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.

City Council hears 2020 update from Sheriff’s Dept.

by Richard Uhlhorn
All Things Lake Chelan

Sgt. Chris Foreman presented the Sheriff’s Department 2020 update to Chelan City Council on Tuesday, December 15. He presented a 2019 versus 2020 graph of Calls for Service from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend. “Despite COVID we were busier with call this year than in 2019,” said Foreman.

Foreman specifically noted the increase in calls for service on the lake. “Our marine calls on the lake were the busiest we’ve ever had,” he stated. Marine Patrol Officer Brian Moody reported that 90 percent of his patrol time was spent on the lake this past summer.

The Chelan River and Riverwalk Park saw unprecented use in 2020. Boats anchoring in the river channel became a problem for the Marine Patrol who made contact with many boaters, asking them to move on.

Councilman Tim Hollingsworth told Foreman that he was glad to see the patrol in the river channel. He noted that there were several altercations when boaters who had been rafting up were asked to move along. “It happens only when things get busy,” said Hollingsworth. “It’s a big lake out there.”

Riverwalk Park became a go to place when the City shut down its parks from overcrowding.

Foreman replied that the Marine Patrol’s main intent was to contact folks and promote safety in the River. “There are safer areas with less boat traffic on the lake. Other places on the lake you can go.” Foreman said the deputies would recommend the Three Fingers area.

Hollingsworth added that a lot of loud music and drinking went on and that the park itself was getting more use also. Foreman replied that the department was trying to be fair with everyone.

Marine Patrol deputy Brian Moody spent 90 percent of his duty time on the lake this year responding to trouble and contacting boaters and personal watercraft users

Councilman Peter Jamtgaard recommended that it might be a good idea to getsome signage over at the boat ramp and maybe on the bridge to make it clear that it is a river channel.

Councilman John Olson brought up the bridge jumping issue and stated he saw several near accidents. “I would hate to see a jumper land on a paddle boarder or, worse, a boat,” said Olson.

Bridge jumping became an impossible activity to control despite new signage stating that jumping was prohibited..

Foreman replied that the bridge jumping issue is one of those things that is hard to monitor. “I’ve seen parents encouraging their kids to jump and the local kids jumping. As soon as we leave, it is happening again. To some people it is a right of passage.”

Public Works Director Jake Youngren stated that the department replaced signage at the bridge with signs that indicate it is illegal to jump. Mayor Bob Goedde added that if you don’t think it is risky, ask his son-in-law who had a diving accident this past summer that has left him a paraplegic.

Councilman Chris Baker asked about Marine 1 that is moored in Manson. “When does it get used,” he asked? Foreman explained that Marine 1 was essentially the department’s up-lake boat build for open water and not a boat easily maneuvered. It is also a two man operation and contacting boats of which some are worth more than a home with Marine 1 is asking for trouble. “Marine 2 is a soft sided vessel moored at the Lake Chelan Marina. We use that for contact along with two jet skis.”

Foreman also said the department is trying to get a volunteer marine patrol up and running. (Note: Lake Chelan had  healthy volunteer group for marine patrol duties under a previous Sheriff’s administration. It was cancelled because of liability concerns.)

Foreman went on to say that all of the department’s plans for marine patrol training in 2020 were sabotaged by the pandemic. “We had more vessel collisions this year than ever before,” said Foreman. “On the Fourth of July the rental companies reported that everything was rented out.”

He said the department was working with Manson Schools to produce an educational boating video to help educate those who want a one day boater license. “The idea was to have them watch the video and then answer some questions before being given a license.” He hopes to move forward with the plan in the spring of 2021 for the summer season.

2019-2020 Memorial Day through Labor Day Weekend Statistics

City of Chelan Zone

Calls for Service                    2019 – 1065  2020 – 1170

Law Incidents                       2019  –  954   2020 – 1116

Marine Calls for Service      2019  –    83   2020  –   111

Marine Incidents                  2019  –    66   2020 –     86

DUI’s                                      2019 –     17   2020 –    23

In other Business:

The City Council had a number of motion considerations to go through that included mostly end-of-the-year issues. The Council unanimously approved all of them including:

            1. – Final Contract Voucher for the Chelan Butte Road Paving Project;

            2. -An authorization with RH2 Engineering for Chelan Airport Well Susceptibility Assessment;

            3. – Adoption of the Chelan Airport Budget for 2021;

            4. – Adopton of the City of Chelan 2021 budget;

            5. – Approval of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the City and Union;

            6. – Approval of the Non-Represented Employees Compensation Package;

            7. – Renewal of the General Engineering Services Agreement with RH2;

            8. – Approval of Davis Arneil Law Firm as City Attorney for 2021; and

            9. – Approval of a Golf Course Concession Agreement.

City Administrator Wade Ferris remarked that the new agreement with the union had no significant changes over the past year. McCardle remarked that she liked the how the negotiation went with the Union representatives.

Youngren remarked that he was pleased with where the City is with RH2 Engineering and that the Public Works Department is getting projects completed in time and under budget. “They are also the engineering firm with the Lake Chelan Reclamation District and the South Shore Sewer District which provides a lot of continuity for us.” Councilman Chris Baker asked if the department is without and engineer? Youngren said they had advertised but put the hiring on hold because of the pandemic, but he explained it would have no affect on the City’s agreement with RH2.

The Golf Course Concession Agreement is only for one year. Councilman Ty Witt asked about maintenance of the City owned kitchen equipment. Witt noted that there was a $1,000 bill for hood cleaning and was confused as to why the concessionaire wasn’t responsible for that maintenance?

City Parks Director explained that Witt’s question was a good one. However, City Attorney Quentin Batjer under the agreement that the City is responsible for the hood and exhaust cleaning. McCardle also added that a $1,000 was a “humungous” amount of money for a small business that is only on a yearly contract. She suggested that next year the City determine if the concessionaire would like to have a longer term commitment.

Ferris said that he and Horne have had conversations about this and would like to look at a longer contract. “I have a two inch stack of letters approving this concession,” said Ferris. Mayor Goedde stated that a number of people have tried to run that concession and have failed. McCardle said she would like to wait until the Golf Course Feasibility Study was completed before negotiation a new, longer term contract.

Mayor/Council Comments:

John Olson said he is still very concerned about COVID and remarked that Heritage Heights is doing a good job with their residents. He also mentioned that the City’s STR code was good. He said the County will soon have a hearing to vote on their STR code. “Cashmere as said no to any STRs in residential areas. Leavenworth has said No period. It is a contentious issue.”

Timn Hollingsworth remarked that it has been a challenging year. “I’m pleased that the election is finally over.” He is hoping that the strength of our democracy and institutions prevail.

Chris Baker thanked Finance Director Steve Thornton and the rest of the team for a great job in summarizing the budget. “You made it very simple to understand even though it was 200 pages.”

Ty Witt said that some of the employees at Heritage Heights had tested positive and that the residents have been isolated. “It is hard for them, but there have been no illnesses or deaths at Heritage Heights.” He also thanked Wade Ferris for all of his god work. “Hopefully next year will be better.” He added that the Lake Chelan Community Hospital has the capability of storing the new vaccine and that they would be receiving 1,000 doses in the next several weeks.

Servando Robledo and Peter Jamtgaard wished everyone a good Holiday Season.

Mayor Goedde and Wade Ferris both thanked the staff and individuals for all the hard work this year.

School board hears update on Senate Bill 5395 – Sexual Health Education

by Richard Uhlhorn

At the end of the Lake Chelan School District’s Tuesday, December 8, board meeting, Superintendent Barry DePaoli brought up Senate Bill 5395 – Comprehensive Sexual Health Education. This is a bill that has created a lot negative discussion amongst parents and DePaoli wanted to take the time to update the board and those who joined Tuesday’s Zoom meeting.

Stating that OSPI (Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction) has been working hard on this issue, DePaoli stated that the School District does have a curriculum in place. “There are no discussions involving sex,” said DePaoli. “These curriculums have been in place for a long time.”

He stated that the District should look at upgrading its curriculum, but that the District has a lot of latitude in doing so. He also made it clear that parents can opt out of this program and that the District has to put the curriculum on its website.

In addition, the District will have a committee to help update its curriculum.

Board Member Lynda Foster said, “Thank you for clearing up the mud. I know it is a big topic and I want to be a part of the committee.”

DePaoli responded, “I will be messaging parents before we meet. It is an important topic.”

In other business:

K.C. Knudson. Director of Teaching gave a report on ongoing educational activities at MOE, the Middle School and High School. He gave shout outs to each and every team that are working on providing student education. “The staff is doing some powerful work with their kids,” said Knudson. “You have to teach a lot with a limited amount of time. The teachers are making use of that time.”

He especially noted the Migrant team who he says are some of the most caring and committed group of individuals he has worked with. In addition, he stated that the English teams from Kindergarten to the Seniors are continuing to do excellent work. He gave a special shout out to Sarah Clarke who is developing essential services for special needs students.

Knudson stated that the Para Educators are doing an amazing job, and are meeting every Wednesday to continue their professional skills. “Sometimes they are the unsung heroes in your system.” He also mentioned Frank Phelps and Kathy Stimpson who are working hard on the online learning system and trying to gauge how effective that program is.

Special Education’s Sarah Clarke reported that the team is looking at what the barriers to the District’s students learning is. “We find ourselves in a unique situation now.”

Homeless issues are one of the areas being worked on. Board member Agustin Benagas asked what she considers homeless. She replied that homes which are doubled up or living in substandard housing like mobile homes. Benagas thanked her and mentioned that he grew up in a mobile home with 10 others.

The District has a system in place that FLAGS disturbing keywords from students and Clarke said they are seeing a disturbing trend of keywords from students. MOE Principal Erin Morin explained that the system searches for inappropriate words and she has seen an increase of these types of keywords pop up in the fourth and fifth grades, i.e. seeking suicide counseling, or depression comments, and an up tick in self harm.

Suicide has increased 1.5 times for kids from 10 to 19 in rural areas over urban areas reported Morin. “We have more kids in crisis. COVID has had a huge impact on mental and social health.”

Clarke added that “We know how complex this problem is.”

Middle School Principal Brian Wood reported that 33 students in the 6th, 7th and 8th grades have opted to remain in a remote learning system. “We are trying to develop a network with these kids,” said Wood.

In school attendance has been fairly consistent with 93 to 97 percent on a daily basis. “We are excited to see attendance so high.”

Jeff Fehr, board chair, asked about safety protocols and Wood replied that masks are mandatory and the kids are maintaining six feet separation. “We are constantly reminding kids to stay six feet apart.”

Wood also said that students were allowed to go to the bathroom during class as opposed to between classes. They are also not using lockers but carrying everything in their backpacks. They are following cleanliness guidelines like cleaning their desks. “A lot of things are going well.”

High School Principal Brad Wilson reported that 38 high school students from 9th through 12th grade have decided to stay online. “We are looking forward to next week,” said Wilson. High School students will be returning to in-classroom instruction on Monday, December 14.

DePaoli thanked them for their reports. “There is a lot of work going on with logistics,” he said. “There is a lot of proactive planning. I’ve been watching the middle school and the kids are excited to be back.”

DePaoli said that Dr. Butler, Chelan-Douglas Health District, visited Cashmere High School and was impressed with how the schools seem to be the safest place for kids.

The high school students will have six days to get accustomed to being back on campus before the Christmas/New Year break.

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 the lower Wapato Basin and one in the deeper Lucerne Basin.

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: 

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.