Corona Virus cases spiral upwards over past two weeks

 

by Richard Uhlhorn

Chelan and Douglas Counties were down below 25 per 100,000 positive cases last week, but a recent spike has brought that case count up to 125 per 100,000 as of Friday, June 3.

At Thursday’s ZOOM meeting, Joyous Van Meter, Chelan-Douglas Health District reported that positive cases were up not only in Chelan and Douglas Counties, but also in Grant and Benton Counties.

These spikes in positive cases will keep Chelan County from moving to Phase 2 and could push the county back to Phase 1. Van Meter stated that re-opening is a part of the increase in cases. Ray Dobbs, Chelan City Council asked if most of the cases were Ag. related? Van Meter replied that the Health District has been working with the Agriculture companies. “We continue to work with them,” she said. “We are also reaching out to farmers. We are talking to them and answering questions.”

Jim Colbert, Chelan Fruit, reported that they haven’t had a positive case since May and stated the company is satisfied with the higher level of acceptance by the work force. “Our grower members are battling the virus in their own housing,” said Colbert.

Van Meter reported that the Health District will begin waste water testing that will hopefully help identify positive case increases before actual individual testing will. They also began mask surveys in both East Wenatchee and Wenatchee and found that only 36 percent of the customer base was wearing a mask on June 23/24, but that jumped to 75 percent this week.

She also reported that hospitalization was also trending up with three new cases in Central Washington Hospital.

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Chelan District Ranger Kari Grover-Weir

Kari Grover-Weir reported that the Chelan/Entiat Ranger District had no positive cases. She is concerned with some firefighters being sent to Arizona, but also said that some were being sent to Alaska, and those were individuals are tested when they arrive.

Weir expects to see a high level of recreation on Forest Service lands over the Fourth of July weekend. “We will have fire crews on duty throughout the weekend,” said Weir.

Manson Chamber Director Debbie Conwell said the Chamber has set up free mask distribution for community members who wish to watch the fireworks show from the parks, but are encouraging people to socially distance themselves and to wear masks.

Richard Magnussen (left) stood in for Kent Sisson during Thursday’s Leadership Response Team Meeting.

Rich Magnussen, Chelan County Emergency Management (EOC), filled in for Kent Sisson who had the day off. “We continue to order PPE and it continues to roll in,” said Magnussen. He lauded the Port of Chelan County for allowing the EOC to move into one of their empty warehouses because they were full at their warehouse.

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Councilman Ray Dobbs

Ray Dobbs asked if N95 masks would be available for the public. Magnussen replied that they are very hard to come by and those they receive are being used by the medical community.

Sgt. Chris Foreman didn’t join Thursday’s meeting, so Fire Chief Mark Donnell asked Magnussen if there were any plans to have additional deputies in the Lake Chelan Valley over the three day weekend. Magnussen replied he hadn’t heard of any plans for additional deputies. “I’m not aware of any additional staffing.”

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Chelan City Administrator Wade Ferris

City Administrator Wade Ferris and Councilman Ray Dobbs reported that the Lakeshore RV Park was filling up with visitors. “There is no tent camping,” Ferris said. The reason for this is that the RV Park’s bathroom facilities are not open.

Ferris also reported that the City has received only one application (Stormy Mountain Brewing) to develop raised outdoor seating on two parking spaces in front of the restaurant. Dobbs replied that he was disappointed that there were no other applications.

Dobbs also lauded the City for placing barricades in Lakeside to help curtail visitor parking in residential neighborhoods. “Parking has been a major issue in Lakeside for years,” said Dobbs.

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Chelan Fire Chief Mark Donnell

Chelan Fire Chief Mark Donnell reported that all of the District’s personnel are healthy and that the District’s PPE levels are adequate.

The next update from the Leadership Response Team will take place on July 16 at 1 p.m. The public is invited to listen in by dialing 351-888-7591.

City Council ratifies Mayor’s Emergency Executive Orders

by Richard Uhlhorn

Prior to the regular agenda of Tuesday’s, June 23 Council meeting, a letter was read into the record under the Public Comment period. The letter was from Garth Donald, Stormy Mountain Brewing.

Donald’s letter applauded the Council for creative options for sustaining and expanding business in the downtown corridor. He wrote, “We are all painfully aware that the COVID 19 closures have an incredible impact on small business.” He lauded the decision to establish outdoor seating which will allow him and other businesses to expand their capacity of the downtown area.

“My one request is that we stay mindful of the timeline we are working with,” he wrote. “We are currently less than two weeks away form the 4th of July weekend.” He remarked that local restaurants have a very narrow window in which to operate this year. He asked the City to help move the process forward quickly. “We can’t submit a Washington Liquor Control Board  application for outside service unless we have, at the bare minmum, a letter from the City stating that we have permission to use the space.”

REGULAR AGENDA ITEMS:

Most of Chelan City Council’s meeting on Tuesday evening, June 23, approved a number of Motion Considerations including:

Ratification of Mayor Goedde’s Emergency Executive Order No. 20-02 and 20-03. City Attorney Quentin Batjar told the Council that 20-02 expired one week ago and that the new proclamation indicating that the circumstances surrounding 20-02 is still around and some emergency powers are still required.

Councilman Ray Dobbs asked if the proclamation needs the council’s authority. Batjar replied that it should come before the council to inform them of what is going on, but that the Mayor has the authority to declare an emergency.

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Councilman Ray Dobbs

Dobbs then asked what would happen if someone on the Council was opposed to the Emergency order. Batjar replied that the question was interesting. “The appropriate way to resolve that would be a discussion between those who oppose the order with the Mayor,” said Batjar.

Dobbs stated he wasn’t complaining. “I’m pleased with what you are doing,” Dobbs told Mayor Goedde.

Because the County has entered a modified Phase 1 the 20-03 Emergency Executive Order amended certain City codes so that restaurants and retail businesses could obtain a Special Event Permit and Sidewalk Business License to utilize up to two (2) parking stalls in front of the business with an elevated platform to serve food and/or sell retail goods.

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City Attorney Quentin Batjar

Batjar told the Council that there would be a preference for restaurants over retail businesses. The permits would also include one parking stall for pick-up orders. City staff has been ordered to expedite these permits with a simplified application and required insurance that covers the City and business.

For restaurant/bars to serve alcohol outside, they would need to obtain Liquor Control Board approval.

This Emergency Executive Order will remain in place for 90 days.

Dobbs attended a Port of Chelan County board meeting earlier in the day and announced that the Port has $920,000 to give out in the amount of $5,000 or less depending on the applicant’s needs.

The Chelan County Cares Act grants are for businesses with 20 or less employees that have been in business for at least six months, have a UBI#. If you are interested, go to http://www.cdrpa.org, click on the Economic Development & Real Estate header and scroll down to the COVID-19 Small Business Response icon.

City Administrator Wade Ferris reported that with the help of Council members Tim Hollingsworth, John Olson and Ty Witt along with the City’s legal team developed a policy and application for release of the City of Chelan Affordable Housing Fund.

The City will take applications 45 days after the Council approves the policy and then the staff will evaluate the applications to make sure they qualify. Then funds would be released for the construction season.

Councilman Tim Hollingsworth said, “The application will hopefully provide enough information to evaluate and track and gives council some assurance of where it is being spent.”

Council members Tim Hollingsworth and Peter Jamtgaard

Councilman Peter Jamtgaard said there were other ways of creating affordable housing. He brought up streamlining ADUs. Planning Director Craig Gildroy said the City already has a modified ADU policy. Jamtgaard wants to look at waiving hookups etc.

Councilman Ray Dobbs asked if Habitat for Humanity has access to the funding. Ferris replied that they did have access and are working with the Housing Authority and trying to coordinate their request for funding. The Council passed the Affordable Housing Fund Policy and Application unanimously.

The Council also approved the Social Media & Facebook Comment Policy. Jenna Rahm has been helping the City with the Facebook page and has been able to give the City the ability to delete anything that is posted that is inappropriate. Rahm said there is a pretty strong language filter added to the comment section of the Facebook page.

Attorney Batjar remarked that the council should be very careful about what they post so that a quorum is reached.

Mayor/Council comments:

John Olson said he hasn’t seen social unrest like this since the 60s. He also mentioned the great garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean and the environmental hazard that has created.

Wade Ferris said that the RV Park at 50 percent capacity would be full this weekend. “We’ve lost a lot of reservations because the Canadians can’t cross the border.”

Craig Gildroy said the City is having a record year in single family housing starts. “We are looking at ways to reduce the review times for smaller permits,” said Gildroy. “We are looking for better methods.”

Ferris said he had talked with Sgt. Chris Foreman and was told that the Sheriff’s Department would be putting on extra deputies on land and water for the July Fourth weekend.

Skip to Phase 3… nope says Health District

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by Richard Uhlhorn

The rumor that Chelan County would be able to skip Phase 2 and move right into Phase 3 was squashed by Chelan-Douglas County Health’s Joyous Van Meter at this Thursday’s Leadership Response Team meeting.

Mayor Bob Goedde brought up the question, saying he had some people that are holding off from opening their businesses say the County was going to skip to Phase 3. Sgt. Kent Sisson, EOC, said that information was extremely hard to believe. He tossed the ball to Van Meter who replied, “It is pretty adamant we couldn’t skip over phases.”

Sisson said that the EOC is distributing a portion of the 50,000 masks they received. “We’ve already put 10,000 out the door.” These masks are for employees of agencies and businesses and Sisson said they were appreciated. The EOC also has 61,000 allocated from the State for poverty level people. “We are figuring out where these masks are going to go. They are only for targeted populations.” These masks will probably be disbursed through organizations like Thrive for Chelan, etc.

Chief Mark Donnell said that the chambers and businesses are thankful for the masks because it has been hard to get them in the private sector.

Joyous Van Meter, CDHD, reported 472 cases in both Douglas and Chelan counties with three new on Wednesday, June 17. “We went below 25 per 100,000 yesterday,” she said. As of Saturday, Chelan County was at 24.6 per 100,000. Only one COVID patient is currently hospitalized.

Paul Willard, Chelan Ranger District, asked if the county has the capability of testing the District’s firefighters before they are sent out to wildfires. Van Meter replied that she thinks the Health District has the capability to do the testing. “Send me an email with the numbers involved and your timeframe.”

EMS Director Ray Eickmeyer said the Hospital is doing well. “We continue to test out and in-patients, plus anyone having surgery. As of June one we have no positives.” He also said the Hospital has no COVID patients.

Willard reported that the Forest Service campgrounds opened on Friday, June 12. However, he added that cabin rentals and group sites remain closed.

Jim Colbert, Chelan Fruit, reported that the cooperative hasn’t seen a positive case since May in their workforce. “We are (finally) seeing the greatest acceptance of distancing,” he said. “Those were issues we were challenged with earlier in the year.”

Mayor Goedde reported that masks are the best way to stop the spread of the virus. He mentioned Dr. Butler’s bullet points on the subject and is hoping to get those points out to the public.

With many of the restaurants opening up with restricted indoor capacity, Goedde added that some owners he has talked with are not willing to open up with only 25% of capacity allowed because it is very limiting. The city and restaurants are looking at outdoor seating also. Goedde’s only other concern is servicing the people who visit the valley for food and beverage.

With the numbers of cases over a 14 day period finally dipping below 25 per 100,000, the move to Phase 2 should happen quickly.

The Leadership Response Team for Chelan and Douglas County report changes every Thursday, at 1 p.m. The public is allowed to dial in, but not allowed to speak. 351-888-7591.

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Fire district looks at charging property owners for false fire alarms

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by Richard Uhlhorn

Chelan Fire & Rescue is considering charging home owners, resort owners and other properties for multiple false fire alarms that are responded to. Fire Chief Mark Donnell explained that most municipalities have False Alarm Ordinances. “The first response is free,” said Donnell. The charge would be assessed for the second false alarm. “We get called to Chelan Resort Suites one to two times a month. Their alarms are really sensitive”

The fine proposal would be for $100 which would be used to fix the problem. “False alarms tie up our resources,” said Donnell. The ordinance, if approved, would have to be adopted by the City of Chelan.

The District and EMS are down to 50 calls which according to Donnell is true nationally. “The biggest decrease is in EMS calls. It is slower than normal,” said Donnell. “We will see a larger impact on July 4.”

The Fire District is working with the City of Chelan on a mutual fire services plan. Councilman Ray Dobbs is the liaison between the Fire Department and the City. Donnell also said they have had meetings with Hospital CEO George Rohrich regarding combining the fire service with the EMS.

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Fire Chief Mark Donnell

Donnell also reported to the commission that there are 637 tax exempt parcels within the Fire District. This includes state, federal and local government owned properties along with religious organizations and undeveloped land. According to Donnell the district is losing an estimated $147,000 a year for protection services to these tax exempt properties.

“We are going to have a conversation with the private entities,” said Donnell. “Schools are the only one exemption. We get paid by student count,” said Donnell. “$147,000 is a significant chunk of change we are missing out on every year.” Donnell stated that all of these properties should have an interlocal agreement in place. If not, and a fire occurs, they will be billed.

Chief Donnell reported that over the years the District has had one of the five engines out of service during the entire fire season. “That is totally unacceptable,” Donnell stated. “We are at a critical juncture with fire apparatus.”

The District is looking at replacing some of the aging equipment. “In the past we have replaced old equipment with old equipment,” said Donnell. “We are not looking to buy new, but looking at purchasing newer equipment.” Donnell is also looking for equipment more suited to the District.

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Board Chairman Phil Moller

“We have to see what we can do with the equipment we have,” said chairman Phil Moller. “I don’t see us tightening our belts. Are we moving equipment around to make sure we have protection,” he asked?

Donnell replied that he appreciated what Moller was saying and stated that equipment has been moved around to make sure all areas are protected. “We have just enough equipment,” said Donnell. The solution is to start looking at equipment replacement.

Donnell said the District can find usable equipment at a cost of approximately $135,000. The other option is the Department of Natural Resources surplus equipment in October. Chelan Fire and Rescue has had numerous engine/electronic problems with its Ford F550s and they remain problematic. “We had one cardiac arrest and the guy died when the Ford went into Limp Mode,” said Donnell. The Ford was in the shop for almost a year and Ford mechanics couldn’t find the problem. “I can’t, with good faith, put firefighters in 71 and have it go into Limp Mode,” said Donnell. He wanted board approval to move forward, but Moller said he would like to wait until after the July meeting and Long Range Planning is completed.

 

COVID cases diminishing in County

By Richard Uhlhorn

Laura Schmidt, Columbia Valley Community Health, said that the Chelan location hasn’t had an in-community COVID positive in two months. “Chelan, Chelan Falls and the Manson communities have not had a positive since April 10,” she said. That includes packing sheds and migrant worker housing.

“We are continuing to open more services (at Chelan CVCH facility) here… particularly more in-person visits,” said Schmidt. She added that the dentist and medical team are calling people on the wait list for in-person visits. “We are up and running as fully as possible.”

The only positives CVCH has seen are people doing close work at packing sheds or at orchard related housing quarters. “We haven’t had a commuity positive that is not related to orchard work.”

Kari Grover-Weir, Chelan District Ranger, told the team that the District is hoping to open campgrounds on Friday afternoon, June 12. “That would mean our local campgrounds and up-lake campgrounds,” said Weir. The Ranger Station will not be open to the public yet.

Weir also remarked that the District has had no positive cases and that both Entiat and Chelan are fully staffed with seasonal firefighters with 20 in each location.

Wildfire continues to be a major concern this year. Sgt. Kent Sisson said that the EOC staff has been working with the City of Leavenworth on wildfire plans including evacuations.

Sisson also said that the EOC has received the 50,000 cloth masks as of Wednesday and is in the process of getting them out. These masks will be given to business owners for use during the reopening phases. “The are for business owners to use for their employees,” said Sisson.

Joyous Van Meter reported that there were 442 cases but zero new cases in the last several days. Only 28 cases were recorded in the last 14 days (36 per 100,000) and Van Meter said that was encouraging.

Superintendent Barry DePaoli reported that Chelan had a great graduation despite the lack of an actual ceremony. “It was a great graduation with a virtual ceremony and a social distancing photo shoot that went very well,” said DePaoli. “I want to thank the community for all their support. We had 2,000 on-line to watch the graduation.”

DePaoli said that the District has its work cut out for the summer. “The main goal is to reopen the schools that protects both the students and staff.” DePaoli is working on a set of different scenarios for reopening.

School will be closed on June 19 which will end the daily lunch program on Woodin, but DePaoli has been working with Thrive and said that organization would provide drive through lunch service on Fridays.

Mayor Goedde asked how the remote schooling went and DePaoli replied that nationwide it was at 30 percent, 40 percent in state and Chelan was between 50 and 60 percent engagement. “Learning is a social interaction that kids need. We’ve definitely lost that. We have many kids that have not been engaged and we have to get better at it,” said DePaoli. “The last three months have not been the best for us.”

Ray Dobbs asked if the pass or incomplete gave students an incentive to not engage” DePaoli replied that he wasn’t sure but that any grade coming out of COVID will have an asterix after it.

Dobbs then asked if the District was considering removing the School Resource Officer? DePaoli replied that the resource officer is shared with the Manson School District. “I have no intention to do that unless we are forced to next year.” DePaoli remarked that Nigel has been involved in counseling and partnering up to make home visits. “We have every intention to keep Nigel on staff.”

Mayor Goedde stated that the City will be reopening its RV park this next week. “We are in the process of opening the park, but it will still be closed to camping. I could not justify keeping it closed any longer,” he said. The restrooms will remain closed.

He also said that the City is evaluating with Erin McCardle where they can put tables for take out orders so people can eat and enjoy the weather. He also remarked that in Canada, they rent out parking spaces, put a raised deck with table on it and serve food. “That’s something we want to consider.”

Goedde also encouraged residents to wear masks. He said he has been a little disappointed in the results of the Mask Contest and encouraged people to join the fun.This coming week’s theme is still professional and college sports. “I know there are a lot of Seahawk masks out there… send photos in.”

Wier asked if there were still locks on the tennis courts and City Administrator Wade Ferris said he would check on that and get them unlocked. Weir replied that closing tennis courts never made much sense to her. Ferris hopes to open up the Volleyball courts also.

Manson Chamber Director Debbie Conwell said the community is still working with the Sheriff and Fire District on the Fourth of July Fireworks show.

Fire Chief Mark Donnell said that Chelan Fire and Rescue has been busy. “I have a strong feeling that this is just the beginning of a long fire season,” he said. Regarding the two recent structural fires, Donnell said both are still under investigation but both appear to be purely accidental starts.

The Leadership Response Team meets on a virtual call every Thursday at 1 p.m. The meeting can be accessed by dialing 351-888-7591.

Chelan superintendent working on school re-opening procedures

by Richard Uhlhorn

Chealn Schools Superintendent Barry DePaoli updated the school board on the potential reopening of its schools in the fall. In a letter to Governor Inslee, which he shared with the board, regional superintendents from North Central Washington requested that the State allow their schools to reopen in the fall. The letter stated the districts are willing to work side by side with their respective health districts to keep staff and students safe.

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Superintendent Barry DePaoli

“We were expecting to have some information, but it has been delayed until Friday,” DePaoli told the board. “We will be moving forward once we get the guidelines.”

DePaoli is concerned about a second wave in the fall which would effectively leave the school district in a remote learning situation. “They say it could be larger then the first wave we’ve seen.”

“Our kids are really suffering,” said DePaoli. The District is reaching out to the Hispanic community for their thoughts. “We want to hear from them.” Board member Lynda Foster asked if the media will be informed? DePaoli replied it will eventually get out there.

On the operations side, DePaoli said there is a lot of work to be done before reopening because of COVID-19.

Jose Mendoza, Maintenance Supervisor, gave a presentation on capital projects within the school district totaled an estimated $300,000 and included the following work:

  • Roof upgrade and painting on the Flat Top building across from MOE. The Special Programs building would also be painted and the HVAC units would be raised 12″ off the roof.
  • At MOE, carpet would be replaced in classrooms 114 and 116; in the kindergarten hallway and first grade hallway along with rooms 201 and 204. An ADA auto open and access control would be added.
  • At the Middle/High School the capital projects included constructing permanent walls between Room 106 and Classrooms 113 and 115. The Woodshop stairs to the upper classrooms would be replaced and have new stair threads installed. The Main Entry Way to the school would be re-carpeted.

The District is also looking at a complete remodel of the Middle School/Public bathrooms which would cost $126,324 + tax. Other work planned included the Shop Yard clean-up, bleacher seating finished at Sargent Field and new mowers.

The bathroom remodel generated some discussion. Foster asked if these were the bathrooms the public used during events. DePaoli replied that they were public. Mendoza said the request came from OSPI during an audit. Principal Brad Wilson said, “They are showing age. Having a No-Touch bathroom would be a real plus.”

The construction of permanent walls between classrooms was deemed important. Sarah Clark said, “We share a wall with the intervention classroom which is very, very thin. For students reading independently, it gets loud.”

Total funds available for capital projects in 2020 is approximately $554,000.

DePaoli told the board he would prepare a summary of the Capital Project List for the next meeting.

The District announced its new hires which includes:

Megan Fink – HS Mathematics
Joss Poland – Business Teacher
Rachel Jacobus and Reece Bauer – MOE Counselors
Amy Eddy -Psychologist
Tony Callero – HS/MS Social Studies

DePaoli told the board that the District had 35 applications for the Athletic Director position and have narrowed the list to five candidates. “This is the most we’ve ever had for an administrative position,” said DePaoli. All of the candidates chosen for interviews have a masters and all are at a high level as coaches. Fifteen coaches, booster club members and parents were involved in the selection process.

The board also had first readings of Policy/Procedure Updates including:

ASB (Associated Student Body)
Accountability Goals
Procedures for Student Immunization and Life Threatening Health Conditions
Allowable costs for Federal Programs.

If you have questions or comments for the board during the remote meetings because of COVID-19, submit them to Georgia Mashayekh before 2 p.m. on School Board Meeting Dates which are the 2nd and 4th Tuesday’s of each month. Board meetings convene at 6 p.m. and if you would like to attend the meetings via telephone or computer, contact Mashayekh prior to 2 p.m. on the meeting date.

 

Concerns about June 7 protest raised at leadership meeting on Thursday

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by Richard Uhlhorn

The upcoming Protest March at noon on Sunday, June 7, was the big topic at the weekly Leadership Response Team virtual meeting on Thursday afternoon.

Sgt. Chris Forman reported that the plan was for a march through the downtown corridor to Riverwalk Park. “We have had business owners call concerned,” said Foreman. “They wondered if they should have people posted outside their businesses with firearms like other communities have.”

Sgt. Foreman told the group that he was bringing in Washington State Patrol to help if needed. “That is what I’m currently working on.” He has had meetings with Sheriff Brian Burnett and Mayor Bob Goedde.

Mayor Goedde asked if there was any indication of people being transported in to cause destruction? Sgt. Foreman replied that nothing has been substantiated on social media or over the Internet. “I don’t have anything in that regard.”

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Mayor Goedde also stated that he is somewhat fearful that First Amendment Rights of peaceful protesters might be affected. Sgt. Foreman replied that he has had conversations with the organizer, Chelsey Eyre Martin, a local teacher on maternity leave. “I think she has the best intentions. She said she would be mortified if something bad happened,” Foreman stated. “If she was asked to cancel it she would cancel it.”

Mayor Goedde said the biggest concern he has is the anxiety that could be created by the protest. He’s asking council members and staff to volunteer to go downtown ans stand in front of businesses as a show of solidarity.

Sgt. Foreman also reported that Liquor Control agents have responded to complaints at B.C. MacDonalds. “It sounds like some positive agreements regarding compliance with the Governor’s orders are taking place. I don’t know what that is.”

 

Mayor Goedde reported that the City is still trying to reopen it RV Park. “My concern with the court systems is that it is slower than the Governor.”

One of the biggest complaints from visitors and residents is that after picking up their takeout food at local restaurants, there is no place to sit and eat.

Erin McCardle, Downtown Historic Association, reported that guidelines were being prepared and that hopefully there will be some current restrictions released. “There are a lot of people in town and it is unbelievable there is no where to sit and eat,” said McCardle.

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They are looking at securing up to eight to 10 parking stalls in downtown where tables can be placed for eating. She said the Lakeview Drivein has offered its picnic tables for use since they can’t use them under the Governor’s orders. She also highlighted Andante’s. The restaurant has been handing out free meals to all comers on Monday evenings. What began in March with 75 takers bloomed to 500 meals handed out last Monday.

In a phone conversation, McCardle said they are also looking at closing down the alleyway between Andante’s and Chelan Teriyaki to create a European style outdoor sitting area. “This would just be between the two buildings,” stated McCardle.

In other news:

 Kari Grover Weir, Chelan District Ranger, reported that the District has had no positive cases. “All the potentials have turned out negative so far,” she said. She also reported that all the campgrounds are still closed and the Forest Service is looking to open them as soon as possible. Disbursed camping on Forest land is still an option.

Jim Cobert, Chelan Fruit, said the first cherries will be harvested over the weekend and the company is responding to Governor’s new regulations to take each employees temperature and to fill out a questionnaire. He expects to have 150 people on the cherry line. Colbert said masks have been made available and the company is working diligently to get them out to the employees including growers. “Our focus is to keep everybody safe,” said Colbert.

Chelan School Superintendent Barry DePaoli reported that the district is still hoping to reopen this fall. “We have drafted a letter to the Governor and will be working closely with the Health Department. The planning process is well underway.” The District is working with parents, students and staff.

“June 19 is our last day of school,” said DePaoli. “Food service will be gone, but we are working with Thrive,” said DePaoli.

On an afternoon telephone conversation, Barry stated that the planned drive-in graduation ceremony has been changed to a virtual graduation that will take place around June 9.

This Power Point presentation will include student photos and what their plans are. There will also the standard speeches by the Salutatorian and Valedictorian. “There will also be a social distancing photo shoot,” DePaoli said.

This decision was made after concerns by Chelan-Douglas Health District’s Joyous Van Meter and director Barry Kling.

Manson Chamber of Commerce president, Debbie Conwell, reported that Manson will have a fireworks show on July 4. “We are working with the Sheriff and Fire District,” she said. “People will be able to watch from their cars or boats to keep social distancing.” The Chamber is preparing a map of some areas the fireworks display can be viewed from.

“Wenatchee is also having a fireworks show so we won’t see Wenatchee folks coming up here,” Conwell said. Chelan has decided not to have a fireworks show and will dedicate some of their fireworks funds to the Manson show. “Mike (Steele) felt one show would be enough this year.”

Sgt. Kent Sisson, EOC (Emergency Operations Center) said the center would be receiving 50,000 masks on Friday. “We are working on distribution with priority to agency entities that need them.” Other masks will be handed out to farm worker camps and the rest of the fruit industry. “I thinks we have a decent plan in place. I’m hoping we can get open sooner than later. Barry (Kling) is hard at work on a Phase II proposal and hopefully we will get some good news on that.”

The State will be receiving 3.6 million masks and is asking the EOC on how to contact the 200 percentile of people in poverty to get two masks to each person. “I think you will see each county coming up with their own plan.” Sisson expects the Food Banks, Churches and other entities to disperse them.

Kristi Morris, Columbia Valley Health, reported that they are transitioning to have more patients. “We still have a COVID area, but we need to see more (normal) patients.”

Manuel Navarro, Columbia Valley Health, added that they are working on providing TeleHealth services to Heritage Heights. “Residents should be able to access any provider. Our goal is to get that ordered up and in next month.”

Hospital still stuggling with issues

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by Richard Uhlhorn

Hospital Board Chair, Phyliss Gleasman was taken back by both Jordana LaPorte and Mary Murphy when they complained about not enough transparency from the Facilities Committee which is chaired by Gleasman and has Mary Signorelli on it.

The anger at the committee began when Gleasman reported to the board at its Tuesday, May 26th meeting, that they had asked the USDA if the hospital could extend the time of its loan to 2025.

The community approved a bond levy to build a new hospital in 2017 with a move in date in the fall of 2020. However, the hospital has been through a chaotic period with a loss of professional staff which has led to a declining cash reserve and patient loss.

LaPorte said, “I think the request should be made by the board, not the Facilities Committee and accused them of overstepping their power. Mary Murphy said she would like facilities put on the next agenda to talk about the issue. LaPorte also wondered why the design/contractor team was attending the committee meetings.

Gleasman replied that they need to be involved from the ground up. “I value their input,” she said. Gleasman said they can give insights to what is happening in the area with other hospitals and whether or not the Chelan hospital is doing what is sustainable.

Murphy agreed that the design/contracting team can give valuable information, but that the board is not seeing it. “It isn’t in the minutes,” complained Murphy. She added that any design possibilities could be beneficial if done at the full board level.

Gleasman angrily asked why the two board members are having a problem with the Facilities Committee. “The only committee you keep coming down on is the Facilities Committee. You have no comments on other committees.”

LaPorte replied that it is the decisions being made. “It (Facilities Committee) is not supposed to be making decisions,” she said. LaPorte said she isn’t hearing much of what the changes are going to look like. “There has been no discussion of what we need to do to this facility.”

Gleasman replied that other criteria was on the higher priority. “We can’t make decisions until we know how to move forward.” Signorelli chimed in that the hospital hired Jody Corona, Health Facilities Planning and Development consultant, to look at options on what the new facility will look like. “We’ve been waiting for information from her. It’s now in front of us.”

Murphy replied that there is a sense of urgency to study hard decisions the board is going to make. “All the committees should be sharing. I very much would appreciate the opportunity to sit in on the Facilities Committee meetings. If I could attend those or a workshop to discuss what the design is, it would be helpful.” She added that she wasn’t sure what the tasks the Facilities Committee is working with. “I don’t see it in the minutes.”

CEO George Rohrich stated that if Murphy was allowed to sit in on the Facilities Committee it would become a public meeting. Gleasman shut the discussion down despite LaPorte wanting to continue discussing the issue.

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The hospital received two proposals for a new strategic plan and accepted the $9,000 proposal instead of the $32,000 proposal. Fred Miller agreed with Rohrich on accepting the $9,000 proposal. “I don’t disagree with George,” said Fred. “Jody knows a lot about the hospital.” Murphy agreed and Signorelli said, “Jody will do a good job for us. It is a good proposal.”

David Yackell, QHR (Quorum Health Resources), gave the board a presentation on their work at the hospital. Yackell said that after an initial assessment, the hospital was in worse condition than they thought. In an effort to clean up claims, continue to identify areas where improvements can be made and staff training, Yackell stated that the hospital has a tremendous number of claims in their receivables. “We need to turn those into cash as quickly as possible,” he said.

The hospital averages 51 days to make a claim which Yackell said is wrong. “By August of this year we will be down to 10 days or closer to the five day range.” He added that the hospital has a potential gross revenue of $1.6 million that could have been charged, but haven’t been.

Gleasman asked how the hospital can take to bill claims. Jones replied that if they haven’t billed a claim within 365 days, they won’t be paid by insurance companies. CFO Mike Ellis said that based on statements ordered by physicians, what looks like an old bill is more current. “We are looking into more friendly statements going out. A little easier to understand,” said Ellis.

 Agustin Venegas is working on a new marketing strategy for the Hospital. He said that a determination has to be found about what is important to the board and community. The plan is to revamp the website… start fresh. “So much has happened,” said Venegas. “So much has happened.” The hospital is hiring Jet Marketing to help rebuild the website in 2021. The board will approve a contract after the terms are clear and finalized.

Mary Murphy said the board should consider a letter to the community because of meeting restrictions during the pandemic. “I believe the community would want to hear from us,” she said. The letter should let the community know what is being worked on, the strategic planning process, the fact that the clinic and hospital are a safe environment, and that the hospital is going to be in the valley for the long term.

CEO Report:

George Rohrich stated that the loss for the previous month was significant. Primary reasons was the fact that April saw all surgeries shut down, the Sanctuary shut down which was significant on the bottom line.

Rohrich said that patient days have increased and are getting close to 2018. “Some things have gone down, but the important things have gone up,” said Rohrich.

CFO Mike Ellis stated that the hospital’s cash situation is positive because of the grants it has received. “Cash is in a very favorable light,” he said. For the month of April, Ellis said there was more green than red.

The month of April has been the hardest as far as the pandemic. The hospital has a $8.8 million dollar net operating loss. “With the pandemic it has just gotten worse.” They are working on a plan to reopen the Sanctuary safely and looking forward to serving the visiting public. The hospital is also reopening some of their surgical operations.

The next regular board meeting will be on Tuesday, June 23, at 1:30 p.m.

South Shore Sewer District looking at massive rate increase

by Richard Uhlhorn

Residents on Lake Chelan’s south shore have for the last 20 years been paying $45 a month for sewer services provided by the South Shore Sewer District. At its regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, May 20, the commission discussed at length a rate increase for the 330 users on the District.

The City of Chelan, which operates the sewer treatment plant that the district’s wastewater flows to, is planning an upgrade of its Lift Station #5. This planned maintenance item will cost $1.5 million of which the District is on the hook for one-half of the cost. “It is a maintenance item and necessitates our rate jump dramatically,” said Mark Babcock, chairman of the district’s board of directors.

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Mark Babcock, chairman of the South Shore Sewer District went over the financial issues facing the District at its May 20 meeting.

That jump could be a combination of a number of scenarios, but will probably raise the District’s user rates from its current $45 to $79 per month with a potential six percent raise each year until the District is at $118 per month. “If we jump to $79 a month and then start increasing monthly bills by six percent a year, by the time we need the new force main, the money is there,” said Babcock.

Other revenue sources for the District were also discussed. For instance, two LIDs (Local Improvement District) are expiring in 2022 and 2023. This could bring in an additional $200,000 to the District’s coffers from Chelan County.

Chelan City Attorney, Quentin Batjar, suggested that the District needs to give notice to its rate payers, but with the pandemic, holding a public meeting is impossible. Steve Thornton, the City of Chelan’s finance director stated that the Lift Station project is a big capital project that could be pushed out one or two months, but Babcock replied that the community could still be in lockdown by August.

Andy Baker, FCS Group, said that Thornton was spot on, but that the bottom line is not changing and $79 per month would bring in $26,000 a month. Baker offered to prepare a scenario to give the board a choice of how to proceed at the next board meeting in June. Babcock suggested that they could call a special meeting if necessary.

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Andy Baker, FCS Group (right on screen) offered to prepare a rate increase scenario for the District Board to consider at their next meeting. Don Popoff, RH2 Engineering, (left on screen) will be conducting a new ERU survey
of the District’s rate payers.

Babcock also asked about retaining an attorney for the District. Thornton said, “In all the years I’ve been in finance, the best advice is to listen to your lawyer.” Batjar, who is the City’s attorney, withdrew from representing the District because of a potential conflict of interest between the two entities. “He can’t represent both,” said Babcock. Batjar did give Babcock the names of several attorneys who have municipal law backgrounds.

“Once we find an attorney, we will bring him in an introduce him,” said Babcock. He asked the rest of the board to give him permission to retain an attorney, get him up to speed on the issues, and then enter into a written agreement. They concurred.

With a definite rate increase coming the board discussed several different scenarios to consider:

  1. $79 to $118 in three to five years
  2. $79 with annual increases
  3. $67.60 per month with increases every year.

The South Shore Sewer District has the capacity of 800 ERUs leaving 480 ERUs in theory. With the pump station upgrades needing done the District needs to find out how many, if any ERUs are pending, before giving ERUs to a new 100 lot development proposed by the Evans family who have asked to be annexed into the system.

“We cannot annex in more until we know how much excess capacity you are going to use,” Babcock informed Luke Evans who was in attendance.

Don Popoff, RH2 Engineering was authorized to conduct a survey of the existing ERUs in the system including an audit of all the District’s accounts, looking at properties and looking at the possibility of bootleggers, i.e. RVs, Condominiums in full use, wineries and other commercial operations.

The survey will also include getting the County Building Department to give the District its plans on properties. The third piece of the survey will look at how many connection fees will be coming up in the future.

The District has had a conference call with the Chelan County Planning Department and Chelan-Douglas Health District on Code Compliance and enforcement options. “Community Development has to do the enforcement,” said Babcock.

It was mentioned that KARMA KANYON (Karma Vineyards) allegedly does not have a valid sewer connection and that they did not obtain permits for their kitchen and no building inspections done. The sewer district told the Planning department that they expect compliance. “It looks like the County is going to take a hard line on this,” said Babcock.

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Public Works Director Jake Youngren (left) discussed the plans to run a video survey of the District’s sewer lines and laterals to find potential blockage areas. Grease is suspected, but until this is confirmed by video the facts are unknown.

The District is paying for a video survey of the sewer line and its laterals for grease and should have the results by the next meeting. City of Chelan Public Works Director Jake Youngren said that the problem is having hard facts. “We suspect an old lateral that is undersized,” he said.

The District’s next board meeting will be on Wednesday, June 17  at 5 p.m. at the City of Chelan Public Works offices located at 232 E. Wapato Avenue.

Lake Chelan School District in great financial shape… reopening is being studied.

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Trisha Schock, finance director at the Educational Service District is filling in for Scott Renick, the District’s finance director while he recovers from COVID-19 and reported that the Lake Chelan School District is in a great financial situation.

“There are no concerns about the District’s financial stability,” she said. Next year, there are potential cuts coming, but she didn’t expect any financial issues. The district is 104% over last year. Accounts payable are down from $282,870.00 to $262,255.00

Lynda Foster asked what the feeling is around the area schools regarding enrollment?

Schock stated that everyone is concerned if the District’s don’t get back to traditional schooling. “They are all really looking forward to having kids back in school.”

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School Superintendent Barry DePaoli

Barry reported on the ongoing discussions on re-opening schools. There are teachers, parents and students sitting in on some of this dialogue. On Friday, there will be a meeting on the “Teaching and Learning Side.”

“Safety is huge,” stated Barry. “This has been draining on our teachers as well as our students.”

The big concern is where COVID-19 will be in the Fall. Steady… Spiking… or Declining. “A huge spike is a concern,” said Barry. The District is receiving more and more emails from parents and the general public about their concerns about re-opening.

The District is continuing to have issues with the Internet availability to all students. The other issue is that Chrome Books are having a problem with Zoom connectivity.

It was also stated that students don’t like to be isolated and are not good at independent learning. “If we have to start remotely (in the fall) how do we do that engagement (with students).” Barry is trying to make sure with all the planning that when the District re-opens in the fall, the District is organized.

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MOE Principle Erin Morin stated that across the state, Districts are seeing about 30 percent engagement with students, but Chelan has 60 percent engagement. “As people go back to work, we may see that engagement go down,” she said.

The Elementary is at 60 percent and the teachers have become very creative at staying engaged including driving by students homes. The District is sending out Parent Input for Placement form asking such questions as:

1.What kind of learning environment does your child work best in?

2. Does your child have special needs that we need to be aware of?

DePaoli has been involved with a work group that are looking at some re-opening strategies from other countries. “There is some good information. We need to look at this as a real challenge for this District and still meet the needs for our kids.”

Middle School Principal Mr Wood said that engagement at the middle school is a little different. “Sometimes we have 10 to 15 students on-line.” He said students are gravitating toward other than project related work like the No Red Ink grammar software.

He also stated that the staff is really looking forward to next year. They are missing the interaction with the kids. the staff is neutral on on-line learning with 25 percent struggling at on-line teaching.

Wood reported that he is working on a parking lot moving up ceremony for both the fifth grade and eighth grade students. It has not been approved yet. There is apparently a lot of apprehension amongst the fifth graders about moving up.

Wood, Rob Rainville and Erin have been video taping to show students moving up what school looks like as an introduction to both the staff and school setting.

The board approved the hiring of Nicholas Longmire as the new head Girls Basketball Coach and the hiring of Randy Gleasman as the Assistant Wrestling Coach. Both said they were excited. Pat Chism has been hired as the new head Wrestling Coach and he likes the idea of having Gleasman as his assistant.

High School graduation will be a drive in ceremony following the CDHD guidelines

The District board approved the renewal of the WIAA contract.