Tonasket City Council approves budget

TONASKET – The Tonasket City Council approved its 2012 budget at its Monday, Dec. 12, meeting, amounting to $4,521,318.45 in projected expenses.

Highlights of the budget included more than $1.2 million in construction projects, many funded with grant money, and does not account for an expected Transportation Improvement Board grant that hasn’t yet been approved.

“I’m very pleased,” said Mayor Patrick Plumb. “The staff worked well with a lot of different groups to get this together. The council took a lot of time and effort to figure out what all of these numbers really mean.”

The budget passed 4-1, with Council Members Scott Olson, Jill Vugteveen, Selena Hines and Julliana Griffin in favor and Council Member Jean Ramsey voting against.

The board also approved Police Chief Robert Burks’ request to rejoin the North Central Washington Narcotics Task Force after having withdrawn from the force “four or five years ago,” Burks said.

“We’ve been working hard to build a good relationship with them,” he said. “They have a new agent now, and they’ve been very proactive. I’m pretty excited about it.”

Burks said that task force could help with undercover work, adding manpower to operations that the city police didn’t have money for, and could follow cases that start within the city but leave the department’s jurisdiction.

“They could do undercover work in town that obviously we couldn’t do,” he said. “If a case starts here, they can follow it all the way to California if they have to.

“In exchange they would have access to our drug dog. It also ties in with Stonegarden (which the department partners with on U.S. Border Patrol cases). There’s all kinds of possibilities.”

The $1,000 dues for 2012 were already built into the budget, and the board unanimously approved the motion.

“I really applaud your efforts to build these relationships,” Mayor Plumb said.

Issues with the city’s night time parking ordinance were raised by the community in the wake of notices placed on residents’ cars to remove their vehicles from city streets between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. The issue involved areas of the city, particularly on Tonasket Ave., where residents have nowhere to park except at curbside.

“There’s kind of been a gentlemen’s agreement on Tonasket Ave.,” Plumb said. “The officer (who placed the notices) was doing their job, but the feedback I got was, ‘what are we supposed to do?'”

“What we’ve usually asked them to do, if it snows, after we plow, to have people move their vehicles to the other side of the street so we can come back through and do the other side,” said city superintendent Bill Pilkinton. “For the most part it has worked well.

“(As for those with driveways) the problem isn’t the people who occasionally forget to put their car in, it’s the ones who do it all the time.”

Especially problematic are streets where cars are left on both sides.

“Then, we just won’t plow that street,” Pilkinton said. “We can’t.”

“That’s really not fair to the others on that street,” Olson said. “That’s where those cars need to be ticketed and towed.”

“We can write tickets,” police chief Robert Burks said, “but we can’t tow them.”

“What’s the penalty?” Plumb asked. “I’m ready to set that. It needs to be enough so people say ‘oh my goodness, I shouldn’t have done that.’ We set penalties as council. I’d like to specifically say that from this point forward, it’s X amount.”

“I think we need to do some research to see if we have it at the right amount,” Olson said.

No specific action was taken, but the issue will be revisited at a future council meeting.

Plumb issued a proclamation in honor of Linda Black and her team of Tonasket Visitors Business Resource Center volunteers.

“Between the cyclists, the art show, Halloween, the use of the building for Winterfest, they’re such a great asset to the community,” Plumb said. “We’re very blessed.”

The board discussed the annexation of the Legacy Park property to the city, which already owns the park and the surrounding area. At issue was whether to annex just the park, or the surrounding 2.4 acre area.

Action was tabled until the next council meeting.

Olson reported that upon interviewing property owners in the Tonasket Cemetery area, he didn’t find any who objected to the proposal to build a crematory adjacent to the cemetery.

“The property owners I talked to didn’t have a problem with it,” he said.

Ramsey also said area residents she’d talked to didn’t object to the crematory proposal.

“What they do have a problem with is funerals,” she said. “Some people have been using one resident’s driveway to park in. The bigger issue is that we really need to have some signs indicating that there is a funeral in session, so we should contact the funeral homes to let them know that some signage is necessary.”

Burks and Pilkinton, in their department heads’ reports, also noted that the citizens they’d talked to hadn’t objected to the crematory project.

Griffin reported that she was very pleased with the huge Winterfest crowd, despite the cold weather. She also said that the Tonasket Middle School ASB had written 129 letters to Santa that would go to Macy’s, which pledged to send a dollar for each letter to the Make-a-Wish Foundation, with the money dedicated toward a hoped-for trip for cancer-sufferer Alicia Ponce-Myers to go to Disneyland in the spring.

Selena Hines reported on the first candle lighting ceremony at North Valley Hospital the previous Sunday.

“Terri Orford (NVH business development director) did a great job of getting the word out on very short notice,” she said. “We’re hoping to do it annually; it’s just an opportunity for anyone to light a candle for someone that they’ve lost.”

Plumb said that he was excited about the opportunity for they city to enter a Readers’ Digest competition with a potential $50,000 prize for the town that best makes its case for how the money would make it a better place to live.

“It would be cool if they city could do something for the (swimming) pool,” Plumb said. “It’s something that is in need of money and would really have an effect on people over a wide area. It’d be great to center a story around Gordon Stangland’s last request, do a video and a piece on the pool.”

The board also approved payment for receipts received before the end of the year, since there would not be another council meeting before then; approved to pay Varela and Associates as soon as funding arrives for the pedestrian upgrade project; approved the creation of a sewer project reserve fund and a swimming pool reserve fund; and approved the signing TIB grant documents for a combination of projects along Western Avenue and 3rd Street. The grant amount was $361,871.

Finally, the council accepted the resignation of Art Moser from the planning commission and would consider possible replacements at the next board meeting.

The city council next meets Tuesday, January 10, in the council chambers at City Hall.