Council advised to retain old fire hall property

TONASKET – Ongoing discussion about the future of the old fire hall in Tonasket ended with knowledge of its assessed value and a report from Permit Administrator Christian Johnson to the city council June 24.

The building, which is currently leased by the EMS, was assessed at $170,000, which is $110,000 more than an EMS offer on the building.

Johnson also wrote in a letter to the Council that he did not recommend selling.

“In light of the recent challenges experienced by the Hospital District with acquiring property I believe that it would be prudent for the city to retain title to the city fire hall property and offer long-term leases that cover the actual costs of maintenance,” Johnson wrote in the June 19 letter.

Johnson wrote that the city of Tonasket does not have enough “readily available land at the City Hall Complex” to meet projected facility needs. He also said that a just-off-Main-Street location was ideal for the police station.

The Council had previously recommended selling the building based on its assessed value. However, the new value and the new issues presented problems.

“I wouldn’t want to take lower than the appraised value,” council member Joyce Fancher said.

Council member Connie Maden recommended continuing to lease the building to the EMS.

“Our original recommendation was to work with the EMS and come to an agreement,” Maden said. “But I don’t think it’s in our best interest at this point. We would have more options holding onto the building, but I suggest we continue leasing it.”

Mayor Patrick Walter said he would meet with Johnson at a later date to discuss future plans for the building.

In other city news, the council approved choosing Century West as their airport layout plan consultant.

The Street Committee also discussed a meeting earlier that evening with Chief of Police Rob Burkes concerning skateboarding.

“He said he’s been having daily problems asking kids to get off the sidewalks,” Maden said.

Their recommendation was to ban skateboarding and biking on city sidewalks unconditionally from First to Sixth streets and from Whitcomb to Western Avenue, which is the majority of the commercial district in Tonasket.

The parameters are consistent with other cities, she said.

The Street Committee also recommended banning skateboarding from the Day Park and History Park, as well as areas surrounding the TVBRC.

The mayor said the recommendations would be sent to city attorney Mick Howe to draft an ordinance, then it would be discussed again before the council.

However, Walter disagreed with their decision.

“I feel like you’re in the wrong,” he said. “Skateboarding is mostly transportation for kids 16 and under who can’t drive. I think you’re taking one of the kids’ avenues of transportation away – I’m not in favor of it.”

Fancher disagreed.

“They’re not riding them from home to work,” she said. “They’re impeding people who are walking down the sidewalk. Downtown is not a place play.”

Councilmember Jill Vugtaveen agreed.

“I don’t think we’re being unfair,” she said. “I got around fine without a skateboard.”

The council voted unanimously to have Howe draft an ordinance.

Councilmember Julianna Griffin also reported on the Association of Washington Cities conference in Yakima that was attended by several Tonasket representatives.

“It was very educational,” Griffin said. “There were great trainings.”

In addition, Governor Christine Gregoire spoke at the gathering of 157 Washington cities.

Maden also attended the event and attended a roundtable on small cities. Annexation was a hot topic there, she said.

“People from other cities made themselves available to share information and paperwork,” she said.

The Tonasket flag was presented at the conference, as well.

“People really liked our flag,” said Griffin. She said the blue banner was one of the few that wasn’t white.

In new business, the council asked city clerk Alice Attwood to send a letter to the Red Apple Inn requesting that they clean garbage on their lot.

Attwood said she has contacted the motel before but would do it again. There are ordinances in place for garbage disposal in city limits, she said.

Another hot topic for the council is one near to many scratching hearts.

Petitions have been circulating town requesting that the council form a mosquito district or take some other action to reduce the number of flying bloodsuckers in town.

“The petitions are coming from the camp that wants things dead,” Ramsey said.

Maden said she’d received several phone calls at home and one visit to her work from people unhappy with the bites.

The City of Okanogan paid $7500 to spray in their mosquito district, Attwood said. At $5.70 per acre to spray, it would cost Tonasket $2578.34.

Since the first larvae hatch was past, it is too late to install egg-reducing briquettes in the storm drains, she said. Money was not budgeted to spray. A mosquito district also must be formed by the community – the council cannot do it independently.

Spraying is not a decision the council would take lightly.

“Putting pesticides into the air raises concerns about allergies and other sensitivities,” Maden said.

Individuals can take steps to reduce the number of mosquitoes in their area. Reducing or eliminating standing water, keeping grass short, wearing repellent and using personal yard sprays are all measures that can help, Attwood said.

In pool news, Attwood announced that she hired a summer pool manager. The pool opened June 18.