Tonasket council to get back to code review

Noise ordinance discussed again

TONASKET – The Tonasket City Council, in an effort to return to its long-standing attempts to update city codes, set a date for a meeting specifically dedicated to that activity during its Tuesday, Aug. 27, session.

Continuing discussion about the city’s noise ordinance, which at different times has been described as too vague to be effective but also specific enough to be used as a “weapon” in a dispute between neighbors, was front and center of in that discussion.

Council members Jean Ramsey and Claire Jeffko had met with Police Chief Rob Burks since the council’s early August meeting and requested he find other cities’ noise ordinances to use as a tool for revising the Tonasket code. They had not yet had time to fully review those or discuss them with Burks.

“We want to pick out the good, the bad and the ugly from what other cities have,” Ramsey said.

Jeffko said she questioned whether or not the ordinance, which as currently written only requires a complaint from one individual to get a neighbor written up for a ticket, could be used as a way for one neighbor to harass another.

“That’s kind of what’s gone on and why I’m concerned,” said Mayor Patrick Plumb. “There’s a couple of things that needed to be addressed so they could deal with loud stereos and loud mufflers. Nothing is determined yet….

“There’s two lines of thought. Do we want it quiet all day in town? Or only during certain hours?”

At the heart of the matter was the issue of officer discretion, which council member Jill Vugteveen noted was discussed regarding a different situation with the noise ordinance over a year ago.

“We punted it to (city attorney) Mick Howe because we need to figure out how we can word it so we can get what Rob wants with officer discretion,” Vugteveen said. “That’s where it ended, in Mick’s hands. We wanted to be able to address things that are issues in the city limits, like the mufflers and stereos.”

“She’s right,” Plumb said. “But now what happened was I brought it back to council because of some questions about what I conversed with Mick about: can one person file a complaint repeatedly and expect at the end that someone else is going to get a ticket? Can it be used as a harassment tool? The response back, was, ‘Yes.'”

Plumb asked Ramsey and Jeffko to meet with Burks again after they had had a chance to review the other cities’ ordinances.

“It’s an old, old, old problem that’s been going on for 30 years,” Jeffko said. “Every time it crops up we’ll need to deal with it.”

That and other city code will be discussed at a special city council meeting dedicated to that purpose on Saturday, Sept. 21, at 1 p.m. at the Kuhler Bar and Grill.

Also, a special town hall meeting to discuss the proposed sidewalk ordinance was scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 18, at 5:30 p.m. in the council chambers. The ordinance, if enacted, would set parameters for sidewalk access in the downtown business core.

Transportation ballot

Plumb, who serves as the city’s representative on the Okanogan County Transportation Authority board, said that the board’s plan to put a 0.4 percent sales tax hike for public transportation enhancements could be in jeopardy due to a lack of funds.

He said that, because it would be on the ballot for the entire county it could cost as much as $10,000 that could be difficult to raise in a limited amount of time.

“It’s quite expensive,” he said. “There is a meeting in early September to hear the latest and greatest on that.”

Other items

The council approved an ordinance to amend existing code to set the speed limits on roads included in the Bonaparte Creek/Mill Drive annexation completed last winter. Bonaparte Avenue and Bretz road will now have posted speed limits of 15 miles per hour.

“The (kids) darting that is going on because (vehicles are) parking length wise and not parallel; they have a lot of running speed to get out in the road,” Plumb said, adding that at least one of the residents in that area was pleased with the new speed limit.

The council also set its 2014 budget dates. Various steps of the budget will be on the agenda for each of the regular meetings of the city council through the end of November, with a special budget workshop meeting also scheduled for Oct. 9. If all goes according to schedule the 2014 budget will be adopted Nov. 26.

The Tonasket City Council next meets on Tuesday, Sept. 13, in the council chambers.