OKANOGAN-The board for the Okanogan County Public Improvement Conference was formed at the meeting on Thursday, Nov. 13 in the Okanogan County Commissioner’s meeting room.
Each city in the council was represented at the meeting. Dave Acheson, the mayor of Winthrop nominated himself to be the conference president before nominating County Commissioner Andrew Lampe as vice president. Also in attendance were Lee Webster, a member of the Brewster City Council, Bob Poch of the Coulee Dam City Council, Mike Foth of the Omak City Council, Ed Naillon of the Oroville City Council, George Brady of the Pateros City Council, Julianna Griffin of the Tonasket City Council, Cheryl Russell of the Conconully City Council, Tina di Rienzo of the Twisp City Council and Brian Clark, the transportation manager of the Colville Indian Tribes.
Tom Hanson, the Intercity Bus and Transportation Specialist of the Public Transportation Division of the state Department of Transportation (WDOT) began the meeting, which was designed to form the board for the conference.
“This process is a necessary step in the process you go through to determine what kind of public transportation system you should have,” Hanson said. “We’re trying to form this council which would have a representative of each city and the Colville Tribes.”
The conference first looked at the second draft of the bylaws which states “The Okanogan County Commissioners approved a resolution setting on Oct. 15, 2008 as the date to convene a Public Transportation Improvement Conference (PTIC). These bylaws are established to provide for the operation of the Okanogan County PTIC through the development of a Comprehensive Transit Plan (CTP). The purpose of the CTP will be to recommend to the PTIC a system of public transportation services. It is anticipated that the PTIC will be in place for no longer than nine months.”
After approving the second draft of the bylaws, which also state that each city will submit in writing the name of their representative for the conference as well as the name of an alternate to the PTIC, the conference discussed the CTP scope of work.
Hanson recommended the CTP include all of Okanogan County, the portion of Douglas County which includes Bridgeport and Chief Joseph Dam and the corridor from Wauconda to Republic in Ferry County.
“When we complete the study, not every area will be included in the transportation plan, but we should include every area in the study and then let the study make its recommendation on what should be included and what shouldn’t be,” Hanson said. “A big piece of information we’ll put in the study is the usage of existing systems and how we can fill any unmet needs,” he added.
Hanson suggested each city recruit community members to join an advisory committee for the CTP in order to help pass out surveys to the community about their transportation needs.
During public comments, Dino Decesari of the Omak City Council said a system like this would probably include an increase in sales tax and he suggested an emphasis be placed on what the increase would be so that people can start supporting the new system early on.
“The last time a system like this was voted on, I heard time and time again “if I had known the vote was going to be so close, I would have voted,'” Leanne Leifer, director of Okanogan County Transportation said referring to a public bus system proposed in 1992 that followed a pilot program.
At that time, the suggested tax increase was three-tenths of one percent. Hanson said it would not necessarily be at the same rate this time around.
Although what type of transportation has yet to be decided, it most likely be buses, but Hanson did not rule out a van pool system to meet a lot of the need.
When Decesari mentioned that the county is economically depressed, Hanson said a new transportation system would be a great jobs opportunity.
The next meeting of the OCPTIC is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 22 at 7 p.m. in the County Commissioner’s meeting room.