Tonasket City Council approves 2009 budget items

TONASKET – The 2009 budget items were approved at the Tonasket City Council meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 25.

The council approved the hotel and motel funds with the exception of requests from Okanogan County Tourism and The Omak Chronicle. Then they approved the medical insurance increase, the continuation of $30 per employee per month toward the deferred comp plan, the Okanogan County Transportation and Nutrition request, the Okanogan County Transportation Bus Replacement Program and the Longevity Plan.

When the council reached the wage adjustments of $250 per month for the superintendent of public works and clerk/treasurer and $150 per month for all other full-time employees a discussion among the council members arose.

“I think this is too big of a budget plan and I recommend the city do a two or three year increase plan because we are in hard economic times and the entire nation is in an economic crisis,” Jill Vugteveen, council member, said. “This has nothing to do with the performance of anybody but with the economy.”

Council member Jean Ramsey agreed, stating that she is concerned Tonasket will lose employees due to lack of funds if the city goes too big at this time. Vugteveen said the wage adjustment budget is not something that is fixable in one year. She said it needs to be a gradual change, especially with today’s economy.

“Unless we do a wage increase now, we’re going to find ourselves in the same position year after year,” Connie Maden, council member, said.

After all sides of the discussion were heard, the wage adjustment was approved with Ramsey and Vugteveen voting against it. Without much more discussion, the rest of the budget items were passed.

Also at the meeting, the council heard from Justin Wilson regarding the speed limit on Locust Ave.

“I’m here on behalf of parents and staff at Head Start on Locust Ave,” Wilson said. “There are safety issues and we are asking for the speed limit on Locust Ave to be lowered to 15 miles per hour to match the park speed limit.”

The council discussed changing the speed limit for all of Locust Ave. from Fourth St. to Winesap St. After the discussion, it was decided that Alice Attwood, city clerk, would talk to Mick Howe, the city attorney, about the process to have the speed limit of this street lowered.

Next, George Frank and Roger Castelda brought the council up to date on the developments of the American Legacy Project.

“We have four walls up and we’ll have our infrastructure done by Christmas,” Castleda said. “We’ll put the other four walls up and then complete the building. Our goal is to be done and to dedicate it on Veteran’s Day 2010.”

The council then discussed the fact that the Okanogan City Council denied the request to share a city planner with Tonasket and Attwood said she has received a couple of e-mails from people inquiring about the position. Attwood said she had also talked to Kurt Danison from Highlands Associates who is interested in bidding on a capital facilities plan. The council then decided that Attwood would advertise for prices on a capital improvement plan.

Finally, during new business, the city council set Dec. 26 as a floating holiday. Then Maden and council member Julianna Griffin volunteered to be on the Tonasket Visitors and Business Resource Center board and Mayor Patrick Walter appointed them to the board.

The next City Council meeting is on Tuesday, Dec. 9.