City Council updated on water quality programs

by Richad Uhlhorn

Mike Kaputa, Chairman of the Lake Chelan Watershed Planning Unit (Director of Chelan County’s Natural Resources Division) and Phil Long, Lake Chelan Research Institute gave a presentation to Chelan City Council members during a City Workshop on Tuesday, December 1.

Mike Kaputa is the director of Chelan County’s Water Resources Division

The City is entering into its last year of an agreed five year $20,000 per year support of continued Lake Chelan water quality studies and efforts to keep the lake ultra-oligotrophic.

Kaputa went over the Planning Unit’s efforts to process water rights that have been sitting on the Department of Ecology’s desks for years. “Ecology is moving forward with water rights processing,” said Kaputa. He added that there isn’t much water available but that the Planning Unit is developing solutions with water supply issues. The County recently purchased 73 acre feet/year (afy) of water rights from Bear Mountain Water District at a cost of $365,000.

The Lake Chelan Valley holds 65,000 afy for existing and future domestic and irrigation uses in the basin. In 1992 an agreement between the PUD and Ecology affirmed the 65,000 afy reserve for non-project purposes. The additional 73 acre feet purchased is enough water right to serve the needs of residents who have been drawing water from the lake without a right.

The amount of water available for non-PUD purposes is approximately 6,000 acre feet. As of 2017, more than 150 applications were on file at Ecology for new surface and groundwater permits in the Lake Chelan Basin. Ecology permits water rights on a first come-first serve, so those applications that have been sitting on Ecology’s desk are permitted by the oldest date applied for.

While the water rights program is moving forward, Kaputa told the Council that the Planning Unit has conducted a Risk Assessment of Aquatic Invasive Species. “Lake Chelan is at high risk (for invasive species) because of the number of boats coming to the lake,” said Kaputa.

In conjunction with the invasive species issue, the National Park Service is funding a mobile watercraft inspection program beginning in 2022. This will include hiring staff and training them. The program will be modeled after the successful Lake Whatcom program.

Lake Chelan State Park will be putting a mobile watercraft cleaning unit in to move the program forward.

The Keep It Blue program is being designed to inform and educate the public about Lake Chelan Water Quality issues through social media and a website. “There will be a presentation next week at our quarterly meeting,” said Kaputa. The virtual meeting will take place beginning at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, December 9. “You will probably see more about the Keep It Blue effort in the future.”

Lake Chelan is the third deepest lake in the United States behind Lake Tahoe and Crater Lake. According to Phil Long – Lake Chelan Research Institute, no one has seen the bottom of the lake.

Kaputa thanked the Council for the City’s support. “We are in year four of the five year commitment.” The City’s $20,000 is the largest amount of funding received to carry out the work of the Planning Unit. Other contributors include the Lake Chelan Reclamation District – $10,000; Chelan County – $10,000; Cascadia Conservation District – $5,000; and Chelan County PUD – $5,000 to equal a total of $50,000.

Kaputa told the Council that the City funding really helped to leverage the program, but added that the other funding was prioritized first and the Planning Unit has not had to utilize all of the funding. “We are spending in the range of $13,000 to $15,000 a year,” stated Kaputa.

Other support has come from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation – $5,000 in-kind laboratory support; U.S. Forest Service – $3,000 in-kind boating support; Clean Boating Program, Washington State Parks/Sunset Marina for the purchase of a multiparameter probe; and the Lake Chelan Recreation Foundation who accepts private donations allowing the Unit to purchase miscellaneous sampling equipment and expenses incurred on water quality data collection operations.

The sampling areas include two in t

Phil Long – Lake Chelan Research Institute described the ongoing data collection program. “From 2007 to 2016 there were no studies or data collected,” said Long. “We don’t want that to ever happen again.” He added that 2021 will be the fifth year under the current funding to collect water quality data. “We are looking forward to what happens after year five.”

Long described the secchi disk data that has been collected and shows that water clarity is pretty consistent with data that was collected prior to 2007 when Phil and John Madden did the secchic disk clarity measurements. “I thing we are in pretty good shape with water clarity.”

Most of the data collected has been from sampling stations in the middle of the lake, but Long stated that an emerging issue is the increasing algae growth along the shoreline. The Institute has paid little attention to the shoreline ecology and the changes taking place.  “Many people have seen an increase in green algae along the shoreline,” stated Long.

This is an example of algae growth that has shown up in the lower Wapato Basin.

One of the locations being investigated is at the outfall from Purtteman Creek just east of Rocky Point and also at Mill Bay where the Reclamation District is taking samples. “We’ve got some numbers,” said Long. Purtteman Creek has the highest rate of phosphorus input in the lower basin. However, phosphorus can also come from natural sources.

Lake Chelan Research Institute’s Phil Long collected algae samples on the beach at the PUD Micro Park adjacent to the Chelan Ranger Station.

Mill Bay has an area of erosion on the shoreline which is contributing to water turbidity. “We are looking into erosion control methods.”

Increasing presence of milfoil and its possible removal is being looked. Long suggested that diver assisted suction hose (airlift) could be used to remove the plants. Mayor Bob Goedde asked about a chemical program the PUD used in the Columbia River. Long said he wasn’t sure what chemical they used but that a chemical ProcellaCOR has proven very effective in small quantities. However, he added that since the City takes its domestic water from the lake, one has to be careful about using any chemicals.

Long told the Council that Dwane Van Epps (past city public works director) is working on a tool to collect water temperatures and electrical connectivity data from the Lady of the Lake which will add to the set of data already being collected.

For more information on Lake Chelan Water Quality issues check this website out:

KeepChelanBlue.org 

Restaurants to receive immediate help from Chamber

by Richard Uhlhorn

Chelan restaurants have some relief coming their way from the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber will utilize $150,000 of unrestricted money to give restaurants $5,000 to $10,000 based on each restaurant’s gross revenues.

Originally, the Chamber asked the City if there was a way to utilize bed tax (3%) monies to help keep these restaurants in business. Finance Director Steve Thornton investigated the idea and stated that Lodging Tax fund use regulations can not be changed for that purpose. “Using bed tax money for grants is off the table because it is not an allowed use,” Thornton said.

Mike Steele, Chamber Director, said the Chamber has several different pots of money it can shift to a grant program to help the restaurants weather the restrictive rules that keep them shut down except for outside dining and/or takeout. “The idea is to match gross receipts with a minimum grant of $5,000 and a maximum grant of $10,000,” said Steele. He added it would be distributed on a first come-first serve basis. “Restaurants have been hard hit because of the 25% occupancy issue.”

Mayor Bob Goedde told the Council that he had a conversation with Senator Hawkins and he has been invited to sit on a Governor’s team meeting Wednesday, December 3 to seek ways to change the usage regulations on 3% bed tax monies.

Councilman Chris Baker voiced concern about fairness to other businesses. Steele replied that over the past 10 months Chamber personnel have visited with retail businesses once a week to gauge how their operations were fairing during the pandemic. “Retail has done very, very well, but restaurants have been limited in every scope from being shut down.”

Councilman Tim Hollingsworth asked it the grants were enough to make a difference? Steele replied that a straw poll taken with the restaurant owners indicated that the grants would be helpful.

Councilman Ty Witt stated that he is concerned about other businesses that have been shut down by the pandemic, like gymnasiums and the movie theater. “I’m also concerned about who gets the money,” said Witt. “The business or the employees who have lost their jobs.”

Steele replied to Witt’s question that the funding would go directly to the business owners to help with rent and utilities. However, he agreed with Witt’s concern about businesses that have shut down because of the pandemic and stated that the Chamber would be helping them receive loans or grants from the State.

Another round of funding is expected to be available on December 3 which includes $70 million dollars with $40 million in grants and the rest as loans.

Councilman John Olson asked if there had been any blowback from the Pierce County funding program. Steele replied that Pierce County businesses said it has been a life saver. Their program grants a lot more dollars than proposed by the Chamber.

Councilman Peter Jamtgaard urged the community to support the local businesses. McCardle added that the success of the program depends on community support.

Hollingsworth added that he likes the program of using unrestricted money, but would like to see some funding made available for businesses like gyms or others that have had to shut completely down because of the Governor’s orders.

The program will begin on December 7.

The Council unanimously approved funding requests from the following organizations:

  • Thrive ($15,000)
  • Meals on Wheels ($4,500)
  • Lake Chelan Food Bank ($5,000)
  • Chelan Valley Hope ($15,000)

The Rotary request for $50,000 to purchase a commercial glass crusher was approved with the following contingencies being met.

  • The Rotary provide a five year operations and business plan
  • A negotiation resulting in an operating agreement with the City, County, Rotary and other organizations (wineries, etc).

Hollingsworth liked the wording in the material presented to Council, but wants to see a detailed business plan. “We are accepting an element of risk,” said Hollingsworth. “I would like to see the City share that risk with the County and other stakeholders.”

A share in the cost of the crusher and operations could come from the County implementing a bottle charge on glass products (mostly wine).

The other issue is that the crusher be located in Chelan because of the number of wineries, and not in Wenatchee.

Mayor Bob Goedde added that nothing would be done until he, the City Administrator and Public Works Director go over the necessary criteria for volunteers to run the crusher like forklift operators licenses and all other related liability aspects

The last time the City recycled glass it amounted to 400 tons per year. “We can manage that in one day a week,” said Witt who added that it would take 4 to 5 volunteers to run glass on Saturdays. “It can crush one to two tons per hour.”

The Council unanimously approved setting the $50,000 aside until all of the City’s criteria are met.

Chelan School Board votes 3-2 to reopen in December

Students speak out

by Richard Uhlhorn

Chelan School District has approved the reopening of its 7th through 12 grades

Ella Polley, a senior at Chelan High School, eloquently stated a students perspective of why the Chelan School District should allow the 9th through 12th grade students back in the building for in-school education.

She stated that she never imagined spending her senior year in high school rolling out of bed at 10 a.m. and looking at a black computer screen for five hours. “This is destroying our emotional and mental health,” she told the approximately 100 people attending the board’s ZOOM meeting on Tuesday evening, November 24. “We are living in a constant cycle of loneliness every day,” said Polley. “It is impacting or learning itself.”

As Vice President of the Associated School Body, Polley described a recent video the ASB produced with students at home. “There was a lot of negative comments,” she said. In the end, Polley pleaded with the board to “please consider letting us back into school. I miss my teachers and friends.”  She also stated that she is concerned she’s not being prepared to enter college next year. “These online classes are not preparing me for college.”

Seniors Elly Collins and Adelyn Gueller chimed in to the conversation also. Both stated that letting the students back into the classroom in December, just before the holidays, would be a good test run on how students would handle the protocols set in place. “We could focus on things are going to work,” said Gueller. Superintendent Barry DePaoli replied that this was the board’s thought also.

Senior Katie Rainville talked about educational equity for students. “I’m a hands on learner,” said Rainville who wants to see the equity issue addressed for all students. DePaoli replied that all students are different and how difficult it is to have a sort of equity for all students.

Senior Elly Collins told the board that she was going to be attending an out-of-state college in the fall and is concerned that the online learning model is not preparing her properly for college. Gueller added that “It’s really hard to do online. I know students who have no motivation.”

DePaoli thanked the students for speaking up. “I appreciate the student’s voices.”

Teachers, parents and the community at large was asked for comments also. The comments ranged between proponents and opponents to reopening the 7th through 12th grade classes.

Jill Malone, a special education teacher in Brewster and past Chelan graduate, said that Brewster is working on a full schedule Tuesday through Friday for K-12th grades and said the District has had no positive COVID cases. Malone gave the Chelan School Board several tips that Brewster has instigated like off-setting times for changing classes to keep the hallways less crowded and stairs to the upper level of the school made into one-way thoroughfares.

Malone stated that it is her experience that students working online don’t feel like they are getting an education. “They are struggling.”

Chelan resident Laura Clinton thanked those students who spoke out and stated that on November 19, Dr. Redfield , CDC, does not recommend closing schools to only online learning. “This is coming directly from the CDC. Open or make plans to open” she said. “Our kids deserve this. Right now we are failing them.”

Michelle Fanton, a resident, implored the District to provide equity, saying that a lot of working parents are struggling. Katherine D’Orazio added that many parents don’t have a choice except to sent their children to school because they are working parents. “You have to think about all students. There is no choice for working parents.” She wondered if cameras could be placed in the classrooms so those students learning at home could stay connected to their classes and teachers after the reopening. DePaoli said he was a little concerned about zooming from a classroom, but admitted that kids at home are really struggling.

Camisha Hughbanks stated that her kids were succeeding only because she is facilitating that success. “The National CDC is telling us to get kids back in school for their emotional health,” said Hughbanks. “They are not spreaders.” She told the board to let these students back into the classrooms so they can associate with their peers.

Ben Williams, Lake Chelan Winery, said they have been working with the pandemic since March and have served thousands of people since then. “We haven’t had a single COVID case traced back to us,” said Williams. “From a business standpoint and my empirical observation, the risks are very, very low.”

Cynthia Bertomeu, an 8th grade English teacher in Chelan, said that as a staff member, she has been following all the procedures and said, “I know my kids need to be back in class.” She added that the online Calvert program sucks in her opinion. “I see a herd of kids with no masks hanging out together and as a parent I’m concerned.” However, she says her classroom is ready for the hybrid model and her kids would be separated by six feet.

Chris Hughbanks, a Chelan businessman, said the District has not been serving the kids. Life has been going on and we’ve left our kids behind,” said Hughbanks. He added that if Mead School District with 10,000 students can make it work, the Chelan District needs to step up and provide its students in-classroom study.

Jill Malone, Brewster, added that one of the things that has made Brewster’s experiment successful is that if a student is coughing or sneezing, they are sent home and each student is given a temperature check every day.

School board member Lynda Foster stated that the pandemic has created a loss of normalcy. Brook Issac, a resident with students, said that she is seeing depression set in and that the mental health of the students is very important. Senior Ella Polley added, “We need something that gives us a little hope.”

During the initial board discussion, DePaoli stated that the Health District is not in favor of reopening school during the holiday season and current surge of the virus. DePaoli added that Moses Lake School District was back to remote because over 100 of its staff has been quarantined.

“I’m proposing that we continue with the 7th and 8th grade returning on December 7 and the high school on December 14,” Depaoli told his Board. “It is a massive decision, but to date we’ve had not transmission (of the virus) in our schools. At this point, I think we can keep our students safe.” He added that parents who don’t want to send their kids back will still be served remotely.

Board member Kim Thorpe urged the board to allow students from 7th through 12th grade to restart on December 7. Depaoli replied that looking at over 600 students who would be returning means a lot of logistics have to be worked through.

Board member Agustin Benegas who also works at the hospital, felt that it was important to keep kids at home until after the holidays.

Board member Ken Brunner agreed with Benegas and said, “It’s a little too dangerous now. I understand the social and emotional (toll), but there is a reason Dr. Butler said this is not a good time.”

Board member Lynda Foster stated that the decision was not easy. “We need to step forward. There is a protocol that needs to be followed.” She added that kids need to be back together to re-establish their relationships with teachers, but that they also need to be responsible.

Depaoli added that Mead’s Principal remarked at how great his kids have been at following protocols. “Sometimes we underestimate our kids.”

Staff comments ranged from concern to approval. KE (Kirk Einspahr) said he was very concerned about bringing students back. “As an older staff member with a wife who has health conditions, I’m not in favor.”

Lisa Gleasman asked what anyone thinks is going to be different in January.

Benegas replied that a vaccine is coming. “By January we will know where the numbers are going,” he replied. “From my perspective, what are we willing to sacrifice.”

Second grade teacher Jennifer Polley said she feels that every student needs to come back and work with their teachers. She wondered if those who stayed home could zoom into the classroom from home.

Principal Brad Wilson said that would be dependent on the subject area but Polley restated her comment that the teacher who was concerned could change places with the students and teach from home while the students were in the classroom. “Trading spots… it wouldn’t be that much different.”

Science Teacher April Sagle remarked that the Methow district is batch testing its teachers every two weeks and after Thanksgiving is going to test every student. DePaoli said he was aware of Methow’s protocol but that they are a bit smaller than the Chelan district. “It’s something we can look into.”

Towards the end of the board meeting DePaoli thanked everyone for having a civil discourse for over an hour. “This has not been an easy time for our board,” said DePaoli. “They will vote their conscious and I want you to respect their decision. There is no right or wrong here.

Chairman Jeff Fehr said, “We are going to take care of this issue right now.” The Board members voted 2-to-2 with Lynda Foster and Kim Thorpe voting to reopen and Ken Brunner and Agustin Benegas opposing the reopening leaving the tie breaker to Chairman Fehr who stated that the District’s primary job is to educate students.

Fehr said that the Health District does not align with the School District. “We need to maintain a balance and take the students safety into a broader context,” said Fehr. He added that the psychological, emotional and social health of the students has merged into a situation where not opening was doing harm. “I am in favor of the motion and the motion carries,” said Fehr. “This decision is not set in stone,” said Fehr. “It is a balancing act in flux.”

However, Fehr called for a Special Board Meeting on Tuesday, December 1 at 6 p.m.

Fire District responds to 77 calls in October

by Richard Uhlhorn

Chelan Fire and Rescue held its monthly commission meeting on Wednesday, November 18 and Fire Chief Mark Donnell reported that the District was right on target at 84% of its 2020 budget. “The expenses are going out, but all of our revenues are not in yet,” said Donnell.

Donnell also said that the annual carryover is likely to be better than the $515,000 projects. “It may be considerably higher than that,” reported Donnell. He also told the commission that staff has been asked to curtail expenditures. “We won’t have any capital expenditures until April of next year.”

The current weather has slowed activity down, but the District has responded to 77 callouts in October with 65 percent of those calls related to emergency medical services. “There have been no major incidents in October.” There was also no fire loss in October.

On the operational side of the District has cancelled all in-person training for the rest of the year.

It was noted that the new all-wheel drive off-road wildland truck is a huge asset for the District. “It will be huge benefit in the long haul,” said Donnell. Commission Chairman Phil Moller stated that the machine is a piece of equipment the District has needed for a long time.

Moller also asked if there is an Offroad Woods Driving Class for the new vehicle. Assistant Chief said that was a great idea. Commissioner Russ Jones asked what the center of gravity was like. He was told that the District’s mechanic, John Goyner was careful about how firefighting equipment was mounted on the chassis.

Asher said the District is first in line for another DNR grant. “We hope to come up with another chassis,” he said. The District’s match would be $12,500.

Unfinished business:

Chief Donnell said that the draft Strategic Plan would be on the next meeting’s agenda for adoption. “It’s about who we are and where we want to take the District,” stated Donnell.

The District continues to negotiate with the City of Chelan for Fire Protection. “It is small baby steps,” said Donnell. “It’s taking a lot longer than I anticipated. The City is overwhelmed right now.” Fire Hydrant maintenance is just one issue on the table and Donnell stated that has been priced at $25,000.

Out of 130 applicants for National Testing, the District is providing 10. Asher said that only a few completed the Chelan Fire application and stated that if they couldn’t even do that simple thing, what would they do with the testing.

The District will be looking at needs for the future in the next meeting and it was suggested that a Citizen’s Advisory Group be named to help with the District’s future needs. Moller said, “It would be beneficial for us to roll in the public.”

New business:

The commission unanimously accepted its annual resolution (2020-11) for the one percent tax increase for 2021 which will bring in an additional $21,367.26 added to the $2,136,726.92 budget.

Marine 71 will be decked out with Christmas lights and lead a boat parade towards Manson and circle back to Chelan starting on November 27 and 28. “We are inviting any boater to join us. We will meet at the boat company.”

Association report:

Dan Crandall reported that the group would retain its current board and officers through 2021. Crandall has also said that he has arranged to have interviews at KOZI beginning in January.

This past month, with no fund raising this year, the Association reported giving $500 to the local VFW association and upped their donation to the Food Bank to $1,000 to insure that there is enough food for the Thanksgiving Holiday.

City looking at garbage/recycling rate change for 2021

by Richard Uhlhorn

Chris Bell of Bell & Associates presented the Chelan City Council with proposed rate changes for garbage pickup and recycling at a City Workshop on Tuesday, November 17.

The City is considering a rate adjustment to its garbage/recycling for residents and commercial customers for 2021 and beyond.

Currently, the City is charging $24.59 per 64 gallon cart and 40.47 per 96 gallon cart. Most customers have a 64 gallon cart. Recycling is included in the $24.59 rate. Bell has proposed a new collection rate of $29.35 for 2021. “It is a pretty sizeable increase,” said Bell. “In my opinion these rates are comparable.” The City of Cashmere is charging $29.60 for garbage/recycling pickup. Zippy Disposal, which services outside the City chargers $24.40, but that doesn’t include recycle material. Zippy charges an extra $21.83 to pick up recyclable material.

The new rate will go into effect when and if the City Council adopts its new rate schedule.

Public Works Director Jake Youngren addressed the recycling issue and stated that it is volatile right now. Bell added that since China stopped taking recycled material it has become an expensive issue. However Bell said that some domestic processors are adding capacity which might add increased demand for recycled material. Youngren said that a couple of these businesses are in Washington and that could lead to reduced costs as the markets develop.

Recycling brought up the issue of purchasing a $50,000 commercial glass crusher. Councilman Chris Baker stated that the Lake Chelan Wine Alliance should be participating in the purchase and operation of a crusher. “It would be nice if they pitched in,” said Baker. “It’s more than fair that they pitch in monetarily.”

Erin McCardle added that most of the valley’s wineries exist outside of the City limits. “We need a much more robust business plan for this,” said McCardle. She also stated that a there needs to be a large contribution for the glass crusher from Chelan County and a financial commitment from the Wine Alliance. “It shouldn’t be all borne by the City of Chelan.”

Financial Director Steve Thornton stated that the City would not release the money to purchase the machine without an agreement in place with partners. Youngren added that the crusher is essentially a regional operation.

Health District’s Dr. Butler calls for leaders to ‘Ring the Bell’

By Richard Uhlhorn

Across the Nation, Governors are shutting down their states just prior to the holidays to try and gain control over a surging Corona Virus outbreak.

Washington’s Governor Jay Inslee shut down a number of activities on Sunday, November 15 for the next four weeks in hopes that the state can flatten the curve on the blossoming virus.

Chelan and Douglas Counties are the state’s big hot spots for positive Corona Virus cases according to Dr. Malcolm Butler in his report to the Chelan-Douglas Health District Board of Directors on Monday, November 16.

“It is starting back up,” said Dr. Butler. “Our hospitals will be overwhelmed. The concern now is that nobody has much capacity.” He did say that our hospital’s still have some capacity, but with the cases going up in all fronts, it won’t take long to reach capacity.

“The new cases are happening in our big cities which is what you would expect,” stated Dr. Butler. Leavenworth stands out at 846 new cases and Orondo is the big hot spot with 3,709 cases over the past two weeks.. The point is that we are hot all over the place right now.”

SCHOOLS:

Dr. Butler stated that the K-4 1/2 time hybrid model has gone very well. However he also stated that most plans will be to hold off on bringing in older students which could derail Chelan’s effort to get its Middle School students back in the classroom.

Barry DePaoli, superintendent of the Chelan District, remarked in a telephone call that a number of school in North Central Washington have a number of incidents they are dealing with. East Wenatchee now has 10 positives including four teachers. Oroville High School has 46 quarantined. “Kids are struggling academically.” The district is also concerned about mental health issues. “We are going to lose some students.”

DePaoli stated that the District has done a ton of work and the staff is more than ready to get kids back into the classroom. “These will be hard decisions,” said DePaoli. “Manson is looking at bring back their students from the eighth grade to 12th grade.”

Dr. Butler will be presenting to the School Districts on Wednesday morning.

Thanksgiving:

Dr. Butler told the board that there is no safe way to share the holiday outside of a family’s bubble. This is based on statistics that show in-home transmission is how the virus is currently spreading, based on Seahawk parties and other events within households. “The workplace and schools are the safest places right now,” said Dr. Butler.

Another concern is homecoming college students and military personnel. The Health District is working on setting up testing for this demographic this coming weekend in hopes they will take advantage.

Ringing the Bell:

“We need our leaders to ring the bell,” said Dr. Butler. “When they (the community) see businesses opening up, they think all is well because things are getting back to normal. Ringing the Bell captures their attention.” Imposing dramatic social limitations is a way to ring the bell.

Over the next four weeks. the hope is that the two counties can flatten the curve so the Governor can relax the current restrictions put in place on Tuesday, November 17.

School Board holds back on reopening the high school

by Richard Uhlhorn

It was obvious from the reports from both Brad Wilson, high school principal and Brian Wood, middle school principal, that remote learning is not cutting the educational needs at Lake Chelan School District. “The sense of hope and motivation is declining as time goes by,” Wilson told the School Board.

His message was that students are struggling and that as of November 6, 117 students have multiple ‘F’s. This number is 2 to 3 times the number of students failing when students are an in-building learning environment. According to Wilson there are approximately 40 students in the same situation when school is in session.

Seventy six percent of those failing are Latino and 74 percent are chronically truant. “It’s a real concern,” stated Wilson.

Wood echoed Wilson and stated that unexcused absences are much higher than excused absences as follows:

            6th Grade – 842 excused, 1127 unexcused

            7th Grade – 607 excused, 742 unexcused

            8th Grade – 306 excused, 510 unexcused

“The 8th grade is attending very, very well,” said Wood. However, he pointed out that as of November 6, 215 eighth grade students are failing. “Two to three fold are failing in more than three classes,” he said. “Students are attending classes, but not turning in assignments.”

Superintendent Barry DePaoli reported that corona virus cases are currently increasing in Chelan and Chelan Falls. “The trends are the same as the County,” he said. “We’ve had three positive cases, but not with students.” The High School has had two positive cases reported. However, there has been zero transmission on school sites.

This chart was shared with the school board and depicts how many positive cases the District has had since allowing elementary, middle and high school students back into the building.

“Overall, we can feel very good about not acquiring the virus,” said DePaoli. The big question before the board and staff then became whether or not High School students should be brought back when positive cases are increasing.

The original plan was to bring back the 7th and 8th graders on November 30, but that has changed to December 7 because it was felt that it wouldn’t be a good time to bring the students back right after the holiday when the chances of virus transmission would be at its greatest. DePaoli also remarked that the Health District does not support bringing back high school students before the New Year because these students can’t be coharted.

Currently there are 517 students attending at MOE. “Younger students have been at a much lower risk of transmission and are less susceptible for infection,” stated DePaoli.

Chairman Jeff Fehr asked if it would be possible to at least bring the 9th graders back? Wilson said it was possible because they have the most common classes. Board member Kim Thorpe stated that kids need to be back in the buildings. “Schools are the safest place they can be. They aren’t social distancing at home… they are safer at school,” she added.

DePaoli asked the board to make a decision to bring the high school back in January or wait until the next semester. “Students are really struggling and the last thing I want to see are kids struggling, but I worry about keeping the staff and students safe and healthy.”

“There is no easy answer,” stated DePaoli. “Most districts in Washington are not back in school.”

Thorpe argued that the District doesn’t need the Health District’s approval now that the County is in Phase II, but DePaoli said, that while that was true, it was a mixed bag. Thorpe added, “Give them some hope. Let them come back on December 7… 7th through 12th grade.”

Board member Agustin Benegas recommended that the District wait until January to bring the High School back. “There is not a lot of productive time around the holidays anyway,” he said. He added that no matter what the board decides, there would be parents on both sides of the issue. “We don’t control the virus. Kids are out and about everywhere.”

DePaoli replied that we are in a global pandemic and that there is so much uncertainty around the virus.

The board’s decision was to bring the 7th and 8th graders back in a hybrid mode on December 7 and then potentially bring the high school back on January 4.

City proposed 2021 budget is $17,498,375

by Richard Uhlhorn

City of Chelan Finance Director Steve Thornton and other staff directors went over the guts to the proposed $17,972,608 2021 budget at a workshop on Tuesday, November 3.

City Finance Director Steve Thornton guided the City Council through his 2021 Proposed Budget at a workshop on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Thornton told the Council members that he was presenting the 2021 budget as a cohesive whole so the Council could understand the City’s budget structure. “By law we budget several different funds,” said Thornton. “There is a lot of great info, but it is pretty dense.”

The City’s proposed budget consists of eight operating funds, five capital funds, one fund incorporating operations and capital equipment repair and replacement, and two debt service funds. The budget packet also contains five year of history.

The proposed 2021 budget includes the following projected Revenues and Expenditures:

  • General Fund                Revenue – $4,500,042              Expenditure – $4,414,626
  • Parks & Recreation                        $3,126,604                                   $3,122,037
  • Street Fund                                    $1,333,779                                   $1,032,405
  • Tourism Promotion                      $1,231,183                                   $1,030,619
  • Housing Fund                                 $     41,000                                   $   230,927
  • Sewer                                            $2,797,500                                $3,053,751
  • Water                                             $2,883,000                                   $2,661,346
  • Sanitation                                       $1,701,000                                   $1,543,550      
  • Equipment Replacement           $   358,000                                   $   409,114

The State of Washington caps Cities at 1% yearly increases in property taxes. This year Chelan will see a $16,219.00 increase in property tax revenue and is projected to be $409,541. New construction will add another $29,539,000 in new construction property values.

Thornton told the Council that the City is watching the Sales Tax revenues pretty hard. “We are still behind in our collections for 2019.” Thornton also stated that the last two months (July & August) were the two highest months the City has ever had. October was also the highest month in the City ever.

Once again, Tourism and Lodging taxes enjoyed the two highest months of lodging tax collections ever. “It was pretty busy.” Short Term Rentals raised $72,000 in taxes. “Tourism and promotion has seen a 2% increase as of the end of September.”

“We’ve has a good year,” exclaimed Thornton.

Parks and Recreation revenues are projected to be $160,602 higher (5.4%) in 2021 compared to 2020. A lot of that increase is because the RV Park will be open for travelers. The RV Park was closed down this year from March through June because of COVID which cost the City considerable revenue. It is already booked out through August 2021.

Thornton explained to the Council that the Community Agencies that have requested funding have not been included in the budget yet. “They could be added tonight or by December 3.”

These agencies included the following:

  • Thrive – $15,000 requested
  • Meals on Wheels – $4,500 requested
  • Lake Chelan Food Bank – $5,000
  • Chelan Valley Hope – $15,000
  • Rotary Club of Lake Chelan – $50,000.00 (Commercial Glass Recyling Machine)

These requests total $89,500.

Councilwoman Erin McCardle asked if the Rotary Club has had any discussion with the County regarding their request. Councilman Ty Witt replied that the request in on their agenda along with the Port of Chelan County and the PUD.

McCardle added that most of the glass is from wine bottles from outside the City. Thornton added that his concern was gifting and worries about what sort of agreement between the Rotary and City would be. McCardle asked, “Will we have another opportunity to discuss these items?” Thornton replied that there would be several opportunities.

Despite COVID issues the Administration Department completed or began a number of major projects, including:

  • Completed an ongoing study of Street Ends and Potential Property Acquisition for Shoreline access (Street Ends Project;
  • Acquired the Spader Bay Property;
  • Completed an agreement with the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the PUD for the use of Horsepark;
  • Installed security measures in City Hall reception areas;
  • Continued implementation of electronic records archiving;
  • Added a Facebook Page to better communicate with residents; and
  • All ordinances, resolutions, and minutes from 1902 to the present are now available on the City’s website. This also includes the agenda bills from 1995 to the present are being uploaded.

All of the Council members approved the proposed position of hiring another person to assist the City Clerk in completing the ever growing public records requests. The new employee would also be responsible for updating the City’s website along with archiving City records.

Parks and Recreation Director, Paul Horne, gave a short report on the Park’s proposed budget. Because of the challenges presented by COVID in 2020, the department is entering into 2021 raising fees for the RV Park, the Golf Course, and Golf Cart Rentals which is projected to increase revenues by $160,000.

Councilman Tim Hollingsworth asked if there was any thought to using security services in 2021. “Given the increase in youth visitation, is it something we want to look at budgeting next year,” asked Hollingsworth. Thorne replied that it is not budgeted for 2021, but it might be something to look at. “It was a lot of money.”

Hollingsworth also commented on the garbage collection increases by Public Works at the parks. City Administrator Wade Ferris said there was a possibility to look at a volunteer security force. “Who knows what next year will look like,” he said.

Both Planning & Building Director Craig Gildroy and Public Works Director Jake Youngren ran through their proposed budgets for 2021.

Youngren explained that the City has 40 miles of paved street surfaces and that the Sewer Department charges both the Lake Chelan Sewer District (3%) and Lake Chelan Reclamation District (23 to 24%) for every 1,000 gallons of treated wastewater. “We have 28 miles of gravity sewer and 12 miles of force main in the City.” The Sewer Treatment plant treats 1.3 million gallons of sewage per day.

One of the large looming projects is the City’s Water Treatment Plant expansion. Currently they treat 6.7 million gallons of water per day. “We are going to be seeing a large capital improvement project sooner than we anticipated.”

The City’s next meeting is a Council meeting on Tuesday, November 10, beginning at 6 p.m. The community is encouraged to attend virtually.

Outdoor seating big topic at City Council

By Richard Uhlhorn

Chelan City Council heard 35 (37) residents in letter form read by City Clerk Peri Gallucci during the Administrative Report on the Private Use of Public Space (Streateries).

According to Councilman John Olson, 24 of the written comments received were in favor of the streateries while another 11 opposed them. Those opposing the public outdoor installations didn’t like the fact that downtown public parking was being used. They also were concerned about snow removal in the winter and the unfairness to other businesses on Woodin Avenue.

Many of those in favor of the Streateries cited the European feel, the welcoming feel and the options of not having to eat inside a restaurant during the current pandemic. Those in favor of keeping them stated that there was plenty of nearby parking for downtown shoppers.

One of the bigger complaints was the additional garbage created by outdoor dining and the feeling that each restaurant needs to be better at policing their outdoor spaces. Pam Ahl, a Chelan resident, wrote that she was disappointed in the lack of standards for cleanliness and said it gets towards disgusting.

Garth Donald, Stormy Mountain Brewery said he was in favor of continuing his operation on the current model. “We’ve had nothing but a positive response to these,” stated Donald. “I applaud the City for taking a proactive step.”

Layla’s owner, Daniel ?, said he was lucky to be one of the restaurants chosen to participate in the pilot project. “It improved our guest flow and operation. It was an innovative way around COVID,” he said. He polled all of his guests and said, “I didn’t have one negative response.”

Layla’s shut down in March and then opened to 25 percent capacity when Chelan moved to a 1.5 phase which he stated they were still not able to operate profitably. The six weeks outdoor seating was available, he stated that the results were amazing.

After Gallucci read the comments into the record, City Administrator Wade Ferris opened the issue up for discussion amongst Council and staff.

Gifting of public right-of-ways was one issue that concerned City Staff, but City Attorney Quentin Batjar stated that there were some ways the City can get around that issue with a user agreement and maintenance provisions. “Other Cities have done this… Wenatchee, Seattle and Port Townsend.”

Public Works Director Jake Youngren mentioned the issue of snowplowing and street sweeping. “The acute angles make it hard.” However, there was also mention of the participating businesses removing snow from around the structures by hand. “We start snow removal at 4 a.m.,” said Youngren, “so that could be a problem.”

Peter Jamtgaard stated he appreciates the Streateries, but feels the businesses should pay their fair share for eliminating parking space and suggested $720 per month might be an amount to consider. “I support the seasonal thing,” said Jamtgaard.

Mayor Bob Goedde said he recognized that people were afraid to eat out. “I have even enjoyed them,” said Goedde, but he is concerned about what the rest of the community thinks. “I think we need to put out a survey for our residents,” said Goedde.

Erin McCardle stated it was good for Council to get more information and brought up the October 30 deadline to remove the outdoor seating areas stating that logistically that was hard with Halloween being held Saturday night. The Council elected to allow the outdoor seating areas to remain up until November 7. ‘

“This was a pilot program and my takeaway is that the majority of people love them,” said McCardle who feels they Streateries also benefited other businesses in town. “There is a lot we have learned from them,” she stated. “I think we can roll out with a solid improved program in the Spring for streateries.”

Ty Witt said he backs up McCardle’s comments and felt that cold weather usage might be a stretch. As a Physician he also commented that the outdoor facilities help during the pandemic. “COVID is not going away for two, three or four more years,” said Witt. “That’s something we need to be aware of. People just weren’t going to eat indoors… it’s much safe outdoors.”

Tim Hollingsworth asked what is involved with taking them down and storing them in a safe place. Witt replied that they could be removed in two sections and put on a flatbed which would require a forklift and flatbed truck to move them to storage.

Hollingsworth went on to say that he likes them but hasn’t used them. “I’m sensitive to the concerns of other downtown businesses.”

Servando Robledo felt that the pilot program was successful. “My opinion is to make them seasonal.”  John Olson also felt they should be removed for the winter and to come back “with a detailed plan over the winter. I think they have great value.”

New Councilmember Chris Baker said the information was great for him. His concerns are the City’s liability, the fairness to other businesses and the hope they can participate in some way. He was also concerned about ADA issues, but Witt replied that the entrances to the outdoor seating was wider than most ADA accessible areas.

Ferris said they should be removed and reassessed. Batjar mentioned the railings on the sidewalks and asked why restaurants had to take them down. “I can’t think of any legal reason,” he said.

The Council made the decision to allow the restaurants with sidewalk seating areas to leave their railings up over the winter.

In other business:

The Council extended Jenna Rahm’s professional services agreement for Social Media Management. Rahm stated that the City’s Facebook page is beginning to get some traction. “There are 350 followers and a big spike when photos are put up. People like photos,” she said. “Your message is getting out there.

The Council authorized the Mayor to approve the Finance Director’s request to apply for $191,000 for CARES Act Funding. “It’s time to apply for that to request reimbursement for those funds,” said Finance Director Steve Thornton.

Thornton also went over the minor financial changes in the Capital Improvements Plan that will be the subject of the next workshop on Tuesday, October 3.

Hospital pricing to become public on January 1, 2021

by Richard Uhlhorn

Lake Chelan Health (Chelan County Public Hospital District No. 2) held its monthly board meeting virtually on Tuesday, October 27, and at the end of the two hour meeting, the subject of transparent pricing guides for potential patrons. Hospitals and clinics throughout the state must begin posting pricing on their websites by January 1, 2021.

“Imagine what that is going to do,” stated CEO George Rohrich. “I don’t know that this is gong to be good for us,” said Jordana LaPorte regarding the smaller hospital’s higher prices. Mary Murphy added that it would make the medical field a much more competitive environment.

Rohrich stated that the ability to compare prices within the industry will be a method for Lake Chelan Health to adjust its prices. He promised an update on the pricing issue at the November meeting with a test of the hospital’s pricing in December so they are ready to go January 1.

Rohrich also remarked that Amazon is entering the medical field with a Health Insurance Brokerage. “That’s where the money is,” he said.

Hospitals in general negotiate contracts with Insurance Companies and those contracts are confidential between the hospital and insurance providers. “There is going to be red faces in with the Insurance providers over this,” said Rohrich.

Ross Hurd stated that the hospital is currently working on the pricing guides and that there would be a link to those prices on the hospital’s website. Chairperson Phyllis Gleasman asked if the link would be highly visible and easy to access on the website. Hurd said that it would be.

The pricing transparency will allow potential patrons the ability to check prices for services between providers, i.e. Chelan Health versus Confluence.

In other business:

The board approved two contracts; one with Nanosonics, Inc. for $3,500  and another with Hologic Mammography for $214,000 over a three year period.

The Holigic contract is for maintenance on the Hospital’s new hi-tech mammography machine. “This is a service agreement for three years,” said Rohrich. “There is no way around this. It is part and parcel of having hi-tech equipment.” The new machine costs $360,000 with a 20% discount. The contract requires payment quarterly ($70,000 yearly).

Board Certification:

The Hospital plan is to have each board member certified by the end of the year. This involves training with measurable objectives and transparency.

Another issue being addressed it a Board Job Description. This would allow potential new board members an opportunity to look at the requirements for a position on the board. “It would help people determine if they want to get involved.”

Financial report:

Interim CFO Tom Moore stated that COVID, the Sanctuary Closure and reduction in Clinic Providers has impacted the hospital’s finances. “I haven’t paid much attention to the budget,” said Moore. “It is not that meaningful.”

He stated that the Emergency Department visits haven’t been dramatically lower (down 10%). “We are very close to last year.” Hospital surgeries have been affected by COVID and EMS services continue to be right on target, according to Moore. “Clinic visits are well down from a year ago,” he said. “This will affect the revenue.”

LaPorte asked how many times an ED visit turns into a surgery? Moore replied that a small percentage of them. “Our inpatient surgery numbers are pretty small,'” stated Moore. The hospital conducts more outpatient surgeries than inpatient surgeries.

Moore said that when the budget is looked at, the hospital is going in the right direction. Currently they have 41 days of cash on hand as opposed to only 18 days last September. “Our cash position is much better than it was at the end of the year. I will have a more detailed report in November,” said Moore.

“All things considered,” continued Moore, “you could say you are better off than you might have been.” He cited the COVID grant as pulling the hospital out of the fire. “What part may have to go back is uncertain,” he said. “I think it could have been a lot worse.”

Gleasman asked what the hospital was getting for “our money” on the service agreements to collect past due invoices. Moore replied that the hospital is cash ahead over the expense. “Are we net cash ahead…yes,” he said.

LaPorte said that Resolution (contractor) is also supposed to be getting the hospital’s billing department up to speed. Moore stated that there was one analyst on site, but he couldn’t answer how many remote analysts were working. “It’s not just about collecting,” said LaPorte. Moore replied that he would have a full report for them in a couple of weeks.

Facilities report:

Rohrich told the board that the goal was to have a facilities report to them by the end of the month. LaPorte asked what the changes in the building regulations due to go into effect on February affect the new hospital construction.

Dick Bratton stated that there were two compelling code updates (Washington State Energy Code and Mechanical Design code changes) that are not huge, but would still impact the design efforts. “We want to be in front of that,” said Bratton. Grandfathering the design and construction documents before the new codes go into effect means the design team won’t have to address the code changes.

The next regularly scheduled board meeting is on November 17, 2020 beginning at 1:30 p.m. The public is encouraged to attend.