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

By Richard Uhlhorn

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

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

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

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

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

SCHOOLS:

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

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

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

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

Thanksgiving:

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

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

Ringing the Bell:

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

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

School Board holds back on reopening the high school

by Richard Uhlhorn

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

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

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

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

            6th Grade – 842 excused, 1127 unexcused

            7th Grade – 607 excused, 742 unexcused

            8th Grade – 306 excused, 510 unexcused

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

City proposed 2021 budget is $17,498,375

by Richard Uhlhorn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These agencies included the following:

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

These requests total $89,500.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outdoor seating big topic at City Council

By Richard Uhlhorn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other business:

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

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

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

Hospital pricing to become public on January 1, 2021

by Richard Uhlhorn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other business:

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

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

Board Certification:

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

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

Financial report:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facilities report:

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

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

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

Chelan Fire District extends seasonal employees to December 31

by Richard Uhlhorn

This image is from the 1990 Labor Day Fire on Chelan Butte. Chelan Butte has burned numerous times since 1990 including the 1994 TYEE Complex and the devastating 2015 Chelan Complex Fire.

“Everyone is back from State Mob,” said Chelan Fire Chief Mark Donnell during is monthly Fire Chief Report. The major incidents fire crews were mobilized for included the September 9 Pearl Hill and Apple Acres fires. Chelan crews were also mobilized for other wild fires outside of the area in both Washington and California. Asked how much mobilization will bring into the District, Chief Donnell said, “About $204,000 which will over wages and overtime coverage.” About $94,000 of those mobilization funds were for equipment and that money will be put in the District’s Capital Apparatus Fund.

Chief Donnell reported that the EMS call out for September included the following:

  • Advanced Life Support            14        Year to Date    123
  • Basic Life Support                   23        Year to Date    184
  • No Transport                          19        Year to Date    188
  • TOTAL                                   56                                495

The District is losing or has lost two career firefighters this month. Samantha Raines has resigned her position for medical reasons and Troy Keene was injured and will probably not be able to return to duty until the end of December. “His injury is covered by Labor and Industries,” said Donnell

The Board agreed to extend the employment of its seasonal employees until December 31 which will fill the vacated positions until permanent employees are hired. This will cost the District $39,000 in wages and benefits. “Our seasonals have been stepping up to the plate,” said Donnell. “It has been a tremendous benefit to the District.” The seasonal employees have manned and responded to incidents while some District career and volunteer fire fighters have been on State Mobilization.

Chief Donnell stated that both of the seasonal employees are in consideration for permanent employment. “We’ve been please with their performance.” However, Donnell told the board that he is going to open the positions up to a bigger pool and look at five to eight candidates.

On the health side of the coin, Chief Donnell stated that some of the District’s employees are coming down with flu symptoms. The District has been training with members of Orondo, Manson and Entiat. Manson had a positive COVID, but Donnell said that tests had everyone come back negative. The District also has self-administered tests on hand that were provided by the State. Any positive results will be reported to the State Department of Health.

Assistant Chief Brandon Asher reported that he has two new volunteer recruits; one in Orondo and one in Entiat. he also reported that since the wildfire season is over, it is time for the District to begin its structural training.

Asher is submitting a $12,000 grant request to the DNR. “We’ve gotten it two years in a row and if we get it again, it will give us an option to pick up another wildland chassis.”

Dan Crandall reported on the Firefighters Association activity. He stated that despite not being able to have in-person meetings the Association has been busy.

The Association has donated $5,000 to the Okanogan Long Term Recovery effort, another $1,000 to Chelan Valley Hope, and $1,000 to the young couple that lost their child and were severely burned in the Cold Springs Fire.

They began the month with $44,272 and with the $6,000 donated are down to $38,272.

Chief Donnell stated the District and City have been trying to negotiate a contract for City services. “We are not getting a lot of help from the City,” said Chief Donnell, but admitted that the City has been apologetic and swamped with work. “I don’t expect anything until the end of the year.”

The District is looking at 30 parcels for annexation this year and into 2021. “Most of them are in Knapps Coulee, and area we respond to.” He hopes to have the annexations completed by next February.

The Board of Commissioners decided on holding a Virtual Public Meeting on Monday, November 9 on the District’s Budget Process. More information on accessing this meeting will be forthcoming soon. “We need to get more people engaged.”

During Commissioner comments, Karyl Oules asked how the Hospital issues and EMS not being included in the new hospital plans affects the District? “How does that impact us,” she asked.

Chief Donnell replied that EMS has always been welcomed at the station. He has a meeting set up with Ray Eickmeyer, EMS Director next week. “The Hospital is very reluctant to give up EMS,” said Donnell. “We work directly with them.” He stated that a decision needs to be made on what kind of EMS system the community wants. Seventy percent of all EMS systems are Fire District based, stated Donnell. Oules replied that open communications with them is important.

The District will be sending out information on a Virtual Public Meeting next week to let the public know about its proposed 2021 Budget which has to be completed by the end of November.

The District’s regular board meetings are held on the 4th Wednesday of each month beginning at 3 p.m. The Public is encouraged to attend. More information concerning the District’s activities can be found on its webpage at http://www.chelan7.com.

Chelan school district reopening on October 19

by Richard Uhlhorn

This coming Monday, October 19, the Lake Chelan School District will be welcoming Pre/K and Kindergarten students into the school building. This will give the staff time to acquaint these students with the building, which they have never been in. After that is accomplished, the District will welcome First and Second graders back into a school setting.

This is the current time line for allowing grade levels back into a live school setting.

Superintendent Barry DePaoli stated that it will be safety first. “We will be following the Health District’s guidelines closely,” he said. Students will have temperature tests upon arrival and will be required to be masked. “If everything goes smoothly, the third through sixth graders will return.”

They will be returning on November 9 in a hybrid model and pending approval of the Health District. If that goes well, the seventh through 12th grade students will return on November 30.

From October 26 to 30 and November 2 to 6, the Staff will undergo Hybrid Model Planning.

DePaoli stated that parents who don’t want their kids back in school will be worked with closely.

This graph shows the results of a parent survey regarding sending students back into a school setting. Those (7%) can register their children in the on-line CalvertAcademy.

MOE Principal Erin Morin reported that the half day schedule between morning and afternoon sessions will include a 90 minute break for the staff to have lunch and time to clean. “The teachers will be cleaning their classrooms,” said Morin. The maintenance crew will handle all the other cleaning within the building.

On Wednesday’s all students will be working on-line from home. She stated that the hybrid model is difficult mostly because of busing issues.

DePaoli stated that if the numbers go above 75/100,000 the District will have to confer and follow Dr. Butler’s guidelines. “Moses Lake (which has been open) had two cases of COVID positives, but the transmission was outside of their school system. It is something we are going to have to monitor closely,” said DePaoli. “None of these decisions are easy.”

Eric Peterson, director of the CSI school, said that enrollment has been really good. He has 33 students enrolled with 12 on-line students. “Attendance has been a definite success. We are trying out a lot of new ideas.”

Peterson reported that he has been talking with advisors nationwide and is getting a lot of help on project ideas for his students. The school is also working on anti-racism and social justice issues with the students. “They need to be able to process the world around them,” Peterson said.

KC Knudson, director of teaching and learning, said that most families want to come back for in-person learning. For those who don’t want to come back to the school, Knudson reported that the District is creating a mixed grade level cohort(s) of students with a district certificated teacher using the Calvert Learning Program.

The Calvert Learning Program is a researched-based instructional program that has been supporting home-based education for over 100 years. The reason for using this system is that the District doesn’t have the staff to create a remote learning cohort at any one grade level. Calvert is a program that will allow a single teacher to oversee and support multiple grade levels.

The School Board will meet again in session on October 27 beginning at 6 p.m.

Hospital board votes 3-2 to move forward with design

by Richard Uhlhorn

After arguments for and against moving forward with construction documents for the new hospital, the board voted 3-2 with both Mary Murphy and Jordana LaPorte voting against.

Most residents are aware that the current hospital has been in financial straits for a number of months. Many employees were either let go or resigned under CEO Steve Patonai, many of them crucial to the very operation of the hospital, i.e. coding personnel. Billing suffered and today, many old (not in age) patients are receiving invoices that are beyond two years old.

The Board of Commissioners are under a lot of pressure, not only from lagging financials, but also from a populace who voted for a new hospital.

The vote to allow the design team to move forward with construction documents is only one part of the entire process. The board will have to make some major decisions down the road concerning the future of the new hospital.

Following are the arguments for and against moving forward with design:

Commissioner Jordana LaPorte is concerned about the hospital’s future financial health to pay the debt service on the new hospital building when it becomes due. The amount the hospital needs to pay is $160,000 per month. The hospital has not recovered its financial health but is working on that.

LaPorte was clearly unhappy with the September financials she was given. “They weren’t pleasant,” she said. “Not comforting.” Later in the discussion she stated that the hospital lost $650,000 in September. “I’m just trying to go into the project below budget.” Currently the proposed cost of the hospital is $1.8 million above budget.

Mary Signorelli voted to move forward with the design team preparing construction documents for eventual permitting in January.

Mary Signorelli said she wanted to stay on target. “I don’t know if we are ever going to be 100 percent satisfied with accounting,” said Signorelli. “We have the opportunity to move forward with design so we can move closer to the target. The design is going to be where it is… another step before permitting.”

Dick Bratton said the design team was essentially asking to finish the design work. “We are in the early stages of construction documents,” he said. Bratton added that the finished design would be submitted tot he board for final review. “We can’t guarantee the maximum cost of the project which we don’t know.” He said they wanted the opportunity to start construction in 2021.

LaPorte replied that the project was $2 million over budget at this time. Phyllis Gleasman stated that CEO George Rohrich would be giving an updated budget. Murphy stated that the dynamics were different before the pandemic. “We can’t cover the $160,000 per month to pay the debt back and that is very concerning to me. There is a great deal at stake here and a great deal at risk.”

Mary Murphy is also concerned with financials and was the second vote against moving forward.

Murphy said she couldn’t vote to move forward on what she knows today. “It is a very difficult time to be moving forward.”

Fred Miller voted for moving forward because it is an essential part of the process. He feels the big decision will be made next spring when the time comes for the contractor to break ground.

Fred Miller stated that the continuation of the design is just a part of a multi-process. With regards to the final costs, Miller said that the project hasn’t gone far enough to find out the final costs. “I think we should move forward,” said Miller. “We have a decision to make next spring and it could be a big one.”

Chairman Phyllis Gleasman also voted to move forward to final construction documents. More will be forthcoming at the next hospital board meeting after the Facilities Committee has had a chance to meet.

Gleasman also felt that it was important to move forward to the final construction documents to find out what they will be presented with. LaPorte asked about removing two med/surgical rooms and one birthing room to bring the budget in line with the $44.5 million figure. She asked whether a decision has been made and Gleasman stated that the facilities committee hasn’t met yet to discuss that eventuality.

Bratton stated that there were a lot of variable in figuring out how much could be saved by shaving more rooms off the building. “It takes a little bit of study.” LaPorte replied that she was just trying to go into the project below budget.

Signorelli stated that the hospital was looking at 10 years down the road. “I don’t have a crystal ball, but the community is growing rapidly and billing will be a lot different in the future. I’m for moving forward.”

LaPorte replied, “I’m not saying I don’t want a new hospital because I do.” She suggested that holding off an negotiating with the USDA seemed to be the right course forward.

The design team got its wish and will now move forward with construction documents which will help the hospital with their next decision going forward with construction.

HOSPITAL BOARD TO MAKE DECISION ON MOVING FORWARD WITH CONSTRUCTON DRAWINGS MONDAY AFTERNOON

by Richard Uhlhorn

The Lake Chelan Community Hospital board of commissioners will reconvene in special session this Monday afternoon, October 12 to continue its discussion on potential approval of the Design Team’s new 52,420 sq. ft. footprint for the new hospital.

At last Friday’s commission meeting for the purpose of approving the footprint so the design team could begin go to work on completing construction drawings for permitting for a March 2021 construction start, the discussion fell apart when commissioner Jordana LaPorte complained that the full board had not received the new changes until 10:30 a.m. that morning. “We had a different design two days ago,” said LaPorte.

Commissioner Mary Murphy brought up the budget which is now over the $44.5 million and is pegged at $45,859,548. In addition, Murphy remarked that the Hospital Foundation has been given an office in the new building and while she likes the work the Foundation does for the hospital, she said, “There is no clinical reason to be there.”

Murphy added that her concern is over the financial recovery mode. “We need to be more realistic than optimistic.” LaPorte also stated that the EMS department needs be somewhere along with the business office.

CEO George Rohrich stated that all that was being asked of the board was approval to move to completing construction documents. “I need a formal motion,” said Rohrich. “That’s all I’m asking.”

Commissioner Mary Signorelli stated that the board needs to stay on target for permitting.

LaPorte replied that the new budget had not gone to the Finance Committee and that “prudently, we’ve got some tightening up to do. We are underfunded and over budget.”

Murphy said they needed some more time to study the new plan. LaPorte added the numbers have changed once again and she was against the proposed motion.

Chairman Phyllis Gleasman asked Dick Bratton how not passing a motion would affect the timeline? He replied that the team was faced with a crunch to submit permit documents to the USDA and other agencies. The timeline ends on January 31 before new regulations go into effect on February 1, 2021. “If we get approval to move forward we only have two months with holidays to deal with. We essentially have only a couple of mopnths to get it packaged up. It’s very sensitive. It is a challenge for us all.”

LaPorte said the board has yet to see the September financials and with out additional financial information she was not willing to pass a motion. Gleasman then asked Commissioner Fred Miller to weigh in. Miller said he felt it was ok to continue moving forward because the hospital’s future finances are not cut and dried. “It will be many months… there is too much uncertainty. Let’s move forward and approve the footprint with budget decisions later.”

Murphy said that receiving the new information 1.5 hours before the meeting was unacceptable and said it was not possible “for me to proceed.” LaPorte added that the project is over budget and the intent was to build the new hospital for $44.5 million, not $45.8 million.

The new (10 days on board) Chief Financial Officer Tom Moore said, “I’m less concerned about the budget, but am more concerned about the debt service.”

Murphy asked if it would be possible to postpone the vote until Monday afternoon’s meeting on the 12th. Jamey Barlet, Collins Woerman, stated that would be perfect.

The commission’s meeting will begin at 4 p.m. with an executive session and then reconvene to discuss moving forward with project at around 5 p.m. The public is invited to join the meeting on Zoom.

Chelan schools hoping to reopen K-2 in October

by Richard Uhlhorn

In a conversation with Chelan School’s Superintendent Barry DePaoli on Sunday, October 3, he said that he and seven other superintendents wrote a letter to Dr. Malcolm Butler of the Chelan-Douglas Health District requesting a waiver to allow Kindergarten through second grade to attend school.

“He approved our request with some anxiety,” said DePaoli. Dr. Butler is worried about transmission of the Coronavirus. Dr. Butler expects positive transmissions to be down to 75/100,000 by October 12. “We won’t open on October 12,” said DePaoli. “Our concern is that kindergarten children have never been in a school setting.” DePaoli said they would bring the kindergarten kids in for one full week before allowing other grades to come back. “It is an extremely fluid situation.”

Both Pateros and Brewster along with Moses Lake have opened up because of low positive transmission rates. DePaoli says that schools are probably one of the most safe places to be. However, apparently Moses Lake had a big celebration where no masks were worn and 55 people ended up positive. “We’ve had one teacher test positive and that person is in quarantine. We are doing contract tracing.”

Currently the School District has 50 students attending in building at both MOE and the High School/Middle School. “Some will be at least a week ahead of us, but we have to be cautious,” stated DePaoli.

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Representatives from the Holiday Hills Development group addressed the School Board at its Tuesday evening meeting on September 29 requesting that the District donate a 60 foot right-of-way to the City of Chelan for their proposed secondary access for their major development.

DePaoli said that while they made some good points of buses coming in on the backside of the school property, there are still 12 buses which need to access Hwy. 97. “We still have to get our buses off the school property along with teachers and student drivers,” said DePaoli.

The developer is proposing to connect Raymond Street to Waterslide Drive, which they say adds additional access to the school facilities.

“There is no decision off the bat for their proposal,” said DePaoli.

In a quick call to Planning Director Craig Gildroy at the City of Chelan, Gildroy said, “Their application has expired… there is no active application at this time.”

He added that the City’s code requires a secondary access to the development but that there is a dispute over the easement at this time. “They are trying to solve those issues.”

Gildroy also said that a traffic study will be required and remarked that the City will be conducting its own traffic study. “The Farnham exit does get blocked,” said Gildroy. “I’m not sure when the traffic study will take place.

According to the Capital Improvements (CIP) document, a S. Chelan Access Study will be conducted in 2022. The Farnham/97A Intersection Study is funded, but not included in this year’s 2020 projects. The Farnham/97A intersection is currently the only egress out of South Chelan except for the Old Gorge Road.

The City will be holding a workshop on Tuesday, October 6, beginning at  4 p.m. to discuss Capital Improvement Projects budgeting after it decides on the new Councilman.