City Council approves economic impact study on golfers

by Richard Uhlhorn

In 2020, a study of operations at the Lake Chelan Golf Course was conducted. The study included recommendations for success at the course along with improvements needed.

Also the study recommended that an Economic Impact Study be conducted to provide information on outside contributions that golf course users make in the community’s overall tourism economy.

Golfer who golfed at the Lake Chelan Golf Course will be the subject of an Economic Impact Study of where they spent their money outside of the golf course. The contractor will be using cell phone data from 2019 and 2020 to conduct the study.

City Council was asked to authorize Mayor Goedde to finalize and execute a contract with Earth Economics for an Economic Impact Analysis for the city’s course.

The City allocated $15,000 for this project in 2021. Earth Economics came in above that price at $18,400 to conduct the study using their innovative use of cell phone data from 2019 and 2020. The firms portfolio includes economic analysis on Outdoor Recreation in Washington State for the State’s Department of Natural Resources and WA. St. Recreation and Conservation Office.

“I’m excited about this project,” said Parks Director Paul Horne. “The company uses cutting edge technology.” The Parks Department hopes that the end result will show how the Golf Course contributes to the City.

The company will only be tracking golfers and all data will remain anonymous, but Councilman Peter Jamtgaard said it sounds like 1984 to him. “There is something about this that strikes a bad cord with me,” said Jamtgaard. Councilman John Olson replied to Jamtgaard’s issue and said that the data collected is not connected to any specific person.

Tim Hollingsworth added that if the data is not attached to a specific phone, he can’t see where it oversteps a person’s privacy. Olson said he’d had the opportunity of working with this company on the west side when he was in real estate. “They are extremely thorough and reliable.”

The Council voted to approve the authorization with Jamtgaard voting No.

The other big issue at Tuesday’s Council meeting was the proposed construction of the new Public Works Building. The City opened bids for the project on February 11 from three general contractors; Blew’s Construction, Cascade Central Construction and Halme Builders.

The City Council rejected the bids to build the City’s proposed Public Works Building because the bids came in at almost $1 million over the Architects estimate.

The bids came in approximately 70% ($1 million) higher than the City’s contracted architect; Design West Architects. The bids were all within $100,000 of each other at a low of $2,200,000 to a high of $2,300,000.

The architect stated that he had never seen a square foot price as high as this ($529.00). Public Works Director Jake Youngren told the Council that they had reached out to each contractor and said there wasn’t any one thing that drove the bids that high. “We want to move forward but our recommendation is to reject these bids and look for ways to restore this project.”

Mayor Goedde said they should sort out the bids out and come back as a later date. Youngren replied that coming back a year later could result in an even higher price.

Councilman Ty Witt remarked that the price per square foot prices are becoming unattainable for a lot of projects. Youngren added that out of town subs were less expensive but that the local subcontractors were killing the City. “They are crazy,” remarked Youngren. He promised to broaden the bidders net in hopes of finding better bids, but Witt reminded him and the Council that with Hospital and Community Center construction in the near future. “All three bidders were within one percent of each other.”

Hollingsworth added that it will be a crazy busy season for this coming year. Erin McCardle if there was some connection between the public works building and the proposed parks maintenance building that could be combined. Olson added that the City’s three building projects might be better to be rolled into one project. Jamtgaard added that changing the look of the building and getting rid of glass could change the bids dramatically.

Mayor/Council Comments:

Chris Baker asked if the bids on the proposed construction would go down based on the economy. Youngren replied they would.

Peter Jamtgaard complemented Jake Youngren on his work and said he feels the frustration on the building issue. “We will get there.”

Ty Witt reported that the DOE grant for the glass crusher has been approved but that it has a timeline on it indicating they need a more completed performa on the project which he will provide to the Council at the next meeting.

Erin McCardle attended the recent Port of Chelan County meeting and said that Washington has received $240 million more for small business in the second round.

The Port will apparently be using a Artificial Intelligence Portal for this second round instead of local recommendations. She said that $150 million will be used to help maintain businesses that have stayed the course and $90 million for businesses who had to close. The funding cycle opens in mid March and that a lot of effort will be there to push applications.

McCardle added that 80 percent of the businesses have no on-line presence and she hopes to help bring 10 to 15 more businesses up on-line.

The Port Economic group were surprised that the Glass Recycling Project didn’t ask for some of the $17 million they had available to loan. “I’m not sure where the disconnect happened,” said McCardle. “The Rotary Glass group should tap into this.”

Tim Hollingsworth stated that that the Rotary Club’s glass recycling group has been talking to Public Works about a collaborative effort. Hollingsworth also asked about the PUD boat launch and school parking issue. Mayor Goedde replied he hadn’t heard back from Barry DePaoli. City Administrator Wade Ferris remarked that the City is researching the liability issues and looking at options.

John Olson said that ReRuns is interested in helping hall crushed glass and reminded the Council that the City is only 94 days away from Memorial Day.

Servando Robledo said that Public Works should reassess its building plans and consider combining the building projects into one building. “It’s time to reconsder,” said Robledo.

Mayor Bob Goedde encouraged the Council to watch the Destination Development series on making the community sustainable. He also mentioned the possibility of utilizing a cadre of ambassadors to help with the tourism issues.

Wade Ferris said the staff was talking about plans for the summer rush and the need to come up with a real plan so when the City rolls into Memorial Day they are not reacting but being proactive. McCardle asked if the Bridge jumping issue was also being looked at and Ferris replied that it was.

Two individuals have requested that they be forgiven portions of the City bills.

John Olson mentioned Mike Richardson who is an owner of the building on the NE corner of Wooding and Emerson. H suggested that the City split that bill and refund 50 percent to her. He added that she is a part of the Kelly family and mentioned all the good things they have done in the community over the years.

Hollingsworth said he is worried about setting a precedent. “It’s pretty subjective.” McCardle added that the City has gotten into hot water over these types of issues before and that the Council needs to take the emotional side out of it.

Jamtgaard thought that a certain amount of grace is appropriate in some of these situations. McCardle stated that the City needs to have a policy on this so they know what and what they cannot do. Hollingsworth added that a consistent policy would be helpful.

The City’s next meeting is a workshop that will begin at 4 p.m. next Tuesday, at 4 p.m. The City encourages people to attend City Council meetings on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month beginning at 6 p.m.

Residents in hospital district will receive newsletter next week

by Richard Uhlhorn

Last month it was reported that a newsletter would be going out to residents in the Hospital District in early February. This didn’t happen but Agustin Benegas assured the Commission that the newsletter and board’s letter will go out, hopefully on Thursday, February 25 or by early next week.

FINANCE COMMITTEE REPORT:

CFO Cheryl Cornwell remarked that January was not very profitable which was to be expected since January is traditionally one of the facilities slowest months. She stated that there was very little change in the balance sheet but that there are a lot of changes to the business model due to COVID. “COVID has blown away the way we do business,” she said.

Cornwell also said that the hospital has several million dollars sitting in the bank waiting for the government auditors to determine if it has to be repaid. “If we can keep that money, it will have a huge impact on our budget sheet.” Cornwell added that Chelan was not alone in this issue.

Being shut down 10 days because of a COVID outbreak at the hospital didn’t help January’s bottom line either. The Hospital was $244,000 under its budget for the month.

FACILITY COMMITTEE:

Rohrich told the commission that the construction documents have been submitted to all agencies for approval of permits including Naumes. “We are estimating a couple of months for those approvals to come back,” said Rohrich.

Jordana LaPorte asked why Naumes was included in the submittals. Rohrich replied that while they do not have approval authority, but more to keep them in the loop.

LaPorte asked when they could see the documents and Rohrich asked what she would like to see. She replied that she would like to see the floor plan to see if thte cost of that portion is within line. Gleasman reiterated that the hospital has to stay within 44.4 million and that when the bids come in the board will have them presented for the board’s perusal.

Rohrich stated that he expected the bids to come back around March 30. Mary Murphy remarked that permits will take up to two months. Rohrich said, “We can’t proceed without permits whereas Mary Signorelli stated, “We can’t proceed if the bids come in too high.” At that point, the hospital would have to go back and see where it can make adjustments.

Rohrich remarked that the board will have to convene a special meeting to discuss the bids. Gleasman added that would happen sometime in March or April.

COMMUNITY COMMITTEE:

Agustin Benegas told the board that the Newsletter is at the printers and that it, along with the Board’s letter would hopefully be mailed this Thurday, February 25, but if not, early next week.

Rohrich told the board that the Hospital has received vaccine for the community to be administered on Thursday, February 25, at the Fire Station and recommended that people register on the Hospital’s website (lakechelanhealth.org) for a time. Benegas said that registration opened up at 2 p.m. on Tuesday for 500 doses. Those individuals who received their first shot last month will receive their second shot on Saturday, February 27, at the Fire Station. If a person doesn’t have a computer, they can call 682-6115 and talk to Karen who will help them get registered.

The commission unanimously approved a contract with Dr. Manos who according to CEO George Rohrich has 30 years experience in pain management. The contract is for one day per week for one year. “It is a pretty good opportunity to start out. We will decide in six months whether to continue the contract or not.”

Gleasman asked what pain management included? Rohrich replied that in includes infusions and injections for people with chronic pain issues but that it also depends on insurance. When in town Dr. Manos will spend a half day at the Clinic and then a half day performing procedures at the hospital.

Fred Miller asked if his services would be advertised to the community. Rohrich said it would be and he recognizes that it is a small service for the hospital. He expects Dr. Manos to maybe see five patients in the clinic per year.

Chelan Fire & Rescue slips into 2021 with $703,000

by Richard Uhlhorn

“We carried over $703,000 from  2020 which is much higher than forecast,” Chief Mark Donnell told fire commissioners at its February 17 commission meeting. The District has put $100,000 of those funds into its capital apparatus fund which brings the total to $260,000. In addition, the District has received another $67,000 from Cal Fire and is putting another $20,000 into the fund. The remaining $47,000 covers what the District paid out in salaries and overtime.

February has started off slow for the District and Donnell expects it to “come in around 35 calls total.”

The District’s hydrant issue is a lot larger than commonly thought. There are 193 hydrants lacking the four inch Storz fittings. “We need to find out who they belong too,” said Donnell. The City owns some of them as does Isenhart Water District.

Commissioner Oules asked the timeline of installing 4 inch Storz fittings at the Lookout Development. Donnell replied that the Lookout has agreed to put in the new fittings, but that there are a number of issues at the development. The District has conducted a two year traffic study which proves how precarious driving a fire truck through would be in the original plat.

Commissioner Moller asked about taking a ladder truck up there. Donnell replied that it would not be going up there. “The City is staying on top of the developers,” stated Donnell. “Only the original development is problematic.”

The District also received an email from Hughes Fire which is much closer than the company in St. Louis that has been thought to be the firm to work on the corrosion issues on Ladder 71. “It gives us another option,” said Donnell. He warned that Hughes had not been responsive and they had forgot about them until this email came in indicating interest.

The Safer Grant that Chief Brandon Asher falls under is finished at the end of this year, but Donnell said that the grant program has reopened and that Manson, Orondo and Entiat will all  participate in the Grant request. Applications are due by March 12.

Chief Asher reported that he has been in conversations with Chelan 1 developing a Hazmat Support Group and that Chelan 1 will lend one of their ladder trucks until the District’s is returned.

Chief Asher reported that Orondo has two more recruits but that two recruits from Chelan didn’t show up at the Recruit Academy. “I’m willing to work with people, but I don’t want to waste my time.” He has called each of the 10 times with no response. The Academy is going well despite the lack of response from two potential volunteers.

He also reported that the District would be assisting the City in burning down the Public Works Building in preparation for new construction, but said that the City received much higher construction bids on the new facility than was estimated. “It was over $1 million over what they were expecting.”

Commissioner Russ Jones remarked that the EMT training was going well. “It’s a great group and we are getting lots of information. It also gives me a chance to get to know volunteers.”

Dan Crandall, Firefighters Association President, reported that the association as $32,000 in its account which should carry them through the year in support of victims. He’s also hoping to be able to hold a Pancake Breakfast in July or August. Moller told him that the annual Car Show in June is being planned.

Unfinished Business:

The agreement between the City and Fire Department on service is on hold because the city’s employee is out on medical leave for the foreseeable future. Donnell did report that City Councilman Chris Baker will be taking the liaison position on between the City and Department.

Chief Donnell requested that the Commissioners give him their list of three individuals they would like to see on the Citizen’s Advisory Group. He has, and the commission agreed, that Concie Luna would facilitate the upcoming meetings. “I’m sold,” said Donnell. He hopes to have the first meeting in March.

Karyl Oules has already submitted her names for the committee. Phil Moller stated that he expected Donnell, Asher and Carol Kibler to be present at each meeting of the committee

Donnell also stated that some staff would be involved but not participatory. “They will be there as a support role.” He also stated that since the County is in Phase 2, that the meetings would take place in-person at the department. “We can have up to 20 people in the room excluding staff.”

New Business:

Chief Donnell reported that the District applied for a DNR grant and have received it. “It is a $12,000 matching grant,” said Donnell who asked the commission to approve accepting it. “We need to use it by March 15 next year.” He wants to find a 4-wheel drive unit that can be put into service for the wildland/urban interface. “We will look and see what we can find. After one year in service it would be our property and after 10 years we should be able to sell it for $35,000.”

Commissioner Jones stated during the commission remarks that the EMT Class he is taking is top notch.

Moller replied and thanked Jones for taking the course because it gives the District one more set of hands in emergency situation.

Chelan Fire and Rescue meets on the third Wednesday of the month beginning at 3 p.m. and the public is encouraged to attend.

Chelan schools seeks partnership with City

by Richard Uhlhorn

Chelan Schools Superintendent Barry DePaoli visited with Chelan City Council on Tuesday evening, February 9, to present potential solutions to the district’s summer parking issues at the high school with boaters and vacationers.

Chelan Schools is looking to the City for a partnership or potential solutions to a parking situation that has developed at its High School property during the summer months.

Over the years, the School District has allowed boaters to park their trailers in the high school’s side parking lot over the summer months and until several years ago, hadn’t had any problems.

Two years ago, the Lake Chelan Valley began seeing an increase in boat traffic and with limited parking available, the school lots began to fill up. Last summer was the deal breaker! Over 90 trailers, and some RV’s took advantage of the free parking. When it came time for the trailers to move out and the District to get ready for school opening, many didn’t leave creating an issue of hunting the owners down and having them move their trailers.

“We are looking for solutions to the problem,” DePaoli told the Council. “The problem over the last two years is that a lot more boats are coming into the City and Valley and the parking ot is becoming a catch-all with trailers and RV’s.”

DePaoli stated that the board wants to figure out how to continue allowing parking at the school. “We want to be good stewards of the community,” said DePaoli. “We know it is a convenience.”

The problems with boat trailers and the increase in boats coming to the Valley is that Chelan’s PUD boat launch only has 16 slots for trailers, which means that a lot of the boating traffic to the free PUD launch park their trailers up and down Farnham Street.

“We have no way of managing the lot,” stated DePaoli. “We don’t want to be an overnight parking lot.”

Erin McCardle said, “When I go by it seems that trailers are left for the season.” She asked Barry if he had any potential solutions?

DePaoli replied that people are looking for week to month parking. “We can control day parking,” he said. “If we shut down the lot, we are not being good stewards of the City. We really need to offer something to our locals.” He asked if the City could provide a Parking Lot Officer which he said the District could help (financially) with that.

Mayor Goedde asked if out-of-town boaters could park up behind Les Schwab at the old Evans Storage area now being run by Ray Wilson. “He’s planning a large increase in his footprint.” This could open up some long term parking opportunities, but the question would be how to get the boaters back to their boats.

Hollingsworth added that the PUD needs to be involved in the discussion since they own the launch. He suggested that the City could install a parking kiosk and treat the school lot as an additional parking facility by leasing it out and splitting the proceeds with the District. DePaoli replied they need to have some solution in place by May 1 when the boating season begins to get underway. “I’m open to to any partnership the City would like to look at,” said DePaoli emphasizing that the lot needs to be day parking only.

Mayor Goedde asked Parks Director Paul Horne about the Kiosk solution. Horne replied that they cost an estimated $25,000 and the Parks Department would have to hire another seasonal to help. “We have a hard time hiring one now.”

The liability issue came up and DePaoli stated that in 20 years they have not had an issue.

DePaoli is in hopes that the City will take the idea of a partnership seriously concerning this issue. His solution is to keep the side lot open for 35 trailers (no RVs) and the back lot for the use of locals providing up to 25 more slots. The front parking lot at the School would remain open for School District events.

The issue is a serious one throughout the community with its unprecedented growth. Councilman Chris Baker said during the Mayor/Council comments that Chelan has outgrown its parks and parking.

Hospital to send newsletter and letter to community

by Richard Uhlhorn
All Things Lake Chelan
509-679-0282

NEWSLETTER:
In early February, district residents can expect to receive a newsletter and a letter written and edited by the board regarding the state of the hospital and what the timeline for the new facility is.

VACCINES:
Lake Chelan Health is requesting that those interested in receiving the next dose of vaccines to visit the website frequently. Residents can also register at the hospital’s website for notification when doses come in.

Those who have already received their first shot, were given a card with a follow up appointment for their second shot of the vaccine.

There apparently is no indication of when new doses will arrive.

NEW HOSPITAL FACILITY:
Regarding the progress on the new facility, not much was forthcoming during the Facilities Report. The committee meet on January 4 and stated that updating continues on plans and specifications for the new building. Permit applications have been made for fill and grade permits from the City. “Things are moving forward and all permits will be presented on February 4,” said Chair Phyliss Gleasman. CEO George Rohrich added that the facility plans are moving forward.

Commissioner Jordana LaPorte requested the committee’s minutes from its last meeting. She also complained about the number of acronyms in the report. “I don’t know what they are,” she said. “I need a decoeer to read these.” Rohrich said he will spell them out from now on.

Commissioner Mary Signorelli asked about the new hospital’s signage and Gleasman replied that Wenatchee’s Graybill Signs are working on them.

HURON PRESENTTION OF BOARD RESPONSIBILITIES:
Tad Hunt from Huron gave a monthly presentation to the board on Board Governance and covered issues and responsibilities of the board. His presentation laid out that the board has the ultimate authority, but its primary responsibility is to monitor its CEO’s performance. He also presented that board members can not act alone and that they must speak as a board.

LaPorte asked what happens if one of the staff has an issue with the CEO? Hunt said, “That’s a fair question. There is a governance policy of that.” Rohrich added that there is a pathway of that potential problem. “Like a CEO stealing money for example (it has happened in the board’s past),” said Rohrich. Hunt added that there is nothing wrong with the board rounding with the staff and team, but not as a fishing excursion. It would also have to be reported at the board meeting.

HOSPITAL FINANCES FOR DECEMBER
December had the hospital’s finances lose $182,890.00 which was $114,790.00 over it projected loss of $68,110.00. The hospital’s financial situation is beginning to improve monthly and is expected to increase with the opening of the Urgent Care Clinic on February 1, and the recent report that the hospital is once again able to admit patients after a short shutdown to a COVID-19 issue.

The Board of Commissioners meet on the fourth Tuesday of each month. Residents within the District are invited to attend the Virtual meetings via ZOOM. These ZOOM meetings can be accessed from the Hospital’s agenda.

Restaurants can resume outdoor seating

by Richard Uhlhorn

Chelan restaurants received a gift from Mayor Bob Goedde and the City Council at the Council meeting on Tuesday evening when City Attorney Quentin Batjer extended Mayor Goedde’s Emergency Executive Order for the Pandemic.

Batjer stated that the City was waiving certain zoning requirements for outdoor seating that expired in September of 2020. Batjer stated that the restuarants will not have to use platforms under the new requirements and it removes authorization for sidewalk spaces.

The parking stall usage by the restaurants will expire when the (pandemic) emergency ends or the County enters Phase II which will once again allow patrons access to indoor dining.

Legislative Priorities:

Each year, the City Council adopts its Legislative agenda for the Washington State Legislative session. City Administrator Wade Ferris said, “I would like to get them to our legislators as soon as possible because the legislative session begins soon.

This year’s legislative issues include:

  • Affordable Housing – Because of the City’s tourism-based economy, many local service industry workers are unable to afford living in Chelan or the Valley year round. The median price for a home in the valley has risen to $475,000. To help alleviate the need, the City supports the efforts of the Chelan Valley Housing Trust. The City will also support proposals that assist in creating rural residential housing for communities like Chelan. In addition, the City supports the creation of a tax on Short Term Rentals that would be dedicated to providing long term affordable housing for its workers.

    Councilman Tim Hollingsworth said that Chelan is missing a lot of funding for moderate to low income families. The Housing Trust is supporting higher income levels with its $200,000 homes that will be completed in February. The need for lower income affordable apartments or homes is a serious need in the valley.

    Mayor Bob Goedde asked if anyone was following the legislature regarding affordable housing. Hollingsworth said he was trying to follow the issues.
  • LakesidePark Improvements: Public Waterfront Access – Public access to Lake Chelan has become a high priority for the City and the City’s Parks Department. With more and more visitors from around the region accessing the Lake Chelan Valley, the parks are becoming overcrowded and parking is becoming a major issue for the City.

    The City is making public access one of its highest priorities and will attempt to increase access through two targeted initiatives.

    The City has had a master plan in place for Lakeside Park for several years, but has been unable to obtain the necessary grants and funding to increase the park’s capacity, safety and functionality. The master plan includes increased parking, new ADA compliant restrooms, trails along with beach enhancements and swim area improvements.

    The Lakeside Park Improvement project has applied for $1 million in grants from the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) in both 2018 and 2020, but ranked just below the cutoff for allocated funding. The City has allocated $103,000 towards additional swim area improvements which remains a high priority project.

    In addition to seeking funding from the RCO for Lakeside Park, the City has undertaken a study to identify publicly owned areas along the waterfront with high potential for development into mini parks. The cost for all seven identified would cost approximately $1.5 million dollars.

    Hollingsworth said he liked the treatment for the waterfront projects, but felt it was a little long winded. “I would like to see something that gives it some punch,” said Hollingsworth. We get people from around the region and state and I think the State needs to be a partner in this project.

    John Olson agreed and stated that both he and Bob Goedde were born and raised in Chelan and haven’t seen any major changes to public access. “Our population has exploded and is expected to explode more,” said Olson who added that there are 8,000 housing units planned for the area. “The park systems haven’t changed in our lifetimes.”
  • Pedestrian Safety i Downtown Chelan between HWY 97 & SR 150 – The City is requesting $700,000 in transportation funding for infrastructure to improve pedestrian safety.
  • Washington Main Street Program –  The City is requesting that the State increase the overall cap of the Main Street Tax Credit Incentive Program to $4 million in tax credits (currently $2,500,000).
  • Water to ChelanAirport – The City and Port have been trying to obtain funding to get water to the Chelan Airport. This would give the airport area an adequate water supply to provide fire flow and permit construction of needed hanger space as well as possible new industry and warehouses. The estimated cost of getting water to the airport is $5.7 million dollars.

Golf Cart lease contract – The Council unanimously approved a lease agreement with Pacific Golf and Turf for new gas driven golf carts with hour meters on them. It will cost the City Parks Department $216,000 over the next five years. “I think we got a good deal,” said Parks Director Paul Horne.

Rate and Fee Resolution – The Council unanimously approved a new rate and fee structure for 2021 for garbage and recycling.

Lake Chelan Sewer District Agreement extension –  The Council approved an extension with the Lake Chelan Sewer District agreement with the City until July which will allow the parties to negotiate a new longer term agreement.

During Mayor/Council comments – Mayor Goedde said that the Port and Chelan were setting up a Blue Ribbon Panel for the Airport. “There are a lot of decisions that need to be made that will cost between $4 to $14 million dollars,” said Goedde. “The good news is that the FAA will pay 90 percent of that cost.” He asked for a volunteer from the council to serve on the panel and asked for suggestions for residents who might be interested in serving. “I’m concerned with what the locals think about our airport.”

Councilman Chris Baker said he’d back up Peter Jamtgaard as the City Council members.

Mayor Goedde also stated that the Chelan School District was interested in finding some resolution to the boat-trailer parking issue at the High School. Jamtgaard stated that the lake has been overrun by boaters and the City needs to consider some launch fees for funding to add parking and more police protection on the lake.

City Council meets every second and fourth Tuesday beginning at 6 p.m. Those interested in listening in can get a live stream of the meeting from Lake Chelan Now.

Fire District 7 to form a Citizens Advisory Group

by Richard Uhlhorn

Fifteen years… that is how long it has been since Chelan County Fire District No. 7 (Chelan Fire and Rescue) has passed a levy lid lift.

At the District’s commission meeting on Wednesday, January 20, under New Business, Chief Mark Donnell told the commissioners that 2021’s budget is Ok, but from 2022 and beyond, the projected budget is not a rosy picture. “My perspective,” said Donnell, “is that it has been 15 years since we’ve passed a levy.”

Since 2006 when the District passed its last levy, the Lake Chelan Valley has changed dramatically. More and more people are choosing the Valley as their new home, or at least a location for a second home. This demographic change has put new pressures on the District.

In addition, the District has undergone a transformation from an all Volunteer Department to a District that has both Career and Volunteer staff to serve the needs of the district. That transformation has also included a number of new regulations required to certify volunteers as firefighters able to respond to firefighting emergencies.

Men and women who used to volunteer for service now find the time commitment to be burdensome on their work and personal lives, so attracting individuals who are dedicated to the service is difficult.

In addition, the financial issues of maintaining a department and its personnel is becoming strained. “We can make dramatic cuts in service,” stated Donnell. If the department is not able to pass a new levy, dramatic cuts are will be forced, which is not good for the service area.

When fire breaks out, whether structure or wild, the community relies on its fire fighters to respond in an efficient manner. As an example, current regulations require four structure certified firefighters on scene before two of them can enter the structure. If it is, for example, a small kitchen fire, in inability to enter the structure could mean a fully involved structure fire.

Because of the increasing financial pressures, the District is hopeful it can float a new levy lid lift in the 2021 November election cycle. To do this, however, the District needs to file its intentions by August 3.

The commission and staff discussed the necessary steps forward to get ready for a new levy. “We are already behind the eight ball,” said Donnell. “Moving forward with a (citizens) group is critical.”

Chairman Phil Moller suggested that the District should be able to accomplish what needs to be done in-house. “We could put together a mailer and have people fill out a guest questionnaire,” said Moller. Commissioner Russ Jones worried about the timeline to do that and asked, “Are we going to get a quality return. I’m leaning towards a group.”

Chief Donnell replied that he likes the group idea because it can include a cross representation of the community. “We need to educate the community and if we don’t educate??”

Commissioner Karyl Oules said that she wants to hear what the community wants. “If we do a levy, it needs to succeed,” said Oules. “If we fail another levy, we need to clean house and figure out what we are doing wrong.” Donnell added that he has no intention of floating a levy that will fail.

The Department will try to put together a Citizen Advisory Group  of 15 to 20 residents to work out the details of how to educate the public to the need for a new levy. Jones said, “It’s time to get education out to the public.

Dan Crandall, Firefighters Association President recommended that the District ask Ray Dobbs to facilitate the group. Dobbs acted as the liaison between the City and department when he served on the Chelan City Council. He also has a long history of public service in the community.

The Commission will make a decision at the February meeting on the how to approach the District residents with its future needs.

 FIRE CHIEF’S REPORT:

Chief Donnell reported that the District spent 99 percent of its projected budget by the end of 2020. The District normally carries over $500,000 in reserve, but Donnell said that the carryover is actually $720,000. “Its from all the hard work we did (on state mob),” said Donnell. The ability to keep seasonal firefighters employed allowed staff to work State Mobilization jobs during the 2020 wildfire season. “We still have some uncollected revenues from our State Mobilization,” said Donnell. “We would not have brought in that much from State Mobilization without the seasonals,” added Donnell.

Chairman Phil Moller thanked Donnell, Administrator Carol Kibler and Assistant Chief Brandon Asher for the excellent job they did on the budget.

DECEMBER INCIDENT REPORT:

Chief Donnell told the commissioners that December was the busiest month since 2010. One of the incidents was a call out from Campbell’s Resort for smoke at the Riverwalk Room. “We got a good turnout for Campbell’s,” said Donnell. “We put out a second alarm because we weren’t sure where the fire was and how bad it could get.” The firefighters were able to locate the seat of the fire within 20 minutes and put it out. “It could have been a serious event,” said Donnell.

Structure fires require quick response and Chelan Fire and Rescue is closing in on a two minute out the door with arrival at the fire within eight to 10 minutes.

Moller asked if the fire hydrant was fixed. Apparently the contractor on the Old Bridge project installed a 5 inch Storz fitting to the new hydrant instead of the standard 4 inch fitting.

Apparently, the Lookout has the same issue along with its narrow one-way streets. Moller said he is worried bout the hydrant fittings at the Lookout and wants the District to change them out to the proper 4 inch fittings and then bill the City for that change out. “If we can’t hook up there in case of fire,” said Moller. “Let’s get even a couple changed over. We don’t have to do all of them at once.”

Chief Donnell said one of the bigger issues is fire inspections of water supply and buildings. “We need to sit down with the City’s Code Enforcer, but they are busy with 85 applications. He is also the fire marshal. We need to have a Fire Inspector.”

Commissioner Jones asked how much the fittings cost. Donnell replied that they run around $200 each. “I would be willing to bet that the contractor or developer would fix the problem.”

Moller asked about other developments. Donnell replied that all the new developments were installing the proper fittings.

Donnell said the department would be moving forward with a new SAFER grant and a Regional Fire Prevention Safety Grant (Community Risk Program). “Arnold (Chief Baker – CCFD No. 5) thinks there is a good chance of getting this one… Lake Wenatchee did.”

The new ladder truck (Ladder 71) has a serious corrosion issue that needs to be resolved. “Northwest Fire can do that work,” said Donnell. “There is significant damage.” The cost of shipping the truck and fixing the problem will be around $250,000. “It will take up to a year with the truck out of service, but the good news is that when it comes back, it will be good for another 20 years.” The other option is to sell the truck for $175,000.

Ladder trucks are an important tool for firefighters working on containing a structure fire.

“I need direction from the board. We can move money around and more revenues are coming in,” stated Donnell. Moller stated that it was a lot of money, but that $250,000 is not a bad deal for a ladder truck that will last 20 years.

Assistant Chief Asher stated that the ladder truck has the big engine and was installed before all the emission criteria was made. The Duty Crew chimed in and remarked that everyone likes the truck. “It is a significant upgrade to the old one,” said one of the crew members.

Commissioner Oules said she didn’t think the expenditure to fix the truck was a waste of money, but asked how the District was covered while it was out of service. Chief Donnell replied that Entiat’s is still in service and that one is available from Wenatchee on a second alarm.

ASSISTANT CHIEF REPORT:

Chief Asher reported that local volunteer training was scheduled in Wenatchee on February 2. “We picked up one new volunteer recruit for Chelan and one for Entiat. None for Orondo,” said Asher.

EMT training is currently on-line but Asher hopes to have in-person training in first week of February.

FIRE ASSOCIATION REPORT:

Dan Crandall reported that the Association has $3,800 in its bank account; $11,500 in its Gala account and $18,000 in the Marine 1 account. “Overall we are in pretty good shape for the coming year even without fund raising,” said Crandall. ‘We have pretty much accomplished everything we needed to do on Marine 1.”

Moller asked about the installation of a pump on Marine 1. Jones replied that he has backed away from installing a permanent pump. “I want to experiment with a portable pump,” said Jones. Donnell added that the District has a portable pump already and when the weather is more conducive it can be checked out.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS:

Donnell stated that he is still working on the City of Chelan/Fire District agreement. He also stated that he wanted to move $100,000 out of the General Fund to the Capital Fund. The board unanimously approved that transfer.

The next Board Meeting will be on Wednesday, February 17 beginning at 3 p.m. The public is encouraged to attend the virtual meeting by going to the District’s website at Chelan7.com and clicking on the ZOOM link on the Districts agenda.

NEW CAREER HIRE:

Chief Donnell introduced Brittany Atkinson as a new hire for the District. She told the commissioners that she was from Selah where she served as a volunteer firefighter before attending Central Washington University. She joined the U.S. Army as a generator mechanic, went to Afghanistan in 2019 and is now serving six years in the reserves.

She worked in the Lake Stevens District and instructed at the fire academy. “I love what they do here and love the people,” she said.

City Council moves to set garbage rates for four years

by Richard Uhlhorn

Chelan City Council had a long and engaging conversation regarding the City’s Recycling and Waste Management rates for the next four years.

At last week’s City Council Workshop, the staff had proposed a 2021 increase in waste management charges to $21.29 plus $9.10 for recycling for a new monthly charge per resident with a 64 gallon cart.

Council person Erin McCardle told staff and other Council members that she felt a monthly increase of almost $6.00 per resident was too much considering the fact that the populace has been undergoing financial and other hardships during the Pandemic.

At that same workshop, Tim Hollingsworth asked it there was a way the City could spread out the increased costs over several years. Finance Director Steve Thornton stated he would look at different rate structures that would help.

The conversation at Tuesday’s, January 12, Council Meeting discussed several options including the possibility of dropping the recycling program to save residents money. The Solid Waste Fund has a surplus of $400,000 in it, which the City would like to maintain.

The City’s consultant, Chris Bell said that the recycling program is an incredibly expensive program. The City had asked both Waste Management and Zippy if they would be interested in servicing the City’s recycling program, both of which said they weren’t interested unless it included garbage pickup also.

In addition, 75 percent of Chelan’s residents are utilizing the recycling option and reducing their garbage output. “Hopefully the recycling program will increase and add to the fund balance,” said Bell after noting that cardboard is increasing in price.

McCardle also told Bell and the City that a red flag was raised when Bell suggested that businesses help subsidize the cost of residential garbage pick up. “We need to recalibrate,” said McCardle. “I don’t think businesses should be subsidizing residents.” Mayor Goedde agreed with McCardle. Hollingsworth said that the workshop figures mounted to sticker shock.

Finance Director Thornton stated that if the City delays the increase, the increase in collection would have to be higher next year, but McCardle stated that as more households come on line, it would help to balance the revenue stream.

John Olson stated he’d like the City to stay the course with the recycling program. “Seventy-five percent use is huge,” said Olson. Servando Robledo seconded Olson’s comment

Public Works Director Jake Youngren stated that he doesn’t want the Public Works Department to get into an uncomfortable spot. He added that it looked like Council would vote on the new rate schedule at the next Council meeting.

The City’s proposed garbage and recycling rates will be approved at the next Council meeting.

The Council unanimously approved the City’s new Rate and Fee Resolution No. 2021-1385.

The only changes were to the Lakeside RV Park’s rate structure which will see a five percent increase over the next three years beyond 2021. This upcoming year, the rates will remain the same as last year because registration is already open and the park is filling up.

Golf Course rates for 2021 will increase by seven percent over 2020.

The Council also discussed what it wanted on its Legislative Priorities list for 2021.

Last year, one of the top priorities was to provide Pedestrian Safety in Downtown Chelan between 97A and SR150. At the time, the Department of Transportation was scheduled to pave 97A from Lakeside to Wall Mart, a DOT program that has been delayed. A part of that program was a $700,000 proposal from the City for the DOT to provide 21 Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons to provide safe pedestrian crosswalks along the state highways in the City.

McCardle said it would be nice to understand where the State and City were on the issue. “I’m not clear where they are,” said McCardle. “It would be great to have an understanding. Should this be on our Legislative list or not,” she asked. Mayor Goedde replied that he didn’t think the City has a problem.

McCardle said there were some high priority spots and Hollingsworth suggested that . Mike Steele find out why it is so hard for the City to get (state) funding. He then mentioned the required infrastructure required on Henderson Road for low income housing. Mayor Goedde asked how far that request would go. Hollingsworth replied tht it was where money can be used. “Low income housing take s a lot of money.”

Chris Baker said he’d heard that the proposal was to turn Woodin Avenue from the stoplight to Les Schwab into a three lane (left hand turn lane in the middle) from the current five lanes. Mayor Goedde said, “We don’t have a problem. City residents don’t want it. How it ends up… we’ll (have to wait) see.”

The Council agreed that the $7 million dollar Chelan Butte Conservation Funding be taken off the list. McCardle said, “It isn’t something we want on the list this year.” Goedde remarked that it wasn’t going very far anyway. Hollingsworth said there is talk that a buyer is interested in that property.

For the Butte Property to be purchased for preservation by the City would require a lot of donations, grant funding and state funding to make it a reality.  “I agree with Erin.”

John Olson brought up a new item for the Legislative Priority list. “I want to add more public access to the lake,” said Olson. “We’ve got to be planning for this.” City Administrator Wade Ferris said he would work with Parks Director Paul Horne on this issue.

Baker stated that he would like the City to move forward on the Spader Bay property and would also like the City to get behind the Community Center that will begin construction next spring.

Lakeside Park will remain on the priority list. “That’s a big priority,” stated Hollingsworth. “We need to increase capacity. The parking issue is also there. That is a project that deserves State money because people from all over use it.” Horne said he is waiting to hear from the Recreation and Conservation Office. Last year the City was ranked 14th and the RCO only funded 11 projects. 

Mayor Goedde also stated that the City is still working on getting water to the airport so it can be developed. Ferris stated that the City supports effort to bring water to the airport.

A final list will be presented at the next Council meeting for approval.

City Council reviews new rates for 2021 and beyond

by Richard Uhlhorn

Garbage rates may increase by a large amount, but some on City Council are questioning a decision to raise the rates by 25 percent at one swell swoop a little much for residents still struggling with unemployment and the ongoing pandemic.

Erin McCardle said, “Twenty four percent is a really large jump, especially for those on fixed incomes. It’s hard to swallow.”

Tim Hollingsworth carried the discussion further by suggesting that the City look at spreading the higher costs out over several years. City Finance Director Steve Thornton said the City has some cash in the fund. “We could combine the total over two years.”

Mayor Goedde commented that it might be a good idea to see what the residents would like the City to do. Hollingsworth suggested a four year ease into the high rate, but Thornton replied that the City’s fund is not that flush.

Public Works Director Jake Youngren remarked that most of the departments phone calls center around garbage and recycling. City Consultant Chris Bell stated that costs are rising. Mayor Goedde suggested discussing with Zippy the potential of taking on the City’s recycling needs and that the added volume might help Zippy make some money. Bell replied that it would be an expensive venture.

Mayor Goedde asked if the Council had to make the decision by next Tuesday’s Council meeting. Thornton replied, “No… we can do more research.” McCardle stated she appreciated that approach.

Peter Jamtgaard suggested that more research into finding more outlets for recycled material is needed. Bell mentioned that several companies are exploring the recycling business in Eastern Washington. “Cardboard has increased substantially,” said Bell. Recently, cardboard was selling at $22 a ton, but has increased to around $40 to $60 a ton as opposed to its once high of $110 to $150 a ton.

Bell also stated that mixed paper is getting a lot of interest by Kelso Norpac which is converting its plant to process more paper. “They will be able to take more than what Washington and Oregon can produce and pay $80 to $90 per ton.” The ability to move the materials to more locally centered businesses will also reduce costs. “It would be good if you can go back to earning a little money,” said Bell. “I’m hopeful.”

The City’s recycling revenues have dropped considerably from $97,000 in 2017 to $40,000 in 2020, which is a net change of $135,000. Residents will pay $9.10 cents per month for recycling pickup services which currently is a City requirement.

Jon Olson asked where the proposed purchase of a glass crushing machine and program was at. No one had any answers to that question except that Olson said the total program will cost around $150,000. “This would be a great service to wineries.” It will be included in next Council’s discussion.

The council also discussed the upcoming rate changes and projections for the next four years. Permits, water and sewer hookups and other charges were looked at and will be discussed at next week’s Council meeting.

The Parks Department is raising its golf course rates upwards by six percent and the RV Park will begin raising its rates in 2022. “This will be a three year rate increase,” said Parks Director Paul Horne. He stated that he can’t raise rates for 2021 because the park is already booked out.

Jamtgaard asked if there was a way to allow people who have been trying to use the park to gain access in the future. Horned replied that booking is mostly done through email when the Parks Department sends out notification that it is open for booking. He stated he relied on Parks employee James Hayter for his expertise in rate changes. Mayor Goedde remarked that the RV Park bookings fill up in five days after it is open for reservations.

Consultant Chris Bell suggested that the Park keep its summer rates through Labor Day. “September is still a peak season. You need to keep your prices up until the end of September,” he said.

The Council will consider its list of Legislative Priorities at its next meeting. McCardle asked to see past Legislative Priorities for reference at the next meeting.

Mayor Goedde remarked that over the last several years, the City has employed a paid lobbyist. “We need to spend some time on this at the next Council meeting,” he said.

The Council also decided on which councilmember would liaison with other organizations over the next year.

City Council/Airport BoardMayor & Council
City Council WorkshopMayor & Council
Cascadia Conservation DistrictOlson (Hollingsworth)
Chelan County Solid Waste Council Witt (Goedde)
Chelan County Fire District 7Baker (McCardle)
Chelan Valley Housing TrustHollingsworth (Robledo)
Chelan Douglas Transportation CouncilGoedde (McCardle)
Emergency Management Program Witt (Robledo)
Historic Downtown Chelan AssociationRobledo (Baker)
Lake Chelan Arts CouncilOlson
Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce BoardRobledo (Baker)
Lake Chelan Research InstituteHollingsworth (Olson)
Lake Chelan Water Shed Planning UnitHollingsworth (Olson)
LEOFF Retirement BoardMcCardle (Goedde)
Link Transit BoardGoedde (Olson)
NCW Economic Development DistrictWitt (Jamtgaard)
Park BoardOlson (Hollingsworth)
Planning CommissionJamtgaard (Olson)
Port of Chelan CountyMcCardle (Goedde)
Public Facilities DistrictHollingsworth (McCardle)
Tourism Promtions (Chamber Subcommitte)McCardle (Robledo)
  

Chelan Fire and Rescue struggling with retention of volunteers

by Richard Uhlhorn

City Councilman Chris Baker joined Chelan Fire & Rescue’s virtual commission meeting on Wednesday, December 16. He told the commissioners that he thought he’d join in lieu of Ray Dobb’s departure from the City Council. “I’m not sure I’ll be the fire liaison between the City and you, but thought I’d join the meeting today.

Chief Mark Donnell reported that the City and Fire District have still not met regarding a City of Chelan Fire Protection Services Contract. Donnell hopes that meeting can take place in January.

The Department is financially at 95% of its budget currently and Donnell reported that there was a lot of revenues the District has not received yet. “Basically these revenes are from State Mobilizations,” said Donnell.

“November has been somewhat slow,” said Donnell. The staff responded to a vehicle fire on Hwy 97 and a structure fire up Washington Creek. “We get a better response on structure fires.” During daytime, it is hard to get volunteers to respond because they are working.

Operationally, the District has modified its response because of COVID. “We will respond if needed,” said Donnell who went on to report that Emergency Medical Services have not had a positive case on duty. “It’s (the virus) out there. We need to get through this thing (pandemic) without affecting our operations.”

Chelan will receive 1000 doses of the COVID vaccine and Lake Chelan Community Hospital staff and first responders will be able to receive their two required shots with the first installment of doses.

Assistant Chief Brandon Asher has been struggling to get more applicants to volunteer at Chelan, Entiat and Orondo Fire Districts. He reported that they have had one new application at Chelan and one at Entiat. He added that they lost one who moved to Idaho. “We have (recruitment) banners out.”

Currently, Station 71 has 19 volunteers; 72 has one; 73 has 7; 74 has 4; and 75 has 8. Asher said the Departments have to get the message out for volunteers to train and respond. We’ve got to get people coming in,” said Asher. The Department is offering hybrid classes which is a good time for volunteers to get certified. He has six individuals signed up for the EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) class.

Chairman Phil Moller asked if they all fit in with the departments training program. Asher replied they did and that training funds are available. Chief Donnell stated that the District is cost sharing with Wenatchee and that the Volunteer Academy comes at no cost. “Retention is tough,” said Donnell. “I don’t envision this improving.” He said it was a another reason to get education under the belt.

Board member Russ Jones said there is a District on the west side that gets 20,000 calls a year and has about 300 volunteers, but they have a large population to work from. “We are locked into the residents we have here,” said Jones. “There are only so many fish in the sea.”

Moller added that at some point the Department is going to have to go in a different direction. “What’s the next plan,” he asked. “We are spending a lot of money on volunteers.” He suggested that the money spent on volunteers might go towards hiring more full time staff firefighters. Donnell replied, “We cannot support a full staff department. We have to make some changes if we are going to remain a fire service.”

Moller stated that the department needs to protect the community professionally. Jones said that he would like to see a master list noting of why the volunteers left. Karyl Oules stated she has been pondering the issue. “We’ve got to do something different.” She wondered what kind of wild out of the box ideas are out there that might stick.

Donnell replied that he needs ideas for going out to the community. “I can give this community the fire service they want.” The issue is the need for more money in the future which means an increase in the M & O levy. “The bottom line is we are strapped with limited resources.” Oules replied that the District can’t be an Island and that regionalization is potentially the way to go.

Donnell said that mutual agreements between the Districts offset some of the problems. Oules asked if any other Chiefs out there were willing to look at regionalization? “We’ve failed how many levies? We are doing something wrong in that department,” stated Oules.

Donnell replied that if the District goes out for another levy, it has to do it right. “Ww are meeting with other Chiefs. It’s going to take the community.” Moller said that the cost to regionalize would be money well spent. “It would get rid of duplication of un-needed services.” Jones added that it isn’t about empire building, but about the community. Donnell said he would be happy to move aside if they could regionalize, but that if it happens it also needs to include EMS. “Seventy percent of EMS services are Fire Based. They could be trained for fire suppression as well.”

Jones said they need more commissioner meetings with other commissions. “We need to bring the commissioners together.”

The commissioners adopted one year of the 2021-2025 Strategic Plan and asked for an aggressive plan for community involvement. It was noted that 85% of Union Valley residents are involved in a fuel reduction program.

The District will put together another attempt at involving the community in an advisory committee, recognizing that the last advisory committee directed under a paid consultant was a failure. “We need to manage it internally,” said Donnell. Moller said he would like to see goals and objectives of that group. “There was so much floundering last time.”

Councilman Chris Baker stated that a Citizen’s Committee is a good idea, but mentioned that the vision the School District’s Advisory Committee didn’t do a good job of getting the vision to the community. “People who are being asked for money, want to know where it is going.”

Oules asked if it was proper as a Chelan commissioner to attend other District Commission meetings. Moller told her that they are open public meetings and that it wouldn’t hurt to know what they are planning. Jones stated that he had attended the Manson meeting and was welcomed. “It is neat to see other district and what they are discussing.”

Jones added that it is important that the community understand the one percent cap means. “People don’t understand that.” He asked for a new count of new structures in the valley since 2007 when the last M&O Levy was passed. “I’m sure it is several hundred and our service requirements have increased substantially.” Jones thought the District should continue to look at a way to put a surcharge on Short Term Rentals.

Dan Crandall, president of the Fireman’s Association told the Commissioners that 2020 has been a challenging year for fund raising. “We have been able to use the money raised the previous year.” He added that the Association has gone through half of its funds, but that they still have a cushion in the bank.

Crandall said that the Association has been able to do some good despite not being able to fund raise. They have built a storage shed, contributed funds to Thrive and the Okanogan Recovery Group along with contributing funds to a GoFund me campaign for the couple who lost their child in the 2020 fires and who were also burned badly.

The Association has donated $500 each month ($1,000 in December) to the Chelan Food Bank, purchased the Halloween candy, donated to the VFW luncheons, given money for the firefighters to go shopping with kids at Wall Mart, and purchased electronic equipment for Marine 71 despite the pandemic.

The Fire District commission meetings are held at 3:00 P.M. on the 3rd Wednesday of each month. Currently, they are being conducted on Zoom because of the pandemic.