Hospital board approves moving ahead with new hospital project

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by Richard Uhlhorn

At its Tuesday, July 28, meeting, the Lake Chelan Community Hospital’s Board of Commissioners discussed at length the issue of restarting the new Hospital Project.

The new hospital project has been on hold until the hospital can prove that it can afford to pay the bond which currently will cost the facility an estimated $165,000 per month. One hundred thousand dollars will go towards the bond payment monthly and the other $65,000 will be saved in reserve.

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Hospital CEO George Rohrich told his board of commissioners that he is very confident that the Hospital and Clinic can achieve enough business to afford to move forward with the construction project.

“I am very confident that we can achieve that, but I probably won’t be able to prove that (payment schedule) until the beginning of 2021,” said CEO George Rohrich. “I am recommending that the board restart the project,” he added.

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Commissioner Fred Miller was on board from the beginning
to restart the hospital project.

Commissioner Fred Miller agreed with Rohrich that at a minimum the hospital needs to move forward. Commissioner Jordana LaPorte asked if Rohrich was recommending a full start. Rohrich replied that he was recommending the project begin again. “We have two years to meet the debt,” said Rohrich. “We need to get together and decide and approve any design changes and get this (project) permitted.”

The bond for $20 million of the total $44.5 million (USDA loan) was voted in by District residents in April, 2017. Since that time the facility had been resized from the original plan to provide 54,000 sq. ft. It is now down to 45,000 sq. ft. to stay under the $44.5 million dollars.

In February, the board voted to pause design and construction for a period of six months at which point they would re-evaluate the District’s financial situation.

On August 24, at a special board meeting, the commissioners made the decision to shutter its Sanctuary drug and alcohol program which will help the hospital gain more square footage for new services and potentially save $3 million dollars in construction costs.

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Commissioner Jordana LaPorte is concerned with the
ongoing hospital financial picture.

LaPorte is very concerned with the financial outlook and whether or not the hospital will be underfunded. Fred Miller replied that they have to go to the next step to figure that out. Mary Signorelli added, “We will be looking at what needs to go into our facility. Give him (Rohrich) the green light to move forward.” She also stated that other decisions can be made at an upcoming workshop.

Rohrich told the board that they have to review the footprint now that the Sanctuary is no longer in play and also work the COVID environment into their decisions. “There will be multiple decisions for the board to consider,” said Rohrich.

LaPorte is concerned about the district having the revenue to pay for it. Mary Murphy is also concerned. “One hundred and sixty thousand dollars must be generated to pay the USDA loan,” she stated. “He (Rohrich) feels confident in trying to achieve that, but can’t really prove that until 2021.”

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Commissioner Mary Murphy wants to see evidence that the District will be able to pay $165,000 per month.

Murphy added that there were a number of issues not under Rohrich’s control including, but not limited to negative conditions relating to the pandemic; patients not coming to the hospital currently for health care; and the health industry at large facing big changes. “We know our bond rating has gone down again,” said Murphy. “We need to look at our service lines and I’m having trouble with this.”

“Are we going to be able to pay if the criteria is $160,000 per month. I need to see the evidence,” said Murphy.

Miller said, “We don’t have a crystal ball if we don’t move forward. George wants permission to move forward.”

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Commissioner Mary Signorelli said residents within the hospital district would like to see the board move ahead with the new hospital project.

Signorelli stated that she was not willing to become paralyzed over what the future holds. “People would like to see us move forward,” said Signorelli. “We have something to build on. Lets let the administration do their job.”

Rohrich said that approval to move forward would get the District and its designers back to designing. “There are a lot of approvals to come,” said Rohrich. “What I’ve asked for is to restart. We need to review the footprint and design.” He said he would come back to the board for budget approvals.

The board voted to approve moving forward with Mary Murphy the sole member of the board opposed.

The Board will convene a workshop sometime in September or October for a more meaningful report on the design.

City to limit capacity at city parks

by Richard Uhlhorn

Last night’s City Council meeting was well attended on line by locals who are concerned about the City’s overcrowded parks, parking safety, illegal parking, COVID-19, social distancing, masking and a reasonable solution to the ongoing weekend situation.

The Council meeting began at 6 p.m. with City Clerk Peri Gallucci reading 35 letters from concerned residents  and business owners of the Lake Chelan Valley. It took nearly 40 minutes to add these letters to the official record. Following is a link to the received letters: https://outlook.live.com/mail/inbox/id/AQMkADAwATExAGQ3NwAtYmNiZS1kMmZmAC0wMAItMDAKAEYAAANZkPpa3oCIT5Pp7CZkZz%2BBBwBtHxY6HOR8TqZ3%2FZiGTLlUAAACAQwAAABtHxY6HOR8TqZ3%2FZiGTLlUAAO1Qii9AAAA/sxs/AQMkADAwATExAGQ3NwAtYmNiZS1kMmZmAC0wMAItMDAKAEYAAANZkPpa3oCIT5Pp7CZkZz%2BBBwBtHxY6HOR8TqZ3%2FZiGTLlUAAACAQwAAABtHxY6HOR8TqZ3%2FZiGTLlUAAO1Qii9AAAAARIAEAARDgba1G4eQpOPNTjUfOL0

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City Administrator Wade Ferris

City Administrator Wade Ferris opened the discussion on proposed action for possible solutions for overcrowding and illegal parking. “This is not a simple issue,” Ferris said. He added that the Council needs to work on a long-term solution which will probably not please everyone. Ferris said he and Paul Horne, parks director, have been working with the Parks Director, the Sheriff’s Department and other parks seeking solutions.

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Parks Director Paul Horne

Horne remarked that check points and park closures when they reach capacity are options being considered. This would include barricades at Lakeside Park and the Don Morse main gate with private security personnel on hand. Ferris said that private security personnel would be from the same company that provides the PUD with security.

Volunteer staff was also mentioned, but that would require some training. Horne said six people would be needed at Lakeside and four at Don Morse Park. Sign boards would also be used to eliminate a lot of confusion.

Parking violations fines would be increased to $75 and a potential increase of parking fees from $15 to $20. The violation fee would also be made applicable to those visitors parking illegally on Hwy. 97A.

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Sgt. Chris Foreman

Sgt. Chris Foreman was on-line and thanked the City for inviting him. He stated that the problem was very complicated. “I’m here. I want to do what I can,” said Foreman.

Mayor Goedde remarked that this issue isn’t something that just popped up. “It is an issue with the PUD and State Parks,” said Goedde.

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Mayor Bob Goedde

Each Council member addressed the issue:

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Councilmember Tim Hollingsworth

Tim Hollngsworth said, “People are worried about COVID and a lot of the problems in the parks.” He added that residents he has talked to are also concerned about closing the system on the weekends. “Residents do need the parks,” said Hollingsworth. “Our responsibility is to get our arms around managing the parks. It is a weekend issue. I would like to focus on the weekends.” He added that parking on the highway is a big safety concern. “We need to put some pressure on the State Patrol and DOT. That (hwy parking) is probably the biggest safety issue we’ve got.”

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Councilmember Servando Robledo

Servando Robledo said he would like to see more control and feels that parking is a big issue. “I am not really in favor of closing parks. They are going to go elsewhere,” said Robledo. He stated that the City needs more control of its parks, but doesn’t want to see staff put at risk.

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Councilmember Ray Dobbs

Ray Dobbs said he had done a walkabout on the Fourth of July and last Saturday. “It was a different crowd,” said Dobbs. He felt that the crowds at the park were down at least 20 percent from the Fourth and that most were families.

Dobbs mentioned State Park’s precedent to limit the number of people accessing their facility. “It is a solution that makes sense to me,” said Dobbs. He also added that limiting access to the park would go a long way to solving the ongoing parking issues.

Dobbs also asked where the fees for parking fines go. Currently that money goes to the Wenatchee court system. Mayor Goedde said that if the current $25 fine covers the court’s costs, then how much they receive from the $75 fine needs to be negotiated.  “I am strongly in favor of limiting access to closing the parks,” said Goedde.

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Councilmember John Olson

John Olson brought a little history into the discussion. He mentioned the old late 50s Apple Cup Hydroplane races that got out of control and therefore was cancelled because of the problems. “We are starting to approach those numbers again,” said Olson. He said he has also talked with residents and most were against closing the parks. “More enforcement is essential.”

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Councilmember Erin McCardle

Erin McCardle said she appreciates all of the staff at the Parks Department and the work they do. Her issue was kicking the problem down the road by closing the parks. “You would be pushing them to other parks,” said McCardle. “We need more staff in our parks… three to four times as many. There isn’t even enough staff to pickup garbage and no parking enforcement.”

McCardle is also concerned with the lack of social distancing. She mentioned that the Chamber has 12,000 paper masks that could be handed out to park visitors. She also said there have been a lot of visitors at the Chamber who said they had never been to Chelan. “I’m not in favor of closing. We need a well thought out capacity plan.”

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Councilmember Peter Jamtgaard

Peter Jamtgaard added that speed limits need to be changed at the entrance to Chelan on 97A and that drinking in parks needs to stop. “The parks have stopped being a safe place for families to go,” said Jamtgaard. He also stated that the weekends begin on Friday afternoon and don’t die down until late Sunday afternoon when people begin to travel home.

Jamtgaard said the City needs to keep the parks open and utilize wrist bands for local access to them.

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Councilmember Ty Witt

Ty Witt said he supports everything that the other council members had already added to the discussion. He asked what is the City’s legal ability to charge out of town visitors to the park system. “Can we set up a fee for visitor entry,” asked Witt?

Witt also stated that the City and/or Sheriff’s Department needs to enforce parking. “Do we need someone to die out there again (Hwy. 97A)?”

Charging visitors access to the parks brought up the question about RCO (Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office) criteria to charging visitors. The RCO gave a $1 million dollar grant to the City for the beaches and marina. City Attorney Quentin Batjar said he didn’t know that answer to that. “I would have to look at the documents to see if it came with strings attached.”

When it comes to liability, Batjar mentioned the State’s Recreational Immunity statute that protects cities, the state and individual property owners from liability issues.

Mayor Goedde asked if the City could use some of the 3% tax money to ask potential visitors to not come to Chelan right now.

McCardle immediately said that a lot of downtown businesses would be upset with that.

Goedde feels that media ads in Seattle would be helpful in letting potential visitors know that Chelan is having a problem with overcrowding and the pandemic. He also said that the City would get the word out to the Wenatchee area including the Latino population.

Other issues included the illegal alcohol use in the parks and jumping off the bridge. The City is looking at making the use of alcohol in the parks into a criminal offense not just a misdemeanor. Jamtgaard suggested that some organization could set up a beer garden in the park to make some money.

Details of what the City will end up doing to limit capacity at the park will be made in the next week. Some of the issues are allowing locals access even though the parking lot is full. Hollingsworth said, “We need details. We need to think this through. We have to let local residents in to the parks.” Ferris suggested a wrist ban from the parks office for locals. Also access for the RV park would also be required.

One idea that came out of the meeting was a big sign along Hwy. 97A that informs those who would park illegally that it will cost them a $75 and a $500 towing fee if they get towed to Entiat.

City Council will be holding a Workshop on Tuesday, August 4, to discuss Golf Course issues along with how security and capacity has worked out this coming weekend. The meeting is accessible to the public through Lake Chelan Now and will begin at 4 p.m.

Clinic saved from closure… will be resized

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by Richard Uhlhorn

The Hospital Board of Commissioners held a special meeting on Friday, July 24 to discuss the future operation of both the Sanctuary and the Clinic, both of which have not been profitable hospital enterprises.

The Sanctuary is currently being used as a swing bed facility to take on patients during the ongoing COVID pandemic.

The Clinic has not operated profitably since the Hospital purchased it.

CEO George Rohrich said during the meeting, “A lot of things fell short of leadership… we are fixing that.”

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CEO George Rohrich

With respect to the Sanctuary, it cannot be reopened until the Governor declares the health emergency is over or the hospital retains 20 percent of bed capacity idle. Reopening would be at least 12 months out. However, closing the Sanctuary would have an impact on the new facility. “Removing that wing has a potential saving of $3 million,” said Rohrich.

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Chairperson Phyliss Gleasman said, “It appears to me tht we are throwing up our hands and throwing in the towel. Cutting, cutting, cutting is all I hear. I think we need to provide services,” she said. Gleasman added that no one in the region is offering the services provided by the Sanctuary. “I just don’t want to give up.”

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Commissioner Mary Murphy added that she is always concerned about losing services, but that with a changing reimbursement issue that the hospital can’t control, it is hard to operate. Commissioner Jordana LaPorte added that the community doesn’t, with few exceptions, use the Sanctuary. “New services are a much better idea,” LaPorte added.

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Commissioner Mary Signorelli wanted a study to address the services they would lose. LaPorte said private pay won’t pay for 30-day in-patient services. “Private pay only pays for out-patient services.”

Rohrich said he was looking for guidance from the commission. “Should we continue or discontinue,” he asked.

The commission voted to shutter the Sanctuary and have the direct leadership look into a new program that would provide out-patient services.

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Clinic:

CEO Rohrich opened the Clinic discussion about operating at a loss when the leadership at Columbia Valley Community Health is providing high quality care. “We need to have an upbeat conversation with a joint adhoc committee of both boards,” said Rohrich. He said he is a big proponent of urgent care and that there are desires to have an urgent care facility in Manson.

Rohrich provided a power point graph that had three options:

  1. Close down the Clinic and firm up a partnership with CVCH;
  2. Right size the Clinic to reduce the losses; and
  3. Leave the Clinic as it is.

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Commissioner Mary Murphy said, “I would like to look at right sizing. Right size for our community.” However she worried that it they would lose the 340B program which offers discounted prices on drugs.

Gleasman asked what the Hospital can do to recapture patients at the Clinic? Devon Ehlert, CCOO, replied that a marketing plan was needed. Augustin Benegas, the hospital’s marketing director added that a marketing plan is in the works.

Rohrich said there were many things the Hospital hasn’t done well and could do better at. “Getting to a break even point (at the Clinic) in a couple of years is problematic.”

Signorelli added that closing the Clinic is not a good idea at this time. She worries about a new business coming to the community and opening up in direct competition. “We need to explore what we have,” she said. Fred Miller added that the Clinic has been managed poorly with no marketing. “We should improve our act and do our jobs properly. We are not at a point of closing it… there are two many options available.”

Rohrich said that the commission should look at resizing the Clinic and get the bottom line to zero. Miller told Rohrich that it needs resizing and said Rohrich needs to help them figure it out. Gleasman wants the staff at the Clinic to offer their ideas about resizing also.

In the end the Commission directed the administration to right size the Clinic and Mary Murphy stated that they would like to see significant improvement over the next six to eight months. “Looking at the financials is very critical on a month to month basis.” Miller added that as long as right sizing is not closing it down.

The Hospital Commission will be discussing re-starting the new Hospital Project on Tuesday, July 28. The regularly scheduled meeting will begin at 1:30 and last until approximately 3:30 p.m. The public is invited to listen in on Zoom at:

https://lcch.zoom.us/j/92905345260?pwd=OS9NUThEQzIFUIRBOWNOTOZyWmZYQT09.

Local Parks feeling tremendous pressure from visitors to the Valley

by Richard Uhlhorn

Overcrowding at local parks has the City of Chelan, Chelan County PUD and State Parks seeking measures to alleviate issues such as social distancing, masking, garbage, safety and overcrowding.

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Overcrowding at Don Morse Park in Chelan has not lessened since the fourth of July.

Mayor Bob Goedde is frustrated. Residents are frustrated. Many would like to see the local parks shut down. “The best option I can come up with is closing Don Morse and Lakeside on the weekends,” said Goedde. “Locals are not using the parks. It is tourists from out of town.”

The other problem is the total lack of responsibility taken by these visitors to Chelan’s park system. “Randy at Public Works reported that they removed 90 cubic yards of compacted garbage from the park this past weekend.”

Goedde is proposing to closed Don Morse and Lakeside Parks beginning on August 1. “My aim is to see if the Council agrees with this,” said Goedde. “I don’t want any surprises on Tuesday night (Regular Council Meeting).”

Goedde also called Ryan Baker (parks director) at Chelan County PUD to warn him of potential park closures. Baker, who had just had a meeting concerning PUD Park issues, thanked Goedde.

During a subsequent call from Baker, he described issues at Beebe Park which has been full all summer since the PUD opened it on June 11. “We are dealing with a lot of challenges,” said Baker. “We are seeing large amounts of people at Beebe Bridge Park and are getting 30 to 40 cars lining up to come in.” Staff has informed him that cars are now lining up on the highway. Baker has consulted with Law Enforcement on this issue.

Vehicles are lining up at Beebe Bridge Park creating an
overcrowded and safety issue

In addition to Beebe Park, Powerhouse Park has been completely full including large dumpsters that have been placed at each location. “Staff has had a hard time keeping up with the garbage. They empty a dumpster and when they come back it is full again.”

The other issue facing the PUD, Chelan and State Parks is the lack of social distancing and the lack of mask wearing. “We are seeing folks not social distancing and not one mask on,” added Baker.

“It’s not just us. Everybody is feeing it,” he said. Old Mill Park and Mill Bay Park in Manson are also feeling the crunch.

Steve Milner, State Parks Commissioner sent the PUD the following Press Release:

State Parks takes action to minimize crowding at two parks in Chelan county 

Visitors should be prepared to go somewhere else if park is full 

 OLYMPIA – July 24, 2020 – Today, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission announced it will begin limiting the number of visitors at two state parks in Chelan county.

To avoid overcrowding, Lake Chelan and Lake Wenatchee state parks staff will close day-use areas to additional visitors when parking lots become full. This measure starts today. 

Signs will be posted at park entrances when they reach capacity. Park staff will also monitor entrances to educate visitors who attempt to access the park on foot. 

“We want to provide the public with enjoyable outdoor recreation opportunities this summer,” said region manager Ryan Layton. “But we need to do it safely by following state public health guidelines.”  

Both parks have been experiencing high visitation numbers this summer, making it hard for visitors and staff to maintain social distance. This is particularly true for swimming areas. 

State Parks is asking visitors to follow the Guidelines for Responsible Recreation when planning a trip to any state park, especially more popular destinations such as Lake Chelan and Lake Wenatchee. The public should avoid parking on county roads to access the park on foot. 

Visitors should check what’s open before heading out, avoid crowds and be prepared to go somewhere else if the park is at capacity.

State parks reopened day-use areas in early May after a five-week closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Camping began reopening June 1. To date, not all state parks have reopened. 

CDHD concerned with surge in COVID cases… urge masking and social distancing

by Richard Uhlhorn

Schools will not be allowed to open if the
COVID surge is not flattened

Dr. Malcolm Butler, Chelan-Douglas Health District’s (CDHD) health officer, reported to the CDHD Board of Directors that COVID-19 cases have surged. “School re-opening is unlikely unless collective behavioral changes take place,” he reported. “You can see in both counties increases and then those counts started dropping off. When re-opening on June 10 began, the cases shot up dramatically.”

He reported that once the economy reopened, mobility increased amongst residents and others. He also reported that testing increased in late June-early July, but even with the testing increase, it alone has not been the reason for more positives.

The demographics show that those within the 20 to 49 age working group are sharing the burden of the disease. The demographic of younger children up to four and five year olds is also affected by Coronavirus. “It is very clearly affecting children,” said Dr. Butler. “Our Hispanic members make up 70 to 80 percent of those affected,” he added.

He said the latest fatality was a 69 year old female who contracted the virus at work despite the safeguards, went to the ER on July1, tested positive and sent home to quarantine. Six days later she was admitted to the ICU and intubated. She passed away on July 15.

Testing times for the virus has doubled in the last two weeks to four or five days to get results back. “Some of these larger labs use reagents for those big (testing) machines and are having a hard time getting them,” said Butler. So the testing has been shifted to smaller laboratories.

He would like to see 100 percent of workers in all sectors masked and at least 80 percent of consumers masked. “I’m very impressed with our local efforts and I expect to see an impact of masking by August.

Dr. Weisman, State DOH, has stated that if the current trend continues, schools will not be able to open in the Fall. “All of whom are working diligently at reopening plans will have to prioritize. We need to make educators essential workers and we are not going to be able to reopen schools without PPE. Schools can be an accelerate and do attract and spread COVID,” said Butler. He stated that when the disease burden is high, students become spreaders and take it home to their families.

His analogy was that the virus is like a wildfire. When wind hits a wildfire, it spreads quickly.

Dr. Butler reported that overall mobility (travel) is a problem and the area needs to enforce travel restrictions. “Essential travel and very limited non-essential travel needs to happen. It is not OK to drive to Montana and it is not OK for the entirety of Seattle (area) to come over to Chelan and Leavenworth,” said Butler. “I do have concerns of people visiting Chelan and Leavenworth and I cannot explain why State Parks aren’t limiting people.”

CDHD’s interim director, Bruce Buckles, said that the current situation is extremely challenging. “We are challenged by anxiety. Nothing has affected our life since the 1918 Flu epidemic,” Buckle said.

Buckles said closing down businesses has a tremendous social affect on our economy and is of great concern. “The answers are not simple. We need to be very cautious about our behavior.” Buckles stated that society can’t drop its guard. “Our efforts have to be a society as a unifying group.” He said grocery stores and the agricultural community has done an extraordinary job preparing their workers to be careful and considerate. “Without a high level of consciousness our numbers are going to continue to ramp up.”

“I think we are going to have to engage in a messaging campaign. When you drive by parks and beaches, many are not wearing masks,” said Butler. Social distancing is also important to ramping the virus down.

CHELAN FIRE DISTRICT ANTICIPATES A LONG FIRE SEASON

by Richard Uhlhorn

At Chelan Fire & Rescue’s commission meeting on Wednesday, July 15, Chief Mark Donnell told the commissioners that it was obvious that they wouldn’t be getting together as a group in July for a long range planning discussion. “Maybe in August,” said Donnell. “I’ll put it together and shoot it out to you since we don’t know when we are going to be able to go to an in-house meeting.”

Chairman Phil Moller said the District needs a plan to get the long range plan accomplished. “We are just going to have another public meeting.”

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Chairman Phil Moller wants a public meeting on the District’s long range planning process. 

Donnell also reported that he is hopeful to wrap up a City of Chelan Fire Protection Plan with the City by the week of July 20-24. “We have been in discussions with Mayor Goedde and administrator Wade Ferris.”

Dan Crandall reported that the Firefighters Association has approximately 45,000 in the bank and received $450 in donations over the past month. “We are in pretty good shape.” He also mentioned the Windermere SUP Cup. “I’m not sure it is going to happen this year. I will find out what their plans are,” said Crandall. “If it is going to happen we will get the rescue boat out to help.”

Chelan City Counsel liasion Ray Dobbs mentioned the proposed revamping of the Sanders and Johnson Avenue intersection. He stated that the City does not want to create issues with the Fire District. Apparently the City’s consultant proposed a roundabout at that intersection which was turned down. Another idea being proposed is a four-way stop at Wapato and 97A.

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City liasion Ray Dobbs reported on several items that came out of Tuesday evening’s City Council meeting that had relevance to the Fire District.

Dobbs reported that Dr. Witt talked about the viability of wearing masks. “Central Washington Hospital’s Critical Care Unit is full and any new patients are being sent to Seattle or Spokane,” said Dobbs. “We also approved at Council last night the Chelan County Emergency Management Plan. It is the beginning of trying to create a comp. plan.” The 2008 version has never been updated and Dobbs told the Commission that there is a section for Fire Departments in the new plan. He promised to send a copy over to the Department to review.

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Commissioner Karyl Oules has been in touch with South Shore residents and wants the District to address their concerns.

During the Commissioner Comments, Commissioner Oules asked what was up with Smoke Alarms at the Grand View. Chief Donnell replied that Chelan Resort Suites is the District’s biggest problem. He said that the City of Bellevue charges $150 per call out after the first one for a false alarm. “If you show that you have fixed the problem, they rebate that fine back to you.” These alarms are so sensitive, said Donnell, that cooking or toasting toast can set them off.

Commissioner Oules, who had reached out to residents on the South Shore about what they would like to see happen in the District, asked if there was anyone who would be willing to meet with them regarding their concerns. “There are 76 people in that area, said Oules. “They are concerned they are being ignored. How can we communicate,” she asked?

Chief Donnell replied that if they have specific concerns that Chief Asher or himself would be more than happy to meet with them. “Give them my name and number. Wait for them to get back to you,” said Donnell. “If they are serious about this, they can contact you.”

Chairman Phil Moller added that the District’s first commissioner heard about or from the First Creek residents. “What we’ve done in the past has not worked. Put a meeting together with the County Fire Marshall to see what we can do and what we can’t do.”

A question came up about the second alarm that triggered the siren for a small brush fire in Chelan Falls on the Fourth of July weekend that was allegedly started by fireworks. “There were multiple calls from local residents and everything we were getting from dispatch was that it was bad,” said Chief Asher. By the time the Fire Department responded to the incident, the residents had mostly put the fire out. Asher said, “If the siren does go off now, it will be a significant reason.”

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Commissioner Russ Jones is concerned about the number of accidents that seem to be coming from one rental company.

Commissioner Jones remarked that the community is having a higher number of accidents on the lake this year. “The rescue boat has responded,” he said. He added that the majority of accidents seem to be coming from one rental company’s operation. “It might be time to visit with Ryan again,” said Jones. Donnell said he would initiate that conversation. “We will see where we are at and where we want to go,” Donnell stated.

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Chelan Fire and Rescue has been responding to accident on the lake this summer.

During the Fire Chief’s report, Chief Donnell reported that the District is financially on track. “All line items are right where we want them now.”

He also reported that $76,000 was being set aside for the reserve fund and is hoping they can rebuild that fund back up. “It’s fire season and the middle of July. We will squirrel away the money as it comes in from State Mobilizations,” said Donnell

For the month of June, Donnell reported that there was a 10 percent decrease in fire related calls and a 20 percent decrease in EMS calls. “Overall the Fourth of July weekend call volume was slower than normal.” The District is anticipating a busier than normal fire season.

Chief Asher said the three Districts he represents for volunteers had no new recruits in June.

School District planning its reopening strategy

by Richard Uhlhorn

he Lake Chelan School District board of directors unanimously approved the hiring of Earth and Sky Studios (parent company of Cevado) to develop the District’s new website.

Stefani Morgan, the District’s On-line Coordinator/Website Specialist, worked with a group of staff, students and others to find a new website developer for the District. “Georgia (Mashayekh) and I narrowed it down to five companies,” Morgan said. “We presented all five companies to high school students and staff.”

Morgan told the board that these companies were checked out on computers, I-Pads and cell phones. “I’ve gotten a ton of feedback from students… all bilingual and we narrowed it down to Cevado,” she said.

The other companies came in at $10,000 to $15,000 to develop a site, but would also be charging $5,000 to $8,000 a year. Cevado came in at $25,000 to set up a website, but would only charge $1,400 a year for maintenance. The other companies also all had templates to work from, but Cevado’s proposal would be for an entirely new design.

Boardmember Lynda Foster said she would like to see other school websites Cevado hass designed. Morgan replied that they haven’t worked with a school, but she brought up several websites (Okanogan County) that are similar to what the school needs.

Foster asked if Morgan would be the administrator? Morgan said she would and the only time Cevado would charge extra is if something needed changed in the site’s design. “We can change photos, calendars and other stuff,” said Morgan.

DePaoli asked what the transition time frame was? Morgan stated that the basic new site would be up in 10 days for approval and three weeks to hand it over the District. “Our deadline would be November,” said DePaoli. “We have had a lot of people frustrated including our staff. I’m excited about that.”

Boardmember Ken Brunner said Cevado was a great choice and told the board that Chelan Fresh uses them for all of their website design. Foster added that she appreciates that Cevado is a local business.

The big item for many on the agenda was a Re-Opening Schools update from Superintendent DePaoli. “This early in the game it is hard to tell if we can re-open,” said DePaoli. He told the board that California, Texas and Virginia have decided to continue remotely. “Our transmission rates are up,” said DePaoli. “Hopefully, those will change.”

In order to be prepared for the scheduled School year, DePaoli has prepared three scenarios which include:

  • A full re-opening,
  • Remote learning, or a
  • A Hybrid model with a K-4 and a 5-12 model

The Re-Opening Plan is an ongoing process that DePaoli said would be revised over the summer months. The District is committed to finalizing a plan by August 11 to present to the community.

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The priorities for re-opening will depend on the following:

  • Health & Wellness – “We will be following the CDC’s guidelines,” said DePaoli. He added that Joyous Van Meter would be coming up with protocols for the District’s re-opening.
  • Equity & Inequities – will provide students with additional individual support if needed.
  • Instruction – DePaoli stated that the District is dedicated to giving high quality instruction to its students. “We know families who will want to keep their students home and go on-line. We are going to do a survey to find out where people are at,” said DePaoli.
  • Training for Staff to be prepared for all models
  • Communication with all of the District’s Stakeholders.

DePaoli told the board that a lot of work has been accomplished by Rosy Burkhart on the safety operations planning front. “She is beginning to order PPE.”

He also said that re-opening is “probably a dream at this point.” DePaoli said the District would most likely be remote.”We should be well prepared.”

Camisha Hughbanks asked if it was possible to request having groups of five to 10 kids together on off school days if the District opens on a every other day schedule to push each other with homework and studies. Foster liked the idea of collaboration.

DePaoli shared a Re-opening Plan Overview including:

  • Physical Wellness
  • Social Emotional Wellness
  • Food Services
  • Facilities
  • Transportation
  • Technology

“We are waiting for some guidelines from OSPI so we can hit the ground running,” said DePaoli.

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Residents and visitors have been taking advantage of the free parking option at Chelan High School and it has gotten so big that some residents are beginning to wonder why the District isn’t charging for the space.

Another issue that has come up is the boat trailer parking at the High School. “I went over and counted 108 boat trailers. They were everywhere,” said DePaoli. “There are a couple of concerns.” Some resident are wondering why the District is not charging for parking. The other concern is getting the trailers out of there when school is reopening. “We have no way of getting in touch with people. This is the year to have that conversation,” DePaoli said.

It could become a great fund raiser for the District and DePaoli said that the District would have to consult with legal counsel about liabilities of charging. He also brought up the fact that it is not inexpensive to repave those parking lots.

Laura Clinton said she has local hotels telling people they can park their trailers there. “Maybe they should be making a donation to the School District. Many of those people aren’t paying property taxes here.”

DePaoli said that at $10 a day it would generate $1,000+ a day. “Over 60 days that is a lot of money,” stated DePaoli.

Chairman Jeff Fehr said he thought it was OK initially but that it now seemed to become a dumping ground. Foster stated that it is a public space. “We need to move wisely. I think of how many times we have needed that space for fire camps and so forth.” DePaoli added that the District does need a method to evacuate the lots.

DePaoli asked if any of the board members could meet with him, the Mayor and City Administrator regarding traffic that is now backing up around town. Foster said she could attend.

The other issue is the use of District property for AAU programs that have traditionally had free use of outdoor and indoor facilities.

Financially the District is laying out $70,923.49 to Dell Computers for staff and another $73,149.20 to Wenatchee Valley College for Running Start Students from last year.

The School Board meets every second and fourth Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. Currently the meetings are remote and community members are able to attend via telephone or computer. If interested, call Georgia Mashayekh at 509-682-3515 or email her at mashayekhg@chelanschools.org.

 

Three candidates running for Doug England’s 3rd District Commission seat

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by Richard Uhlhorn

Three highly diverse individuals are in an election battle for the District 3 Chelan County Commission seat currently held by the retiring Doug England. All three of the candidates joined a Community Forum at Riverwalk Park on Wednesday evening, July 8, to introduce themselves and answer a series of questions prepared by the Manson Chamber of Commerce who hosted the forum.

An estimated 50 interested residents joined the forum but socially distanced themselves on the hillside in front of the Riverwalk Pavilion.

Following is a short biography of each candidate and where they stand on several issues facing the County now and in the future.

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Dale England

Dale England is the current incumbent’s brother and is a fourth generation native of the Lake Chelan Valley. Dale has worked within the local agricultural business all of his life and has worked all aspects of the family’s orchard.

England also had a 25 plus year career as a Chelan County Sheriff’s Deputy. Over that period he served honorably with both the Chelan County Sheriff’s Department and the Chelan/Douglas County Drug Task Force.

He has launched two businesses; Custom Orchard Fumigation Services and the popular Lake Chelan Helicopter Service serving agriculture and tourism industries. England has also volunteered for over 35 years and earned the Kiwanis Citizen of the Year and Kiwanian of the Year awards for his involvement.

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Tiffany Gering

Tiffany Gering is also a North Central Washington native from Brewster. She currently serves as the Sales Manager and Chief Operating Officer for the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce. Prior to her Chamber employment, Gering worked as a sales person at KOZI Radio Station.

Gering is a graduate of Seattle Pacific University and holds a degree in Business Administration.

Gering moved to Los Angeles after graduating from college and worked in the movie industry for several years before returning to NCW and working as KOZI’s Sales Manager for seven years and the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce for the last five years.

She is the mother of two girls, both of whom were prenatal babies. The family spent a number of months in Spokane at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and now have two healthy girls who she says give her a run for her money every day.

Gering is a Rotarian and has been on a mission trip to Mexico, a chaperoning trip for High School students on a South Korean trip for Rotary International and a Me to We and Lake Chelan Rotary trip to Kenya.

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Brandt Cappell

Brandt Cappell is a Senior Legislative Assistant to Representative Keith Goehner and worked for ex-Representative Cary Condotta for nine years. Cappell graduated from Wenatchee High School and has a Batchelor Degree from Washington State University in Natural Resource Police and Political Science.

Prior to his legislative career, he worked on a local cherry orchard for a number of years. He is interested in local control over state control because he feels the state government doesn’t understand the issues on the ground in North Central Washington.

Cappell belongs to the Wenatchee Confluence Rotary and the Washington Coastal Conservation Association. He lives in Wenatchee with his family.

Forum Questions:

 Each candidate was asked how they would enforce Short Term Rental (STR) issues and lower the percentage of STRs from the current 12 percent in Manson and Leavenworth to the desired five percent?

Dale England replied that he does believe STRs are a problem and feels they should not be allowed in residential neighborhoods. “They should be registered and have to pay a fee which would go for enforcement,” said England. “It is important that neighborhoods have the peace and quiet they deserve.”

Tiffany Gering said that she has been attending all of the Chelan County Planning meetings on STRs and does feel that there needs to be a cap on the number of units available. “I don’t know if five percent is the number we shoot for,” she said. She also stated that the Sheriff’s Department would be taking over enforcement and that Sheriff Brian Burnett is down six to eight deputies.

Gering stated that there was a $36 noise fine, but that isn’t enough. “It needs to be around $500 for both the owner and renters,” Gering said. “It is a nightmare for many people.”

Brandt Cappell said he would propose a moratorium so the STR problem doesn’t get any worse. “It is a serious problem and we need lesser density,” said Cappell who also stated that other cities have a good track record for compliance and enforcement on these issues. “There are folks that should be compliant but aren’t. We have the regulations that aren’t being enforced.” Cappell also said the property rights falls into the equation.

The next question concerned the Right to Farm issue.

Cappell said, “Agriculture is the backbone of this county. People moving here may have a different perspective.” He added that new residents need to understand the Right to Farm issues which includes spray drift and other farming issues that bother people who haven’t lived in an agricultural area.

Cappell also said that the County needs to make sure that there is adequate housing for agricultural workers. “We need to have regulations that support the Right to Farm,” said Cappell.

England said that growing up on a farm and managing a farm, he has been dealing with regulations that are driven by the Federal and State Government. “Chelan County needs to be in a position to help farmers,” said England. He mentioned the H2A program that farmers can use, but smaller farms have difficulty using it because of the regulations. “The Commissioners can encourage more cooperation from the State and Feds.”

Gering stated that there were so many State regulations that Farm Worker Housing is an issue with small farmers. “I think the Commission needs to work on more incentives for farmers,” said Gering.

Small Businesses are having a hard time because of the pandemic. The candidates were asked what they would do.

Gering said that the County needs more money and that the pandemic is not a one size fits all issue. “We have one restaurant in Chelan that won’t open until we hit Phase 3 because it just isn’t economical to open at 25 percent capacity,” she said. Gering said the County was allocated with $920,000 and is interested in seeing what they do with those funds.

Cappell said he is very upset with what is going on. “It is important for Chelan County to advocate for local control.” He commented on the fact that the State turned down the County’s request to move to a 1.5 phase in 12 hours after the initial proposal was sent in.

“We saw the big box stored open while small businesses remained closed. It was not an equality issue. We need to do what we need to do for our community,” said Cappell.

England remarked that the County has never encountered a situation like the pandemic. “We cannot afford to have someone not in our area making decisions for us,” said England. He also said the opening up of the County needs to not just benefit businesses but the community as a whole.

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Affordable Housing:

England said affordable housing is tied in with STRs and that young adults who would like to return to the Valley can’t find affordable property and/or housing which he feels needs to change.

Cappell added that affordable housing was an issue, but that 85% of the land in Chelan County is owned by the government. He also stated that 180 days to get a permit to build a deck was ridiculous and most people just end up building without a permit. “I would like to see the GMA (Growth Management Act) brought back to the County level,” said Cappell.

Gering said she feels affordable housing needs to happen at the ground level and that the County needs to change some of the codes for more density.

In their final closing comments Gering said she is passionate about helping with issues regarding mental health and health care in the County. Cappell remarked his interest is in transportation and serving on the Board of Health while England is interested in law enforcement issues, mental health and transportation.

Asked if they would quit their regular jobs all three said that while the County Commissioner position is supposed to be a part time job they all recognize it as a full time job. “The office requires a (serious) commitment,” said England. The only job England would retain would be the family orchard. The helicopter and other business interests would go. “My commitment would be the community.”

Cappell said the job is a full time job. “I have no issues of working hard or working late,” said Cappell. “Chelan County’s District 3 is a big District that stretches from 5th Avenue in Wenatchee to Wells Dam.”

Gering said she was ready to hit the ground running and would also step down from her current jobs.

All three said they would be committed to serving the community and would always be available to their constiuents.

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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.