Keep It Blue to launch membership drive and fund raising efforts Thursday

by Richard Uhlhorn

A Keep It Blue Membership and Fundraising Event will be held at the Lake Chelan Boat Club from 4 to 6 p.m.
on Thursday, October 21.

On Tuesday evening, October 12, Phil Long, director of the Lake Chelan Research Institute and Mike Kaputa, director of Chelan County’s Natural Resources Division, delivered a Lake Chelan water quality update.

Dr. Phil Long presented a State of the Lake report to City Council on Tuesday, October 12.

“If you go to the middle of the lake, the quality is the same as it was in 1987,” stated Long who added that the story is a lot different along the lake’s shoreline, particularly n the Wapato Basin. Algae which had been non-existent for years is now showing up on rocks along the shoreline. “We are seeing something going on along the shoreline,” said Long.

Algae forms with nutrient input (such as phosphorus). “Lake Chelan is a very large protected lake managed by the Forest Service in the upper Lucerne Basin,” said Long.

Algae clinging to a rock at the Forest Service micro park.

The nutrients being added to the lake can come from and overuse of lawn fertilizers, goose poop which can be seen at Lakeside Park and Sunset Marina on the docks.

Goose poop could be one of the major contributors to algae growth.

Other issues facing the near-shore environment is the aquatic invasive species which right now includes a healthy invasion of Asian mussels and milfoil in certain areas of the lake. “There is 12 acres of milfoil in the Wapato Basin,” said Long. Long mentioned the potential use of D.A.S.H. (D.A.S.H. stands for Diver Assisted Suction Harvesting and is an alternative to chemical use to kill unwanted plants. Divers identify unwanted non-native or invasive plants that need to be removed, pull them out by the roots and feed them into a suction tube that transports the plants to a boat to be hauled away.)

Mike Kaputa

Kaputa thanked the City and Council for their dedication and funding support of the County’s and Institute’s ongoing monitoring of the lake. “We are pooling our resources for this work.”

Kaputa went on to say he’s sorry Cameron ‘Skip’ Morehouse is no longer with us (Morehouse passed away in September). “Skip helped secure local funding when he was on the council and was a regular participant with the Watershed Planning Unit,” said Kaputa. “I enjoyed working with him.”

Cameron Skip Morehouse who passed away this past September, was one of the main proponents on City Council for funding the monitoring efforts on Lake Chelan.

Kaputa went on to say, “Lake Chelan is at a very high risk for the introduction of Zebra and other invasive mussels. It’s just a matter of time before they show up in Washington.”

Washington currently has three inspection stations at its borders. “What we don’t have is what they have at Lake Whatcom.” Whatcom County and Bellingham have a well-known program for boat inspections entering their waters which is financed by their own efforts. One-third of the $450,000 funding comes from the sale of stickers.

In 2022 Lake Chelan will a voluntary inspection program for boaters coming to the lake.

Public Works Director Jake Youngren remarked that the department inspects the raw water reservoir before the water goes into the treatment facility and that they get a “substantial amount of them (Asian clams) there.”

Kaputa requested that the City Council add one more year to its five-year funding commitment to help continue the work on keeping Lake Chelan healthy and clean. The Council unanimously agreed to that request.

CHELAN — The Keep It Blue campaign, which is dedicated to the long-term protection of Lake Chelan’s water quality and supply, will release its first State of the Lake Report on Thursday, Oct. 21.

The report will be released at the Keep It Blue Membership Program Launch Party and Fundraising Event, to be held 4 to 6 p.m. on Oct. 21 at the Lake Chelan Boat Club. The event, which is open to the public, not only is an opportunity for people to join the Lake Chelan campaign but also to visit information booths and listen to presenters who will talk about water quality issues.

“We are releasing the 2021 State of the Lake Report and, at the same time, inviting people to join us in building upon this important effort,” said Mike Kaputa, director of the Chelan County Natural Resources Department. “The Keep It Blue campaign is one that impacts anyone who depends upon or enjoys Lake Chelan.”

The Keep it Blue campaign is an effort of the Lake Chelan Watershed Planning Unit, which is made up of a collection of stakeholders, including Natural Resources and the Lake Chelan Research Institute. The partners formed Keep It Blue as a way to not only monitor the quality of Lake Chelan, the largest natural lake in the state and the third deepest in the nation, but also to educate the public about community-based actions that will help protect the lake.  With the substantial development around it over recent decades and its increasing popularity with tourists, the lake has grown into a key economic driver for the region.

The report, which will be released annually, covers key water quality metrics such as water clarity, phosphorus and chlorophyll concentrations, dissolved oxygen depletion rates, and the growth of near shore algae and aquatic invasive species.

Among the highlights in the 2021 report, which will be available at the event as well as at www.keepitbluelakechelan.org, is that Lake Chelan “exhibits remarkable long-term stability in water clarity, nutrient concentrations and growth of algae.” This is due to the large, mostly pristine nature of the lake’s watershed, according to the report.

The report also states that the near shore environment of Lake Chelan is less stable, undergoing a transition in which algae along the shoreline has increased and aquatic invasive species have expanded over the last few decades. The Lake Chelan Research Institute and Natural Resources are focusing their attention on addressing near shore water quality, or specifically, pathogen indicators and aquatic invasive species.

Funding and in-kind support for the long-term monitoring of the lake is provided by Chelan County, the city of Chelan, the Lake Chelan Reclamation District, Cascadia Conservation District, Chelan PUD, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Washington State Department of Ecology and the U.S. Forest Service.

In addition, numerous businesses, including Campbell’s Resort, Cashmere Valley Bank and private individuals have provided financial support to the Lake Chelan Research Institute.

However, the Oct. 21 public event is an opportunity to build upon the campaign’s effort, increasing membership to fund future monitoring efforts and studies. The Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring all 400 of its businesses in the Chelan and Manson areas to the membership program in its first year. More information about membership is at www.keepitbluelakechelan.org/membership.

“Through our partnership with the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce, the Keep It Blue membership program will help to create a community of dedicated people who share the responsibility of promoting sustainable practices and protecting water quality in Lake Chelan,” said Lisa Dowling, a member of the Keep it Blue Board and a natural resource specialist with the county.

Chelan Fire needs your support for the District’s future needs

by Richard Uhlhorn

Chelan County Fire District #7 (Chelan Fire & Rescue) is asking voters to approve the first Levy Lid Lift in 15 years. The Levy Lid Lift rate for Proposition 1 is at $1.10 and is based on the July assessments from the Chelan County Assessor.

“We took the latest assessment values from the Assessor we could get before the deadline to get the levy on the ballot,” said Chief Mark Donnell in a telephone conversation.

At the non-meeting on Wednesday; Phil Moller was tied up in Wenatchee and Karyl Oules was also unavailable, so there was no quorum.  Chelan property owner Al Lorenz was at the meeting and gave the District what he calls the newest assessment numbers which could potentially give the District an additional $400,000 over their projected revenues.

Donnell stated that the District has not received the official preliminary value statement from the assessor’s office and said the numbers could change again.

Donnell said that even with the potential increase in tax revenue, the District will still have barely enough funds to do what needs to be done; primarily upgrading outdated fire units.

The Assessor’s office gave a $3,204,549,974.00 valuation for 2021 back in July, which was the number used by the District to project their figures. New assessment numbers will not be out for several more weeks.

In 2022, based on the Assessor’s July figures, the District would receive a projected $3,506,519.46 at the approved Levy rate of $1.10 per thousand of valuation. In 2023, it would receive a projected $3,435,337.00 at a $1.07 per thousand.

If the Levy fails, in 2022, the District would receive a projected $2,467,503.40 at the current $.78 cents per thousand.

If the voters decide to fail the levy lid lift (the first request for a funding increase in 15 years), the District would struggle to maintain the needed level of service and it would potentially result in having to let some personnel go.

Chelan’s EMS at Lake Chelan Health had no problem increasing their levy amount in order to purchase two new ambulances to replace the ambulances that are beyond their life span.

Chelan Fire District also has equipment that has reached or will reach its life span. The Fire District’s property owners deserve the best service.

With more and more properties being developed in the Lake Chelan Valley in the urban/wildland interface, the importance of having a well trained professional staff and volunteer base is necessary.

No one wants to relive the horrors of the 2015 Chelan Complex when South Chelan was in danger of being destroyed. This year’s wildfire in the 25-Mile Creek drainage could have been devastating to the homes on the South Shore and First Creek if it had been allowed to cross over into those two drainages.

Your YES vote guarantees continued quality service. If, for some reason, you vote NO on Proposition 1, be assured that Chelan Fire and Rescue will continue to respond to emergencies, but probably at much lower service level.

Hospital board approved a resolution to un-surplus the current facility for future use

by Richard Uhlhorn

The Lake Chelan Community Hospital Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution to un-surplus the current hospital building. “We need to rescind that building because we are planning on using it,” said Board Chair Mary Murphy.

The current facility will remain in the ownership of the Lake Chelan Community Hospital and will be used to house administrative offices, the clinic and EMS
amongst other potential functions.

When the voters first approved the building of the new hospital, its projected space was large enough to accommodate all the district’s needs. However, over the years since the new building was approved by the voters. it has been downsized for a number of reasons.

The current hospital will be utilized by the district for administration offices, EMS and potentially, the walk-in clinic.

Jeremy Jaech asked what the purpose of surplus the building was in the first place? Murphy replied that the district had planned on selling the building and used the profits for other things needed by the hospital. “We were going to do everything we needed at the new campus until we had to scale back,” said Murphy.

HeritageHeights:

CEO George Rohrich told the board that he and Mary Signorelli met with Timi Starkweatehr and that the facility was not making any moves to obtain a loan until November. “There is no urgency now,” said Rohrich. “When we get all the information, we will bring it back to the board.”

Capital Equipment:

EMS Director Ray Eickmeyer sought approval from the board to order two new ambulances.

EMS Director Ray Eickmeyer recommended that the board approve the purchase of two new ambulances. “We have one 27 year old ambulance we can’t purchase parts for anymore and a 20 year old ambulance that also needs replacing,” Eickmeyer told the board. “We won’t see the new ambulances for at least 365 days.” He explained that the issue was the non-availability of computer chips in the vehicle manufacturing industry.

“I know these are expensive but I’m asking that you consider ordering,” said Eickmeyer. He added that waiting to order would increase the price by 12% or another $30,000 each. The board approved the purchase.

Jeremy asked if the new levy funds covered the cost of the ambulances? Eickmeyer replied that the levy did indeed have the costs covered. The old ambulances would be sold; the older one to a person and the 20-year old one to a smaller fire department.

“We’ve got every ounce of life out of these,”said Eickmeyer. The average life of an ambulance is ±20 years depending on a number of variables.

FINANCE REPORT:

C. Cornwell presented the July financial report. $3.38 million was forgiven from the CARES monies, and LCH expects $2.6 million back from the cost report. The Finance Committee is recommending engagement of a service contract with Kronos for accounts payable and HR functions, as well as scheduling and additional services interchangeable within the two contenders for EHR. If approved the rollout is expected to take six months.

CFO Cheryl Cornwell said a contract with one of the two proposals would help improve the hospital’s revenue, “if we ever get out of the COVID Pandemic.”

Along with increasing the hospital’s revenue, Cornwell said they need to “make sure our revenue cycle is healthy.”

FACILITIES REPORT:

The new facility is taking shape and is on schedule.

Rohrich stated that the new hospital in on schedule and that there were no large value change orders in August.

“The Facilities Plan is moving forward and in 30 to 60 days we will know the costs,” said Rohrich. The plan will also indicate who is going to sit where.

Chelan Fire and Rescue moving foward with succession plan

By Richard Uhlhorn

Chelan Fire and Rescue is expecting $170,000+ in State Mobilization money with $100,000 of that from equipment used on the wildland fires. “None of this would have been possible without our volunteers,” said Chief Mark Donnell. It was also reported that Marine 71 was hired for work on the Twenty Five Mile Fire and has earned $4,000, which will go into the Marine 71 budget.

The department responded to 117 calls in August which is 12 percent higher over last year. Fifty-two percent of the calls were medical in nature. Forty seven percent were non-transport issues.

            Advanced Life Support                                     11

            Basic Life Support                                            17

            Non-Transport                                                 43

“Lake Chelan Health and Confluence are in crisis mode,” said Donnell. “There is a huge influx of people coming in from Idaho.”

Donnell stated that turnout has been pretty good. The one loss in the Shady Pass area was the old 1917 Hale House that had an estimated worth of $526,000. The loss to the district in revenues is $340.88.

He said that the current estimated cost of the 25-Mile Fire is $20 Million. Structural assessments on structures on the South Shore were completed in 2013 and 2015. A lot of effort went into protecting those structures from the possibility of the fire reaching them from Shady Pass to First Creek.

The current state mandate for vaccinations has Donnell concerned that the District could lose some volunteers. “We are wanting to tweek the language for exemptions,” he said. “We hear some people would leave (if vaccinations were required).” Donnell said the exemptions would not affect the career staff who would be required to obtain vaccine status or an exemption or face the possibility of dismissal with the opportunity to hire them back.

Current Fire Chief Mark Donnell is planning on retiring at the end of December, and then mentoring Interim Chief Brandon Asher as needed through his
6 month to 12 month internship as Chief

Donnell reported that the City has taken over the maintenance of fire hydrants.

Assistant Chief Brandon Asher reported that two firefighters have taken retirement and another two have moved out of the area. Training has focused on wildland fires. “With the 25-Mile Fire we are starting to get a good baseline for wildfire.” He said the District was able to field a full Strike Team with equipment for six days on the 25-Mile Fire.

The firefighters have been testing hose and will be trained on the new portable radios which are programmable. He has also been in contact  with Chelan County Fire District 1 regarding a recruit academy.

Fire Fighter Association:

Dan Crandall reported that the association had no expenses in August, deposited $238.50 bringing the associations bank balance to $32,507.88. “We voted to donate $1,000 to the family that lost their home and all their belongings,” said Crandall. The association also decided to purchase all the candy for Halloween. He added that the associations website is up and being updated daily.

Fire Alarm Issue:

Donnell said that the Fire Alarm issue continues with a number of false alarms. Chelan Resort has so far had 22 false alarms. “We are creating a program to encourage businesses to work on their fire alarm systems.” Donnell said the District would respond to the first false alarm for free, but after that it would go to $50 for the second alarm and then up to $200 for the third alarm. “This money can go back to help fix the problem. It doesn’t penalize them.” He stated that Chelan Resorts is not moving as fast as he would like. “We don’t have a big problem with false alarms with the exception of Chelan Resorts,” said Donnell.

Budget:

Donnell said he and Asher would be meeting one-on-one with the board members to go over the two budget scenarios; one if the levy passes and the other if it doesn’t.

If Proposition 1 passes the annual budget for 2022 would be $3.1 million dollars and if it doesn’t, the budget would drop to $2.25 million.

Commissioner Russ Jones remarked that just because assessments go up, doesn’t mean a big increase in revenue for the District which is allowed to only increase by 1 percent per year.

Donnell stated that Asher will be leading the commissioners through the budget process as a part of his upcoming administrative duties.

Prop. 1 Public Relations:

The District is preparing a video that will be used to show a unified leadership within the Department and a message that shows that Chelan Fire & Rescue is an All-Hazard Department, not just a fire department.

In addition, a direct mailer is being prepared to send to District residents explaining the Levy.

The District will be using social media outlets to get its word out to the public.

They are also planning on a Community Coffee hour at the Vogue, Apple Cup and other locations so residents within the district can visit and ask questions of Chief Donnell, Assistant Chief Asher and Board members.

There is an October 4 Candidate’s Forum being planned and the District will be able to have levy information available.

Succession Plan:

Assistant Chief Brandon Asher has been selected to become Interim Fire Chief when Chief Mark Donnell retires at the end of December.

Donnell told the board that he is giving Asher more and more administrative responsibilities as they move towards Chief Donnell’s retirement date.

The Succession Plan looks like this:

  • Promote Assistant Chief Asher to Interim Chief effective January 1, 2022.
  • Chief Donnell would take an Executive Officer role to mentor Chief Asher in developing the necessary administrative strengths.
  • Leave the Assistant Chief Position open
  • Assign a Captain to a Day Captain position
  • Promote one Firefighter/EMT to Captain
  • Hire one additional Firefighter/EMT to cover the seventh position (which would reduce Overtime hours)
  • Chief Donnell would contract with the District at an hourly rate.

Donnell told the commissioners that his intent is not to rack up a number of hours, but just to help Chief Asher as needed.

The District also plans on conducting a Feasibility Study to analyze the possibility of an Interlocal Agreement with Manson Fire District #5 and Lake Chelan Health’s EMS department.

Chairman Phil Moller stated he sees no reason not to conduct the feasibility study.

Commissioner Jones said he doesn’t mind looking at a study either. Moller replied that it might bring the Lake Chelan community together. “What are the pros… what are the cons? All we are asking is, ‘What if’.”

City introduced to new director of the Lake Chelan Housing Trust

by Richard Uhlhorn

Outgoing executive director of the Lake Chelan Housing Trust introduced his replacement to City Council on Tuesday evening, September 14, and asked the council for the City’s continued partnership with the Trust.

Outgoing executive director Mike Cooney introduced the new director to the City Council at last Tuesday night’s meeting.

Steve Wilkinson told the Council that he is currently employed by the South Central Kansas Economic Development District with a budget of $1.2 million dollars. Wilkinson worked as a commercial banker in Whatcom County for a number of years.

Steve Wilkinson will be taking over the directorship of the
Lake Chelan Housing Trust on October 1

He told the council to allow him to ask questions. “I want to learn. Partnerships have allowed me to have success.” His focus as the new executive directorship of the Housing Trust will be to work with young people who work in Chelan, but can’t afford to live in Chelan.

Cooney reported that Anderson Village has all the necessary components working including the engineering and architectural components. The new affordable housing development on Anderson Road will include 45 homes, a community garden, trails and other amenities. They will sell for $200,000 to $250,000 each to individuals who can qualify for financing. “We hope to start building next fall.” said Cooney.

Cooney then requested $50,000 of the $61,000 that has been provided by the Lookout from homes sold. The Lookout donates $1,000 from every home sold. “We are seeking a one time exemption for engineering and design costs,” said Cooney.

Councilman John Olson asked Cooney how many inquiries the Housing Trust received on the Emerson Estates development. Cooney replied that it was between 50 and 60 per home.

Wilkinson will assume his duties as executive director on October 1.

Sheriff’s Department Contract:

Sheriff Brian Burnett brought back a revised contract for the City to accept.

Sheriff Brian Burnett was back at City Council via ZOOM explaining that there were some errors in the budget calculations for the upcoming 2022-2025 contract with the City.

“There were some wrong calculations that came from another city’s budget that didn’t get caught,” explained Burnett. The Council was presented with the newly corrected agreement for their consideration. It does include some increases, mostly due to increase salaries and benefits.

Councilman Chris Baker asked Burnett about the lack of a SRO program and if anything was being done to correct that situation. Burnett replied that the program was an on-going arbitration process between the department and the bargaining unit. “We are hopeful. We have a moving target with the school district,” he said. “No one wants it (the program) more and we are doing everything we can to resolve the issues.” The issues, of course, are the State’s mandate that every staff member be vaccinated, or obtain a medical or religious exemption. “We will keep everybody informed.”

Councilman Peter Jamtgaard brought up the issue of the department’s Marine Patrol and marine safety on the lake. “There is a level of patrol concerns,” said Jamtgaard. He said that the department and City have kicked the can down the road and that a final solution to the issue needs to be found.

Burnett replied that it is an on-going topic within the department. “There are so many more people visiting the lake that it will probably take two more people to make a dent in the situation.”

Jamtgaard suggested that the Marine Patrol stagger its patrol periods so the perpetrators on the water would never know when they were going to show up. “People learn when you are out there. Surprise patrols would make it a little more unpredictable.”

During the Citizen’s Comment period a local resident  talked about missing buoys and the problem of personal watercraft users cruising inside the no wake zone at speed creating a dangerous situation for swimmers. Duane and Dixie Baker also submitted a letter detailing the same issues. “Over the past four years, we and our neighbors have been calling the Marine Patrol, City Hall, and the Mayor, in an on-going attempt to address this situation to no avail,” the Bakers wrote.

Mayor Goedde said the City was looking into the issue. Councilman Ty Witt asked Burnett if the City gets a report on the number of tickets given on the water. Burnett replied that certain violations like reckless driving would be ticketed. He added that in 2020 the department saw a 10 percent increase in visitation. He said that the big violators come from the rental companies and that education would be helpful.

The Council unanimously approved the revamped contract.

Golf Course:

Parks Director Paul Horne asked the Council to accept and authorize the Mayor to finalize and execute an agreement with Mears Design Group to assess the Lake Chelan Golf Course Irrigation System. “This project would assess the irrigatino sstem and all components of it,” said Horne.

Councilman Tim Hollingsworth asked if there hadn’t been an assessment recently. Horne replied that an assessment of the irrigation system hasn’t been done for a number of years and that everything has changed in how it is operated by a controller. This project agreement was unanimously agreed to.

Capital Budget Financing update:

Finance Director Steve Thornton explained and transmitted information to the Council concerning the upcoming 2022 budget and 2022-2026 CIP proposals.

Several notable Council priorities are funded in the 2022 -2026 Proposed CIP. These include:

1. Public Works Administration and Engineering Building – $900,000 is requested in 2022 to complete (total funding $2,520,000).

2. Parks Maintenance Building, parking lot and restrooms -$2,640,100 requested in 2022 to complete (total funding $3,168,808). Assumes receipt of $400K in REET Funds Oct – December.

3. Lakeshore Access / Road Ends Pocket Parks – $150,000 per year requested 2022-2026. Project funding available for use in 2022 of $300,000 including 2019 and 2020 appropriations.

4. Lakeside Park RKO Grant Project – $500,000 grant match previously appropriated and 2022 RKO grant funding of up to $500,000.

5. Street and Sidewalk Projects – $260,000 combined annual funding 2022-2026 requested. Increased from an annual appropriation of $90,000 per year.

6. Downtown Restroom Improvements – $40,000

7. Skateboard Park – $1,600,000. $100,000 local fund match 2022 and 2023 $50K per year). Balance of funding through grants and / or capital campaign.

8. Sewer System Projects – $10,179,328 project funding requested 2022-2026. Funded through user rates, GFC’s, revenue bonds, and Lake Chelan Sewer District and Lake Chelan Reclamation District cost sharing. The projects address aging infrastructure and system growth demands.

9. Water System Projects – $10,762,473 project funding requested 2022-2026. Funded through user rates, GFC’s, and revenue bonds. The projects address aging infrastructure and system growth demands.

Mayor/Council Comments:

Ty Witt reported that the glass recycling project has crushed 20 ton of glass in its first two months.

Tim Hollingsworth remarked that talk about recreational facilities had made good progress. He also mentioned the importance of partnerships with the Housing Trust.

Servando Robledo said the finance information was good, but a little bit early.

Chris Baker said he is interested in the upcoming Citizen’s feedback to find out what everyone is interested in.

John Olson stated that the City’s workshop with Washington’s City Insurance Authority was terrific. He stated that the City doesn’t have a public participation plan but needs one. He also stated it was time to discuss a moratorium on development. “We need to consider that.”

Chelan Valley Housing Trust Hires New Executive Director

CHELAN –Chelan Valley Housing Trust (CVHT) announced the hiring of new Executive Director Steven Wilkinson to lead Lake Chelan’s active community housing trust. Wilkinson will succeed outgoing Executive Director and founder Mike Cooney who served the attainable housing nonprofit organization since its inception in 2018.

Cooney was at the forefront of developing the Lake Chelan Housing Trust and when hired as its executive director, Cooney stated he would commit to the job for two years. With his two years ending in October. Cooney and the board began seeking his replacement.

Steven Wilkinson was selected to take over the reins of the Housing Trust.

“I am very excited to be a part of this outstanding organization,” says Wilkinson. “Getting to know Mike Cooney and the board has shown me how absolutely passionate they are about providing housing that is affordable to families who work in the Lake Chelan valley.”

Steve Wilkinson

CVHT Board President Tim Hollingsworth says the hiring of Wilkinson is a function of scaling the organization for larger and more complex projects. “Steve’s background in banking, housing and fundraising is going to help our organization grow to the next level. With the potential of developing 100 homes in the next 5 to 7 years, his expertise going forward will be invaluable.”

Wilkinson was a commercial banker for many years in Whatcom County WA providing crucial capital to local businesses. Most recently Mr. Wilkinson was the Executive Director of the South Central Kansas Economic Development District (SCKEDD) a mission-oriented nonprofit established to enhance the economic vitality, community infrastructure, and housing quality in south central Kansas. “We financed new innovative business ventures, assisted local communities in attaining crucial economic development grants, renovated residential properties and provided weatherization assistance to low-income households located in 41 southern Kansas counties,” says Wilkinson.

Wilkinson will assume the Executive Director position beginning October 1, 2021.

Cooney stated that his decision to step down after two years was to spend more time with family, particularly his grand children. “I have a lot to do over the last two months,” said Cooney. He will be busy with Wilkinson’s transition and then will continue at whatever level the board sees fit when Wilkinson takes over.

Mike Cooney

“This position has been extremely gratifying. It has been great working with everyone,” said Cooney. “I don’t want to see any momentum lost.”

The Chelan Valley Housing Trust’s Mission is to develop stable and secure housing that is affordable to Manson and Chelan area residents.

chelanvalleyhousing.org

Chelan schools working with staff on vaccination mandate

by Richard Uhlhorn

The Lake Chelan School District enjoyed a successful ‘back to school week’ culminating in a season opening football game, soccer game and volleyball jamboree.

At a board meeting on August 31, the first day of school, Superintendent Barry DePaoli told the board that the first day of school “felt a lot more like normal.”

Despite the successful return to school for students, teachers and staff, there are still some major issues to overcome.

State wide mandated vaccine requirements for all teachers and staff unless they receive either a medical or religious exemption is a serious issue because there are employees who are concerned about getting the vaccine. According to the vaccine requirement, any employee who doesn’t obtain fully vaccinated status by October 16, and/or obtains a medical or religious exemption, could be let go.

DePaoli stated during a telephone interview that the District cannot afford to lose one employee. “Just losing a bus driver would require rerouting kids,” said DePaoli. “I am working with staff and will meet with them individually or in groups to explain accommodations. We want to humanize the process.” He explained that part of the accommodation issue is how the District retains all staff.

The other issue facing the District, Manson, Entiat, Cashmere and Cascade is Sheriff Brian Burnett putting a hold on the School Resource Officer (SRO) program. “Brian is in touch with us on this issue.” The Sheriff’s Department will patrol the school areas but not enter into the popular SRO program because of the State Mandate for vaccinations for all State employees.

Burnett put out a press release stating that he feels it is unconstitutional for the Governor to place mandates on agencies and businesses. “It’s a frustration because he is playing politics with kids,” said DePaoli. “It is detrimental to our schools to not have a SRO on board.”

The SRO program is fully funded by both the Chelan and Manson School Districts and the City of Chelan at a cost of approximately $120,000 a year. “It’s a pretty large amount which is why we share the cost.”

The major benefits of the SRO program is the influence a SRO has on the students. “The SRO and kids build good relationships.” DePaoli remarked that Burnett was an SRO before becoming Sheriff.

The District added 41 new students in the high school, lost 27 to withdrawals which gave them a gain of 14. Running Start has 18 versus the 30 in that program last year which DePaoli is thankful for. Running Start students take state money with them. It was reported that the Chelan School of Innovation has 25 students enrolled.

The next school board meeting will be held on Tuesday, September 14.

Public parks forum draws 40

Lakerider is a concession at Don Morse Park that rents paddle boards and kayaks.

by Richard Uhlhorn

An estimated crowd of 40 Chelan residents attended the August 25, Wednesday evening’s public forum on Community Parks & Recreation Strategic/Master Plan process.

An estimated crowd of 40 people joined and weighed in at the Public Forum last Wednesday on the process leading to a Strategic/Master Plan for Chelan’s public parks

“This process is the most important thing for the future of our parks,” said Paul Horne, parks director for the City. Art Thatcher, principal investigator with Greenplay, the City’s consultant at developing a new Master Plan for the parks said, “We want to engage the community. If you are not engaged in it, it will not be successful.”

Parks Director Paul Horne (sitting) listened intently to the comments residents made concerning the City’s public parks.

The focus groups and Wednesday’s public forum brought out a number of issues facing the parks system including but not limited to water access to the lake; safety and security; long term/year round use; water quality; a robust athletic program for the community’s youth that includes baseball, softball, volleyball, basketball and soccer; and parking.

Joe Harris remarked that Don Morse gave the property to the City for the youth. “Don was committed to the youth of this community,” said Harris who hopes to see that vision reinstate itself in the new master plan.

“WHAT COULD BE!” That’s the question? Greenplay LLC and BWA (architects) have their work could out before coming up with a final plan and cost estimate in February.

There are four more opportunities for the community and tourist/visitors to engage in the process. The first will be a survey sent out to the citizens of Chelan. After that, an on-line survey will be available for those wishing to comment. “It will be five or six weeks for the survey to be mailed out,” said Horne.

Don Morse Park from the air.

The Parks Department is preparing a website for the process which will be on-line soon.

“WHAT COULD BE!” That’s the question? Greenplay LLC and BWA (architects) have their work could out before coming up with a final plan and cost estimate in February.

Check out the entire PowerPoint that was used to present the work so far.

https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?shva=1#inbox?projector=1

Hospital asks city for financial rebate of $600,000

by Richard Uhlhorn

Editorial Correction: Lake Chelan Health has requested a correction to this article’s first sentence that indicated they had financial issues. In looking back through notes taken at the City Council meeting, it should be noted that Wade Ferris, city administrator, introduced CEO George Rohrich and made the statement that the hospital had run into financial issues.

The hospital administration pointed out that they were not requesting financial help, even though its request asks the City if it could provide financial relief.

In its email requesting the correction, the hospital stated that the request to the City Council was for consideration of a rebate, refund or reinvestment back into the community.

During the council discussion regarding the request, it was determined that City Attorney Quentin Batjar would look into the legalities of an intergovernmental transfer or other legal methods to give back.

Hospital request:

Hospital CEO George Rohrich visited Chelan City Council and asked them to consider rebating $600,000 in fees and property taxes to financially help the hospital out.

In one of the more bizarre requests for money from the City, Lake Chelan Health’s CEO George Rohrich told the City Council that the hospital had run into some financial issues and the Hospital was seeking relief from the City.

“The (new building) project is on schedule and on budget,” said Rohrich. He asked the City for consideration in helping the hospital out financially.

The ask was for $630,000, $330,000 of which has already been paid for water & sewer hookup fees and another estimated $300,000 in city sales taxes for construction and equipment.

Tim Hollingsworth asked if the hospital paid property taxes and if there was any provision they could consider to rebate some of the money paid.

City Attorney Quentin Batjar said he thought they could do it as an intergovernmental transfer, but it would have to be done on the legislative side legally.

Erin McCardle stated that any refund of water and sewer hookup fees would be passed on to the rate payers. “Hookup fees impact customers down the road,” she said.

Hollingsworth remarked that the existing hospital might be a way to justify a rebate. “We don’t know how that building will be used or even if it will be used.” (The hospital will be using the old hospital for certain functions like EMS, Business Office and other potential uses).

Peter Jamtgaard remarked that the hospital is a social asset to the city. He wondered if there could be grants to help the hospital’s financial issue.

Ty Witt stated that he was for anything the City could do to legally help the hospital. “I think the municipality should be involved.” Finance Chief Steve Thornton stated that he didn’t know of any legal way to help and would leave that up to the city attorney to address.

Batjer remarked that in the broader terms, maybe the city could think outside the box on this issue.

Hollingsworth asked how the money would be used if rebated. Witt said it would be used to purchase new equipment which is as important as the new building

City Administrator Wade Ferris asked the Council members to forward their suggestions and questions on the issue.

Sheriff’s Services Contract :

Chelan County Sheriff Brian Burnett was on hand at the council meeting to answer any questions the council members had concerning the proposed contract.

Sheriff Brian Burnett was on hand to answer any questions concerning the Sheriff’s Department’s new law enforcement services agreement at the Tuesday, August 24, City Council meeting.

City Administrator Wade Ferris stated that the City has a good working relationship with the Sheriff’s Department. Burnett assured the council that, “If it is not working for either one of the groups, we will come back and discuss.” He also stated that the department had a number of changes coming at them in a fast and furious manner.

Ty Witt stated that he knew the Sheriff’s Department job has gotten harder. He asked Sheriff Burnett if the space in Chelan was large enough. Burnett said it was.

Burnett told the council that the deputies now had individual tasers and the department was working on getting body cams. Witt said he thought they already had body cams and Burnett replied they didn’t. “We on have in-car cameras right now.”

Burnett explained that the Fourth of July crowds were surpassing all other major weekends. “In 2020 everyone was supposed to stay home.” He said 2020 had an eight percent up-tick in visitor ship and that 2021 even has a larger increase. “It’s more of a family weekend now.”

Tim Hollingsworth asked if six FTE’s was enough to fulfill the contract criteria particularly with the Marine Patrol issues. Burnett replied that there are two fulltime marine officers working Lake Chelan. He also stated that SAR (search and rescue operations) are going up, mostly in the Leavenworth area.

The City contract does not include the Rivercom charges. “It is not a part of this contract and we have been told that they won’t meet until October.”

Chris Baker was concerned that the City was not getting full market value. The Sheriff’s contract states that there would be 208 hours dedicated to foot and bicycle patrols. “I think the local kids would have a more favorable view of law enforcement if they interacted with deputies. I think it is important they get out of the car and walk up and down the street.” Burnett replied that 90 percent of those 208 hours out of the car were used during Memorial Day weekend.

Burnett also reported that Chelan has more calls to service than either Cashmere or Leavenworth. He also told the Council that the department was down eight percent on staff on the road because of light duty issues. “It is a big challenge.”

He sees the mandatory vaccination order as an issue also. “We will have issues with that,” said Burnett. “I’m not allowing the state to tell us where wego into the next week.”

Erin McCardle said it seemed they were missing something on the use of watercraft. “Do we need additional patrol out there,” she asked? “I was out on Sunday and there were jet skis in the river doing (high speed) circles. It’s happening everywhere.”

Burnett replied that it is a staffing issue. They work the lake from April to October with Nigel Hunger supervising the Marine Patrol efforts. “No, it isn’t enough,” said Burnett. “It’s a challenge.” He stated that they do get approximately $100,000 in grant money from State Parks.

The Council approved the 2022-2025 contract with the Sheriff’s Department.

Concessions:

With the lease for the Golf Course’s food concession up on December 31, Parks Director Paul Horne reached out to Coldwell Banker for help in attracting interested parties to apply for the concession in hopes that a new longer term lease will bring improvements to the kitchen and dining room areas along with a major increase in revenue.

“We are looking for well capitalized and friendly concessionaire,” said Horne. A few bullet points Coldwell Banker is working from follows:

  • The proposed services will evaluate potential candidates on their financial capacity, track record, menu, customer service potential and ability to staff the operation at optimal levels.
  • The goal is to enter a 5 to 10 ear lease with a well-qualified candidate.
  • Lease fees can be reinvested into the club house improvements to the kitchen and dining areas, which could be implemented by the tenant.
  • The proposal includes lease negotiations.

The hope is that a new concessionaire would bring a substantial increase in revenue.

The base fee with Coldwell Banker is $8,000 plus a 10 percent commission of the first year total gross lease value upon successful signing of a multi-year lease.

WSDOTBridge inspection of the WoodinAvenueBridge:

Public Works Director Jake Youngren told the Council that as the owner of the Woodin Avenue bridge, the City is required to make inspections to insure its integrity.

“We are not equipped to do this,” said Youngren. “We are going to have WSDOT provide these services.” WSDOT has the qualified personnel and equipment to conduct the inspection.

The inspection will take place this year (2021) and again in 2026 at a cost of $6,600. The City will provide any traffic control that might be needed.

Hospital gains financial ground

by Richard Uhlhorn

“We’ve had a great month,” said hospital commissioner Fred Miller regarding the hospital’s financial health.

CFO Cheryl Cornwell went on to report that the hospital received a lot of good news in August. “We’ve had $2 million forgiven which goes from the debt side to revenue side. That’s huge,” she said.

She added that the hospital will be receiving another $2.6 million back from Medicare for underpayments to the hospital. “This will also be recorded as revenue,” she said.

“I’m continuing to work on the $4 million CARES money. I’m hoping to get much or all of it forgiven.” Cornwell added that the hospital can’t count on that money until it is approved by the government.

She stated that Cash was trending down and receivables were trending back up. “That’s not good.” The emergency department, med-surgery and imaging departments are up but lab testing was down. Most lab tests were COVID related.

CEO Gorge Rohrich told the commission that people are seeing something happen at the new hospital’s location. “There is exciting stuff going on,” said Rohrich. “This Friday will be the day for the first concrete pour and structural steel will begin arriving.”

Rohrich gave the commission the transition’s draft Plan B and told Chair Mary Murphy that a final will be delivered at the next meeting. He also told the commission that he and several board members would be attending the City Council meeting that night to ask for some financial relief on the money already paid to the City.

The hospital will have a vaccination requirement and the commissioners are not included in that requirement. Staff with a medical exemption and/or a strong and proven religious reason to not get the vaccine will be allowed. La Porte apologized to the employees who have been living a life determined by others. “It’s like allowing someone else to take care of our health.”

HeritageHeights:

Rohrich asked the board for more time to finalize the lease extension beyond 2048 for Heritage Heights. He is struggling to arrive at what a rental price should be. “I want to develop it further and bring it back with a rental amount. I would appreciate any assistance.” Commissioner Mary Signorelli replied she would help him with that.

Commissioner Jordana La Porte remarked that she thought the hospital had helped pay for the Heritage Heights building, but Fred Miller said he was not aware of any funding or help provided by the hospital.

Signorelli said she remembers the Heights paying off any financial responsibility to the hospital. La Porte then brought up the fact that after the lease is over, the property reverts back to the hospital.

Rohrich added that once the lease period is over, the property does come back to the hospital including the building. Miller said the same issues that are facing the hospital now came up with the old hospital building below the current hospital but those issues disappeared when the Wenatchee Valley Housing Authority bought the building.

Strategic Planning:

The Hospital/Board/Community Strategic Planning session is planned for the 31st and will be held as a virtual meeting. “It’s not the time to be holding an in-person meeting, so it will be virtual.” Rohrich told the commissioners he needed another 15 to 20 stakeholder member names by Thursday. “Please do that today,” he requested.

Change order policy:

Rohrich stated he had worked through the change order policy and it would be coming to the commission for approval at its next board meeting.