Tonasket to get highway and sidewalk improvements in 2013

TONASKET – Saving the good news for last at the Tuesday, March 27 Tonasket City Council meeting, City Clerk Alice Attwood informed the mayor and council that the state Department of Transportation plans major improvements to the highway and handicapped ramps next year.

“The DOT is doing a chip seal region-wide, but have agreed to do a “mill and fill” of Highway 97 through town. That means rather than just doing a chip seal they will grind out the lanes and fill with hot asphalt, something we have been requesting for a number of years,” said Attwood. “It also includes upgrade of the sidewalk ramps to ADA compliance along Highway 97/Whitcomb to the city limits.”

The timing of the project will coincide with other street work the city plans on doing on Third, Fifth and Sixth streets, which are being paid for through a state TIB (Transportation Improvement Board) grant and a pedestrian project to put a crossing at the hospital.

“The ADA work on the ramps will also save the city from having to pay to bring the ramps into compliance as the state will pay to have the work done,” said Attwood. “There are also plans for the state to look at the junction of Highway 97 and Highway 20 to try and improve that intersection.”

Mayor Patrick Plumb and the council members agreed that it was good news for the town. Plumb also suggested that any improvements to water lines that are scheduled next year be done to take advantage of the streets being dug up.

Lee Orr, with the Airport Improvement Club, received the council’s approval of the Father’s Day Fly-in on Sunday, June 17 with the barbecue on Saturday evening. He also informed the council that Big World of Flight, a group of pilots that educate children on General Aviation, would be at the airport on May 23.

“They will fly two airports in and we expect to have from 70 to 78 kids. The pilots make it interesting, sending the kids to various stations just to learn about General Aviation,” Orr said. They’re all local fifth- and sixth-graders and some of them really show an interest. Big World will also be making stops at Oroville, Republic, Omak and Okanogan airports.”

Orr said that he had been meeting with other local airport representatives and the Okanogan County Planning office to discuss building around local airports.

“We meet every other week and are trying to hammer out some zoning ordinances as well as hammering out a moratorium until these ordinances are in place,” said Orr, emphasizing that it was critical to permit building in a way that would not be a hazard to pilots and property around airports.

While the seven municipal airports in Okanogan County are each part of the city, they are islands surrounded by unincorporated parts of the county. The county is working on adopting airport protection zones, as required by state statute to “prevent incompatible uses and promote public health and safety,” writes Perry Huston, director of Okanogan County Planning and Development to each of the cities.

“A moratorium will stop things from happening like a second house that is going up right in the flight path on the north end of Oroville’s runway,” Orr said. “There has also been a sewer lagoon permitted by the county near Okanogan’s airport that will attract waterfowl and migrating birds as well as predators which can be a hazard to an airport.”

Orr read Huston’s letter and in it the planner asks the cities’ help to offset the cost of Dalana Potter, who has been helping to facilitate the development of seven ordinances for each of the airports. Potter, whose internship is coming to an end, has been very helpful, according to Orr.

“I am looking for $500 from each of the seven city/airports to keep Ms. Potter on contract for two months. This should be sufficient time to create the zone and initiate the adoption process,” writes Huston.

“We’d really like to keep her on, she’s really done the majority of work on this project and we’ve got a long way to go. We have to have seven specific zones for the seven airports,” Orr said. “I suspect developers and realtors are going to fight this tooth and nail.”

The council approved the $500 from the city, with the understanding that at least five of the airports participate in sponsoring the intern.