capital budget infusion on the project that will cost half a million dollars.

Danison reported the Economic Alliance was beginning plans for a forum to address affordable housing, “not for low income people, but for people like teachers.”

He said housing for middle income people that is “decent and affordable” was a problem throughout the county.

The planner said he gave residents a cost/benefit analysis for the 2016 City of Tonasket proposed annexation area consisting of 26 parcels. Mayor Patrick Plumb said the Comancheros wanted to put in a large community building at the Rodeo Grounds, but needed to be annexed in before that could happen.

“A community building is something we needed during the fire last year, but they would need annexation for it due to the sewer,” said Plumb. Dansion said the state would not allow a pattern of annexation that skipped around, creating islands.

Jordan Weddle with the Parks and Recreation District presented a budget agreement to be signed by the city for operation of the swimming pool. Weddle said user fees were not set yet, as the Parks and Recreation District felt the city should handle that. Mayor Plumb expressed concern about start up costs such as training lifeguards, and suggested an approach be taken to encourage people to buy season passes. Council members approved signing the budget agreement.

The council discussed several items on the city budget which needs to be adopted by the end of the year, including granting the Tonasket Senior Center $500 for their lunch program from the current expense fund, switching liability insurance coverage to a firm that offers free training for city employees on a variety of topics and a fee schedule that includes small increases to water and sewer services and cemetery costs. The council adopted a budget ordinance adjusting police department wages with the addition of a new category for Post Academy Police Officer (Prior to Probation Completion) with an hourly rate of $16.

Police Chief Darren Curtis reported he and Officer Travis West would be attending the training on human trafficking next month that Officers Aguilar and Beard attended last month.

Council reviewed a letter from Perry Huston, Director of the Okanogan County Office of Planning and Development, regarding Tonasket’s request for first right of refusal in the event the county decide to sell the Tonasket EMS building to Lifeline.

“The City of Tonasket paid that building off over 60 years ago and the lot and building is worth more than $65,000 now,” said Plumb. “If a private entity such as Lifeline ends up getting the opportunity to purchase it, the city should benefit, not a private entity. We put the investment into that and paid for improvements and upkeep.”

Vugteveen suggested City Attorney Mick Howe get involved and Mayor Plumb suggested the matter be postponed until January, “when we have new commissioners.”