Tonasket to pursue sewer system repairs

Seeking planning-only grant to start process

TONASKET – Sewage collection and pumping systems in the Parry’s Acres and Johns Landing areas, which are operated by the City of Tonasket, are in need of repair. The Tonasket City Council, at its Tuesday, Jan. 14, meeting, authorized Mayor Patrick Plumb and city engineering firm to seek a planning-only grant from the Community Development Block Program to begin the process of repairing the system.

The sewage system is outside the city limits, but responsibility for operating it was transferred to the city about 20 years ago. Since then, the lift station and involved pumps have deteriorated to the point where some are only partially functional, and the city has had to manually pump sewage out of the accompanying septic tanks at Johns Landing.

Complicating matters, the system was constructed in the early 1980s by Okanogan County, and original system plans and drawings are no longer available.

“We should look at doing this,” said council member Scott Olson. “The pump and stuff – especially if we get that built up so we get the fees right and it pays for the continual cost of the system.”

Because the system is outside the city limits, users pay an additional fee, but at previous meetings it has been noted that that fee has not been sufficient to maintain the system.

An on-site inspection by Varela and city manager Hugh Jensen last September revealed problems with the pumps, electrical systems, and some portions of the system that have an undetermined use. The pumps are reaching the end of their 30-year life cycle, have been rebuilt or repaired several times and no longer have readily available parts.

“We don’t want to pay on debt for the rest of the city and this is a good way to get it up to snuff,” Olson said. “Then we can set a proper water fee that in perpetuity will keep the system working without needing outside funds.”

Peddler’s Permit

The council again put on hold a request for a peddler’s permit until it can be determined the full extent of the applicant’s criminal history.

The concern over whether or not to grant the permit to sell firewood within the city limits comes over concerns that some of the firewood may have been illegally cut on federal land.

Council member Jill Vugteveen, a U.S. Forest Service employee, said that even if the wood was legally cut on federal land, it cannot legally be sold.

“We can’t prove right now that any of that wood is coming off of federal ground,” she said.”But when I am out there and I am driving those roads, he is coming off federal land with full loads of wood. Then at the end of the day he is parked downtown with it. That’s not the intent behind cutting wood on federal grounds. It is for your personal consumption, not for private financial gain. That in itself makes it wrong.”

Police chief Rob Burks said that while he had run a state and local background check, federal offenses relating to the issues Vugteveen mentioned would not show up there. The council agreed to postpone a decision on the permit until obtaining a federal background check.

Mill Drive Plat

Another issue to be discussed further at a later meeting is an application by Mike Buchert to develop 2.88 acres at the end of Mill Drive into six individual lots, complete with internal roadways, drives, drainage controls and open space. The application also asks for a deviation from street right-of-way and sidewalk standards.

A number of written public comments asked for the permit to be denied in large part due to those deviations.

Council member Dennis Brown said before he could make a decision, he wanted to see what kinds of structures would be put up on the lots.

“Those aren’t big lots,” Olson said. “There may not be room for garage space, which could create the need for more parking. We can’t be creating more situations like we have on Tonasket Ave. (where finding legal parking for residents has been a persistent issue).”

The council decided to continue the closed-record public hearing at a later date when building permit administrator Christian Johnson could be present to answer questions.

Electric meters

Initial testing of the electric water meters being installed this year had already proven successful, said city clerk Alice Attwood.

“(City manager) Hugh (Jensen) is very excited and ready to get them all installed,” she said. “He was able to read everything on Mill Drive while standing out by the old bus garage.

“We have the capability of looking at each house. It can do a read by the hour. And we already found a leak at the end of Mill Drive. It was pretty darned big and we were able to tell the property owner when it’s something with the old meters we may not have known for months.”

“I do have serious concerns about the use of data from monitoring people’s water usage,” Olson said. “We need to have a written policy on how we use that information, and who we share it with.”

Sworn In

Council members Dennis Brown, Jill Vugteveen, Jean Ramsey and Mayor Patrick Plumb were each sworn into office. Each won elections after running unopposed last fall. Council member Claire Jeffko, absent that evening, will be sworn in at a later date.

Vugteveen will serve as mayor pro tem, with Olson as the alternate.