Canoe carving, flags, tax approved, road project fund suggested
TONASKET – The Tonasket City Council gave its blessing to Churchill Clark to station his canoe carving project in Founders Day Park next to the visitor’s center until early December during its meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 14.
Clark, a descendent of William Clark (of Lewis and Clark fame), attended the Okanogan Family Faire, where he met Ephraim Brown, the faire’s arts coordinator that also spoke to the council on Clark’s behalf.
Clark will be in the area for a couple of months and is carving a 15 foot canoe from Ponderosa Pine and wanted a venue to continue his work.
“My canoe camps, wherever they are, end up public,” Clark said. “It’s the nature of the beast and I encourage it. If we go ahead with this I will let the school know I am set up and they can come down. I like it to be hands-on. In Inchelium I was camped out for a month and a half behind their school working on five canoes.”
He said kids are especially attracted to his work.
“I’ve worked with a lot of kids,” he said. “They always come back. Even in school, the troubled kids, the tough guys who say they won’t touch it, in the end I can’t keep them off the canoe. Canoes are magic.”
After answering a few questions from the council, they approved his project’s presence in the park, pending the completion of a hold harmless agreement to absolve the city of liability. Clark plans on working on the canoe through Dec. 1, with the possibility of having it available for display at Winterfest, Dec. 5-6.
Legion to provide flags
The city council, at a previous meeting, had rebuffed an American Legion proposal to provide and maintain American flags at the city’s expense on its downtown utility poles.
But after representatives of American Legion Post 32 presented an alternate plan, the council unanimously backed Post Commander Jeff Bergh’s proposal.
“We’ll buy the flags, put them up and maintain them,” Bergh said, adding that representatives from the Armed Forces Legacy, the Sons of the American Legion and the Legion Auxiliary had also indicated a willingness to participate. It’s impressive to people coming through town when you have flags; it would definitely be an enhancement.”
Mayor Patrick Plumb noted that, other than not having the finances to purchase new flags, the council had been concerned about what would happen once the flags began to show evidence of wear.
“We’d like to have some form of quick release on the flags so when they show any kind of problem, we can go up, take it down and over the laundromat to wash it, or to replace it,” Bergh said.
Bergh proposed putting them flags at a height of 14 feet so as not to impede visibility in traffic.
The council approved the Legion proposal contingent on City Permit Administrator Christian Johnson, City Manager Hugh Jensen and City Clerk Alice Attwood fine-tuning the details.
“I appreciate your responding to the issues we brought up,” Council Member Scott Olson said. “I hope you understand our concern about taking it on. You’ve done that by the way you responded. We were worried about taking on something as our responsibility.”
TVBRC restrooms abused
Plumb informed the council that the exterior doors to the restrooms at the Tonasket Visitor and Business Resource Center would be closed other than for special events or specific requests.
“Other times we’ve closed them, we’ve gotten complaints,” Plumb said. “But as soon as we open them, within two weeks we have people living in there.”
Attwood said that vandalism related costs – including haing to replace the bathroom door, and dealing with vandals turning the heater up to 100 degrees and leaving it – have far exceeded what was budgeted for bathroom maintenance.
The bathroom will still be available to anyone using the building.
Council member Jill Vugteveen asked if there might be consequences due to a grant that the city received to put the bathroom in.
“We fulfilled the grant by building it and having it accessible,” Plumb said. What happens at a public rest stop when you blow it up with an M-80, they close it even though they say they are open all the time.”
The council voiced no objections to the move.
Mayor proposes surcharge for street project
It’s not news to anyone that Whitcomb Avenue (US-97) running through Tonasket’s downtown core is in dire need of major work, ranging from the condition of the pavement itself to the inability of the stormwater system to handle anything but the lightest rain.
Plumb said that, after attending a recent conference, that the only way such a project will happen is if the city can raise enough money of its own to qualify for a matching grant.
“Point blank, we will need to make some sort of contribution toward it,” Plumb said. “There are not any 100 percent funded grants for planning or construction. And it’s not just downtown; that’s just the visible part we’re aware of.”
Plumb proposed adding a $4.00 per month surcharge to each utility bill the city sends out to be put aside for the type of grant that would require a 15 percent contribution from the city.
“We would create a stormwater fund that would strictly be used for stormwater control payments, and matching money for grants from the Department of Ecology or Rural Development.”
Because the city has more than 1,000 residents, he said, it needs to come up with a comprehensive stormwater plan – itself a significant project.
“It opens up an interesting can of worms,” he said. “It’s for the good of the city that we have one…. (City engineer Varela & Associates) are working on a preliminary stormwater plan. They’ve mostly completed a program for downtown based on the planning only grant that we got. But we need to have an overall, overarching city stormwater plan, as well as sediment control.”
He also cited drainage issues in the recently-annexed Mill Drive area, as well as stormwater discharges that flow unfiltered into Bonaparte Creek and the Okanogan River.
“The state is not going to do a full road project,” he said. “They’re just not. At some point they may grind and fill in our best scenario, but they’re not going to replace stormwater and sewer along 97.
“We are going to have to come up with a plan ourselves and right now we don’t even have a full map or inventory of what our stormwater system is. To do that it needs to be part of a plan, which would make us part of a Phase I community as far as DOE is concerned which would open us up for funding possibilities.”
Ad valorem tax hike
Along with approving a preliminary budget, the council approved an ordinance hiking the ad valorem property tax by one percent. That will amount to a total revenue increase of $1,463.
The council next meets in council chambers at 209 S Whitcomb Ave. on Tuesday, Oct. 28, at 7 p.m.