Public hearings for mosquito district, transportation upcoming

TONASKET – Plans for the formation of a mosquito control district that would include Tonasket, Oroville, Omak and Okanogan have moved forward, though there is still no guarantee that a ballot measure will be approved by the Okanogan County Commissioners.

City Planner Kurt Danison reported that, even as the commissioners approved a public hearing to discuss putting it on the ballot for this fall’s elections, the committee has been working on maps to determine more specifically which areas would be included in the district.

“The original proposal for Tonasket was just to include the city limits,” Danison said. “Patrick (Plumb, representing Tonasket on the committee) realized after some of these meetings, some of the others are adding areas outside their cities. Because in many cases mosquito breeding habitat is outside the city limits.”

Danison’s proposal included areas south of Tonasket down to Midway on the east side of the river and as far south as North Pine Creek Road on the west side.

“The thought behind that it would take in these areas along the riverbanks where they would breed,” Danison said.

If approved by voters, an additional property tax of about 25 cents per $1,000 of property valuation would be used to fund the district.

“The district would have people on the ground, figuring out for the first year where the hot (breeding) spots are, then go through a treatment regimen,” Danison said. “It would be mostly BTI… Little briquets in the storm drains, broadcasting granules, etc. Once you have adult populations you’ve lost the battle. The last resort is spray.”

He added that it would be a slow process to get the mosquito district up and running; first year receipts would be about $150,000, but collection wouldn’t start for a full year after the measure would be approved by voters.

The public hearing is scheduled for Monday, July 21 at 3 p.m. in the Commissioners’ Hearing Room in Okanogan.

Transpo hearing July 28

The city will be holding a public hearing on its six-year transportation plan at its next council meeting, Tuesday, July 28.

Though not likely to engender the kind of passion as a Super Bowl party or the World Cup finals, it’s an opportunity for citizens to give input on which projects involving roads, sidewalks and the like the city should prioritize.

The six-year plan is approved each year, but Danison said this year that its significance is greater than in years past thanks to the demise of the North Central Regional Transportation Planning Organization last spring.

“Typically in your street plan …you make sure the projects are eligible for state funding,” Danison said. ” So those were the only ones we cared about. But since we no longer have a regional transportation planning organization, we have to try to do a regional plan in the county.”

Danison supplied last year’s approved list of projects and asked the council to rank the projects in importance from most critical to least, regardless of funding or other considerations.

He said US-97 (Whitcomb Ave.) through the center of town, always a sore topic due to piecemeal maintenance and persistent drainage issues, was a prime example.

“It’s a state route; some of the communities won’t put that in there because it’s the state’s responsibility,” Danison said. “But in the end if we are working a regional transportation plan, you should include that route. It is of truly regional significance…

“It’s important we let the state know. We send it in, it goes to the county, it goes into a DOT regional play, gets sent into Olympia and gets folded into the state transportation plan. Our priorities need to make it in there.

“US-97 through Tonasket is not very high on the state’s priority list. The only reason it will end up on their list is if … there is trouble moving traffic through here. It needs to be on our radar screen, the county radar screen, the regional radar screen, and eventually the state…. Otherwise what we’ve been seeing on 97 is what we’re going to see.”

Jeffko requests trail preservation

Council member Claire Jeffko, during her report, asked that something be done to preserve the river front trail in Chief Tonasket Park. Since the city turned the narrow road through the park into a one-way loop, she said, parked cars have been parking and driving on the trail.

“Its’ being totally destroyed,” Jeffko said. “When I’m walking my dogs on what’s left of the trail – in the poison ivy – US Forest Service was doing some sort of operation.”

She said that when she asked them to move, they responded that Public Works Superintendent Hugh Jensen had already asked them to but that they would not move their vehicles “because it was a shady spot,” she said.

Plumb noted that when the one-way was first introduced, it had been thought at the time that the Water Ranch would either be under construction or operational by this point.

“Is there a way we can define that trail?” Jeffko asked. “To make it a definite trail, so that they know it because most of the time I don’t think it’s intentional.”

DOE fetes city crew

Jensen and his crew were awarded the state Department of Ecology’s Wastewater Treatment Plant Outsanding Performance Award.

Criteria included effluent limits, complying with monitoring and reporting requirements, spill prevention planning, pre-treatment and overall operational demands.

About one third of the state’s approximately 300 wastewater treatment plants received the award.

“I want to recognize you and your staff for the work they do, not only for our happy flushing, but that we’re recognized that,” Plumb said. “The city is very indebted to you and your staff.”

Mayor visits sister city

Plumb continued to foster Tonasket’s relationship with its sister city of Princeton, B.C., by taking his family and a few others to Princeton Racing Days over the last weekend of June.

“Jensen Sackman, Myra Gaytan and Jordan Sackman came up with me to Racing Days,” Plumb said. “Jensen, seeing that, she is looking into starting an ambassadors program here (similar to what Princeton has) just because of the friendship and awesomeness it presented to her.”

Plumb said that though one of Racing Days’ signature events, thoroughbred horse racing, didn’t occur this year, it was still a festival worthwhile for Tonasket tourists to visit. He said the Princeton parade organizers even invited him to participate in the parade, placing him near the front.

“They had a bunch of kids’ events,” he said. “It was a lot of fun. It would be cool if we could have more people head up there. They were so welcoming; it was very awesome.”

Chief questions lanterns

Police Chief Rob Burks said that in the wake of this year’s July 4 celebrations, he was concerned at the number of “Chinese lanterns” that were seen in use.

“It’s crazy that those are being sold at this time of year,” he said of the fireworks, that amount to floating airborne candles. “You have no idea where those are going to come down.”

Vugteveen noted that while in most instances the flame should be out before the remains of the lantern return to earth, she saw a number of them that came close to hitting trees.

“It’s hard for me to believe that in July those are OK,” said Vugteveen, a Forest Service firefighter.

Plumb said a more formal discussion about what fireworks should be sold in the city, especially during the summer, should be arranged at a future date.