Griffin steps down from Tonasket City Council

TONASKET – Citing personal circumstances that necessitate a move outside of the Tonasket city limits, Tonasket City Council member Julianna Griffin resigned from the council at the Tuesday, May 22, meeting, effective June 13.
“It has been an amazing experience serving in this role,” Griffin wrote in her resignation letter. “I feel privileged to have had the opportunity. I have greatly enjoyed working with my many outstanding colleagues and deeply appreciate the numerous educational opportunities provided.”
“It’s like losing the battle,” said mayor Patrick Plumb. “That sucks.”
“My first reaction is, we need to find a replacement of your quality,” said council member Scott Olson. “You also bring a lot of energy, but the quality of our conversations and work have been because of our mix. My gut reaction is, we have to find someone of your quality or we could be stymied.”
“We really appreciate everything you’ve done,” Plumb said. “Your energy and … oh, I’m sad.”
“It’s not easy to say goodbye, no matter what,” said councilmember Jill Vugteveen.
“I’ve gone through one of those tough council times when we had a lot of resignations, and we finally had a nice, calm time,” said councilmember Jean Ramsey as she said she “regretfully” moved to accept the resignation.

Crossing, airport projects

The City of Tonasket received just one bid for the Whitcomb Avenue pedestrian crossing project (at the hospital parking area), from Rains Contracting, Inc. Unfortunately, the bid of $99,459 was more than $11,000 higher than the available funding for the project.
Daniel Cowger of Varela and Associates was on hand to talk the council through its options: to accept the bid and try to find additional funding; to re-bid the project as it was in hopes of receiving a lower bid; to break the project into separate bids; or to go with a Public Interest Funding, which would involve the city buying the equipment directly and bidding out for installation.
Cowger pointed out that the Rains bid was $41,000 over the engineers’ estimate.
“I’m astounded by the mark-up,” Olson said. “That’s a lot of money in our city budget.”
“My biggest concern is that we get that crosswalk beacon up,” Ramsey said. “We just had another accident there (two weeks ago).”
“(Washington Department of Transportation) has a process called a public interest finding,” Cowger said. “They can assess the situation and say, you don’t have to go through the regular bid process. You can go out and informally get three bids, and then buy the equipment directly. You’ll only re-bid the installation instead of the equipment itself.”
Cowger said that though it is allegedly a simple process, “Even simple processes with Wash-DOT take time….
“The other piece is, if you buy the equipment directly, there is some inherent liability … if it’s shipped broken, before it would be the other company’s problem. If the city buys it and it’s not working the city is involved in the process, which isn’t necessarily bad, just something to be aware of.”
Olson asked if Cowger thought it was a worthwhile process for the city to commit to.
“I think it makes sense to this,” Cowger said. “I wouldn’t have suggested it if I didn’t think it wasn’t viable. Any direction you choose will have unknowns… That said, I’m still assuming we’ll get it in this year.”
After declining the Rains bid, the council approved a motion directing Varela and Associates to fulfill the public interest finding with the intent of getting the project done this year, with an emphasis on giving access to local contractors to the installation bids.
The city also received just one bid for the Tonasket Airport runway crack seal project, from Road Products, Inc., which the board approved. Work, which includes crack seal, seal coat, tie-down repair and new paint, was slated to begin on the runway on Thursday, May 24, and be completed June 1, weather permitting.
Also, Aaron Kester of the Tonasket Beautification Committee (a.k.a. the “Pretty Committee”) sought and received council approval to paint the light poles through downtown black. The council approved the allocation of $50 toward purchase of the paint, which Plumb matched.
The council approved a memorandum of understanding with the Okanogan County Auditor’s office to install a secure ballot drop box in front of City Hall. The ballot box would be handicap-accessible but available to all voters 24/7. Ballots will not have to be stamped and will be picked up for processing at 8:00 p.m. on election days.
The council also approved, contingent on review by city attorney Mick Howe, a request by Jean Pfeifer on behalf of the Community Cultural Center to include an enclosed wine and beer garden at the Okanogan River Garlic Fest, Aug. 24-25.
The Tonasket City Council next meets on Wednesday, June 13, (the odd date to avoid a conflict with Tonasket Middle School’s moving-up ceremony), in the council chambers.