Tonasket Council votes to ban skateboards from some downtown sidewalks

TONASKET – Skateboards and bikes are no longer legal on some city sidewalks.

The Tonasket Council voted unanimously July 22 in support of Ordinance 653, which prohibits bikes, skating and skateboarding on public sidewalks on Whitcomb Avenue between First Street and Sixth Street; on Fourth Street between Whitcomb and Western Avenue; and in the Day Park and History Park.

A penalty of up to $100 could be incurred for each offense.

First Street to Sixth Street on Whitcomb is less than one third of a mile of sidewalks closed to biker and skateboard use. Users are still allowed to walk or carry their gear through that area. The Fourth Street block is about 400 feet.

Although several parents and children at the meeting were not happy with the ordinance’s passage, city council members said they intended the ordinance as a compromise, since it still leaves the vast majority of streets and sidewalks open to skaters and bikers.

“As I understand it, we’ve heard several complaints about the situation,” said Councilmember Connie Maden. “We put off an ordinance until the skate park was completed so that the kids could have fun. However, since it’s been built we’re still receiving complaints and we decided it was time for us to look at the issue again and see what we could do.”

Maden said that closing off the certain streets was not an extreme move; the main business corridor of town should not be used as a playground, she said.

Mayor Patrick Walter did not support the ordinance.

“You’re banning this on the actions of a few,” he said. “I don’t think you’re showing support to the law-abiding skateboarders.”

Representatives from several businesses, including one from U.S. Bank and Lee Frank’s Mercantile owner Dave Kester, attended the meeting in support of the ordinance. Both cited damages to the businesses and property by skateboard activity.

However, some of the parents and children there wanted a suggestion made by Chief of Police Rob Burkes taken more seriously. Burkes did not attend this meeting.

“I think that the chief came up with another suggestion that’s more than fair,” parent Cathy Johnson said. “Each individual would take the consequences for their own actions.”

In his research, Burkes found a township with a set of guidelines for boarders and bikers to follow. On the first offense, their skateboard or bike is impounded for 15 days. On the second offense, it’s impounded for 30 days and there is a potential fine.

Parent Celena Hinz didn’t think the ordinance was fair.

“I don’t think it’s fair to make kids zig-zag through town to get where they’re going,” she said. Hinz said she didn’t see kids hanging out in town with the skate park built.

However, after the meeting, there were skateboarders and bikers loitering in front of U.S. Bank and in the II Sisters parking lot.

Lael Longanecker, a life-long North Okanogan resident, summed it up best.

“I’ve known some of these kids all their lives,” she said. “I have nothing against skateboarding – I’d even like to learn myself. But I won’t come into town and go into businesses when there are skateboarders on the sidewalk. I’m afraid of being injured.”

After all the audience and council members had stated their opinions in three minute time limits, Councilmember Jean E. Ramsey moved the issue to a vote. It passed unanimously.

The council also voted to write a letter of support for Wendy Steever as Okanogan County Animal Control Officer. Steever operates the Howling Ridge Animal Rescue.

“It’s long overdue,” said Councilmember Jill Vugtaveen.

In other council business, there was a presentation on salmon by Keith Hutchins and James Ives of the Department of Fish and Wildlife and Salmon Harvest Manager Dale Clark. They discussed increasing salmon numbers in the Okanogan River and Bonaparte Creek.

Hutchins also explained the various methods of catching salmon, including mouth nets and dip netting. All of the methods used by Fish and Wildlife and the Colville Tribes are designed to minimize harm to the fish, he said.

Resident Loreen Felstet also introduced herself to the council. She is behind a larger effort to bring more recycling into the North Okanogan. Although she has not yet taken any action, Felstet is working with city and county officials on recycling, as well as the solid waste advisory committee.

The council also voted to approve the installation of a memorial bench in the Triangle Park for firefighter Shane Frear, who recently died of cancer

Councilmember Jill Vugtaveen became emotional when discussing Frear.

“He worked with me almost his entire career,” she said. “He died really young.”

The council approved two other ordinances. Ordinance 654 updated an ordinance concerning a city dump, which is closed in Tonasket. It repealed several items concerning that dump in the City Code. Ordinance 655 amended the 2008 budget to include items concerning the airport and city parks, adding budget items to include the Salmon Viewing Platform for $10,000; $2,114.80 to repair the airport runway; $3,500 to the B3 Skatepark and $15,796.10 to go towards park equipment for youth. A total of $31,410.90 in budget amendments was added, bringing the total 2008 budget for Tonasket to $3,415,526.94.

The council also discussed potential annexations, including the Bonaparte Creek area and the business properties owned by Ty Olson and Chris Wood south of town. Mayor Walter advised a specific meeting with city planner Chris Branch about annexation.

The idea of charging a business fee for businesses within the city limits was also discussed. The Capital Improvements Committee of Ramsey and Councilmember Joyce Fancher will consider the idea further.

There will be a Tonasket Community Meeting at 6 p.m. July 31 at City Hall. It will be a continuation of the city planning and improvement meetings that began in April. City Clerk Alice Attwood will lead it and several members of the council are planning to be in attendance.