Hospital hires interim CEO

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Lake Chelan Community Hospital has hired an interim CEO to take Kevin Abel’s place. Abel is leaving soon to take a new position in Whitefish Montana.

“We are very pleased to have Steve on board as our interim,” said Mary Signorelli, LCCHC Board chair.  “We look forward to working with him on all of the projects we have begun and feel confident that he will serve our community very well.”

Press Release
For Immediate Release

Lake Chelan Hospital hires Steven Patonai as interim CEO

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Steve Patonai
Interim CEO at Lake Chelan Community Hospital

Chelan, WA – Steven Patonai, who has more than 25 years of senior healthcare executive experience, will start as interim CEO at Lake Chelan Community Hospital & Clinics (LCCHC) Monday, March 19. He replaces LCCHC CEO Kevin Abel, who is leaving this month for a new CEO position with North Valley Hospital in Whitefish, Montana. Patonai will serve as CEO while the LCCHC Board looks for a permanent CEO to replace Abel.

Patonai comes from Houston, TX, where he worked as CEO for two major hospitals. His experience also includes executive experience in a variety of hospitals, from smaller organizations to tertiary medical centers, providing him with a diverse wealth of expertise, including hospital operations, physician recruitment and hospital construction.

“We are very pleased to have Steve on board as our interim,” said Mary Signorelli, LCCHC Board chair.  “We look forward to working with him on all of the projects we have begun and feel confident that he will serve our community very well.”

Patonai, who began his medical career as a pharmacist, has a personal interest in local healthcare. He and his wife Sharon own property in the valley and are currently building their retirement home near Rocky Point. He first visited Chelan when working as CEO of Auburn Regional Medical Center outside Seattle more than 15 years ago.

“Lake Chelan Hospital is very well positioned,” he said, “and Kevin Abel has done a great job. With the new hospital building project, it’s an exciting time to be part of local healthcare, and I hope I can have a positive impact.”

Patonai looks forward to working in a smaller hospital where he can interact more closely with staff and patients. “It gives me an opportunity to return to the roots of why I got into healthcare in the first place,” he said, “to help people.”

 

Peters resigns from fire commission

For those who missed Tom Peters on KOZI Radio on Tuesday morning, following is his full stated for resigning from Chelan County Fire District No. 7. 

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Tom Peters resigned his position as a Chelan Fire & Rescue Commissioner
on Tuesday, March 13, after serving the community
in that position for the past four years.

I have resigned as commissioner of Chelan county Fire Protection District 7 (Chelan Fire & Rescue). At the outset of my term I said I would serve as long as I continued to help improve Chelan Fire & Rescue. After lengthy consideration, I concluded I was no longer able to do so.

Let me make this very clear – I am convinced that each and every individual in Chelan Fire & Rescue is committed to the mission “to protect the lives and property of the citizens and visitors in our district and community through emergency response, education and prevention.” This has not changed.

Now, as a private citizen and no longer an elected official, here are my reasons for resigning after four plus years as your Fire Commissioner.

First, Washington State’s Open Public Meeting Act severely restricts our commissioners from performing their duties in an effective and efficient manner. According to this act, “the people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know.” As a result, Commissioners are forced to limit all discussions with fellow commissioners to public meetings under the scrutiny of the public and the media with every word open to interpretation and potential legal scrutiny. What would generally take days to accomplish in most business settings takes months to accomplish in the public eye. Transparency is crucial to the functioning of an effective government – an informed public is imperative in this regard. However, sensitive and candid discourse among commissioners in confidence is necessary at times to produce quick, effective decisions about services that have real life and death consequences. The Open Public Meeting Act may be well intentioned but the constraints it imposes on public officials are excessive, unproductive, and raise costs for everyone. I was no longer willing to serve with such debilitating restrictions.

Second, the pubic cannot expect any organization to function on a budget which, by law, is only allowed to increase 1% per year despite inflation rising at higher rates. For as long as I can remember, I have never seen wages and benefits in the public or private sector grow by 1% or less; most often it has been 3% or more per year. Since people are the single most important and most expensive asset of Chelan Fire & Rescue, it is unrealistic to expect the department to survive on 1% per year. Many people in Chelan have voiced that they expect the same level of service from the fire department over time with no increase in revenues. This simply does not work.

Third, Washington State limits, by law, the revenue sources for fire departments. Chelan Fire & Rescue currently depends almost entirely on property taxes, occasionally supplemented by federal grants which are very unpredictable. Fire Protection District 7 has approximately 7m500 property owners, yet has over an estimated 2,000,000 visitors between May and October of each year. After researching this, I have found no practical way for our district to tax these visitors to help pay for services they may receive while they are here. Nor does our district appear to have any practical way to tax businesses that benefit from visitors. Yet our fire district provides its services without support from this transient population. This is an unsustainable situation which contributes to the inevitability of increasing local property taxes at rates that may force, unfairly, numerous property owners from their homes. I do not condone, nor could I support the reliance on a single primary source of revenue that promotes this outcome.

Fourth, the 2018 Chelan Fire & Rescue Community Task Force Report stated in its introduction “tax initiatives, burgeoning personnel/operational costs for providing services and increased demands for services have outstripped the ability to effectively fund most Fire Departments at their current level.” Yet, I have not seen effective plans from the department that contains substantive means to cut costs in the future. Instead of valuing input from its Chelan Fire & Rescue volunteer members, and the whole department working collaboratively to create new, better, and less expensive ways to provide services, the answer to increased demands is always the same old model I’ve heard since I’ve been here: more paid staff, more money, and more taxes. Instead of the hospital board agreeing to explore with Chelan Fire & Rescue the possible consolidation of EMS and fire services, they deliberately failed to engage actively because the Manson Fire District would not join the conversation. Certainly higher taxes will be required to support emergency services going forward but much too little has been done to find efficiencies that would minimize the size of such increases.

I have to come to understand that Washington State, the residents of the Lake Chelan area, and Chelan Fire & Rescue, all have set unrealistic expectations that cannot be met using the current system of governance and taxation. Compromise on all fronts will be required to arrive at a system that does work, and provides the public the emergency services they require. The Fire Commissioners alone cannot fix this broken system and, it is not their responsibility to do so.

Throughout my tenure I promoted communication and encouraged participation of all members of Chelan Fire & Rescue and the community in fire department matters. I sincerely hope the future will be forged by melding great ideas from each commissioner, administrator, volunteer and career firefighter, with the best interests of the community in mind.

Tom Peters

Spring Sports is underway in Chelan

by Richard Uhlhorn

Important upcoming meetings to attend

by Richard Uhlhorn

The Lake Chelan Valley is gearing up for Spring and there are a number of meetings that will be taking place outside of the regularly scheduled meetings of local organizations and agencies.

Community Clean-Up Planning Meeting: On Monday, March 12, there is a planning meeting for the Community wide clean-up effort at the Vogue beginning at 5:30 p.m. This is a short planning session to divide up the clean-up efforts in town between the various organizations who will be on the streets, in the parks, alleys and on the highways on the morning of April 20 in advance of the annual Earth Day celebration in Riverwalk Park on Saturday, April 21.

Advanced (Smart) Meter Program: On Wednesday, March 14, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Chelan County PUD representatives will update the Chelan City Council on the status of the PUD’s Advanced (Smart) Meter Program. The public is invited to attend and time will be allotted for public comment. The meeting will be held in the Chelan Fire Hall conference room at 232 E. Wapato Way.

NOTICE: THIS MEETING HAS BEEN CANCELLED. PUD REPRESENTATIVES WILL PRESENT TO THE CITY COUNCIL ON TUESDAY EVENING, FEBRUARY 13 INSTEAD. CITY COUNCIL BEGINS AT 6 P.M.

Lake Chelan

Lake Chelan looks clean and pristine, but there are subtle changes taking place that is affecting water quality. The upcoming meeting on April 19 should be put on everyone’s calendar to find out what is going on.
Photo by Richard Uhlhorn

Lake Chelan Water Quality: On Thursday, April 19, beginning at 6 p.m. an important Town Hall meeting on Lake Chelan Water Quality will be held in Chelan City Council Chambers. This is being hosted by the City of Chelan and will include presentations by the Lake Chelan Watershed Planning Unit on the on-going efforts to study and to maintain lake quality.

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Barry Wise took this photograph this year off his beach in Manson. It is a reflection of some of the changes taking place in Lake Chelan . The lake has never had large freshwater clams like these in the past. Why now? Attend the meeting on April 19.

Farewell reception planned for Kevin Abel at Sorrento’s on March 24

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by Richard Uhlhorn

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Hospital CEO Kevin Abel will be leaving Chelan for a new job in Whitefish, Montana. A farewell reception has been planned for March 24 at
Sorrento’s Restaurant from 1 to 3 p.m.

Lake Chelan Health & Wellness Foundation, Hospital Guilds, B, Y and E, the Lake Chelan Hospital & Clinic employees and the Lake Chelan Rotary Club are hosting and sponsoring a farewell reception for outgoing CEO Kevin Able on Saturday, March 24, at Sorrento’s Restaurant at Tsillan Cellars from 1 to 3 p.m.

Abel, who has guided the hospital through to the successful bond issue for a new hosptital is leaving Chelan to become the CEO of North Valley Hospital-Kalispel Regional Healthcare in Whitefish, Montana.

“Personally is it really hard to leave this valley,” said Abel. “I have a great staff, but this is an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

Everyone is welcome to join this farewell reception to thank Kevin for his many years of outstanding service to the hospital and community.

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Impact fees, records requests & housing all a part of City Council meeting

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by Richard Uhlhorn

At the last Tuesday, February 27, Chelan City Council meeting, there were several items on the agenda of interest to the public.

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Planning Director Craig Gildroy went through several items in the 2018 Comprehensive Plan Package he felt was important to discuss before the Council considers the Planning Commissions upcoming recommendations

Planning Director Craig Gildroy brought forth a motion to accept the Chelan Planning Commission’s recommendation to prepare a recommendation on the 2018 Comprehensive Plan Package. The City Council sets the 2018 amendment docket and instructs the Planning Commission to prepare these recommendations.

Comprehensive Plan and Development Regulations may only be amended once a year. The Planning Commission took public input at its January and February meetings.

Gildroy touched on several items in the recommendations which included impact fees on developers. The Growth Management Act allows impact fees to be placed on developers based on impacts to parks, fire services, schools and transportation. “We may not be able to adopt all impact fees,” said Gildroy. “We need to come back to the Council on these issues.”

Gildroy said the Planning Department is monitoring the Date Mining situation and that a public hearing is scheduled for April 10.

He also brought up the Affordable Housing issue and stated that there is no density limitation in the city limits which allows for micro housing and small homes to be built. “How do we get the builders to build it them),” said Gildroy

Councilman Tim Hollingsworth remarked that cottage housing and building accessory dwelling units within the City Limits would provide a lot of opportunities for the rental market.

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Councilman Tim Hollingsworth feels that ADUs and other small housing units built in the City would help alleviate some of the rental problems.

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Councilwoman Wendy Isenhart feels that the local banking industry needs to be a part of the affordable housing conversation.

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Councilman Ray Dobbs

Councilwoman Wendy Isenhart said that the local banks should be a part of the conversation. “The need to be writing mortgages for that.” Councilman Ray Dobbs remarked that the banks can’t not do it (write mortgages) anymore. Gildroy stated that the education part is more important than the work.

Mayor Mike Cooney asked if the Planning Department has seen an increase in people coming in. Gildroy replied that they’ve seen more interest in multi-family units than other types of housing in the City. “We haven’t seen people coming for ADUs.” He reiterated that outside of the permitting to build an ADU, there are no hookup fees associated with them. They are restricted to 300 to 1,000 square feet.

City Clerk Peri Gallucci brought forth a motion to authorize the Mayor to execute the GovQA Professional Services Agreement for Public Records Requests.

“We have been inundated this year and have reached the $100,000 threshold,” said Gallucci. She told the Council that while she doesn’t track the time it takes to process these requests, it is time consuming. Logging public records requests is now required by law and the log must include, at minimum, the identity of the requester, the date of the request, the text of the request, a description of the records produced, a description of any redacted or withheld records, the reasons for any redactions or withholding, and the date of the final disposition of the request.

The requested software has the reporting metric points built in, has a comprehensive web portal where every document including emails are located in the same place, allows the requestor to log in and track their records requests, and offers proactive technology which will eventually reduce the time spent on fulfilling requests at a cost of $4,700 per year with a renewal fee each following year.

“The goal of this program (software) is that all the documents requested will be in that portal,” said Gallucci.

Councilman Ray Dobbs asked if a requester would be able to print from the portal. Gallucci said she wasn’t sure, but would find out.

City Administrator Mike Jackson brought forth a recommendation for a Council consensus to bring forth a motion at the March 13 Council meeting to hire Julie Brunner, Housing and Community Development, to perform preliminary work on drafting a housing availability and needs assessment for Chelan and to work on the potential of forming a Community Land Trust in Chelan and the surrounding area.

Mayor Cooney remarked, “We are not going to get affordable housing in our community without a land trust.” Hollingsworth added that having Brunner on board would help with this issue.”She would help us refine it and focus on the issues. There are a lot of organizations going on a parallel track.”

Dobbs asked if there was a plan for the City to subsidize the affordable housing issues. Cooney replied that there are plans for a major fundraiser and tax credit. “We are trying to sell this to the community… we have to sell it. It is a topic that is dominating and hurting our community. It is the highest priority for people who want to live here and work here,” said Cooney.

John Olson and Steve Kline both commented during the Citizen Comment period that the City needs to look into helping to provide rental units because 80 to 90 percent of the low income workers are looking for rentals, not to purchase a home.

The next City Council meeting is on Tuesday, March 13, beginning at 6 p.m.

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by Richard Uhlhorn

In November of 2017 an adhoc committee worked with Chris Bell Associates to study Chelan’s current recycling program under an interlocal agreement with Chelan County and Entiat. The City has been helping to finance, operate and supervise the North Chelan County Recycling Project since 1998.

Based on the study, Chris Bell Associates recommended in November that the City move towards a curbside recycling program which means that the City will no longer operate the drop-off recycling center at 50 Chelan Falls Highway. The County is also looking at a volunteer curbside recycling program. The City passed a motion on December 18 to begin the formation of a curbside recycling program.

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Once the City of Chelan’s mandatory curbside recycling program gets underway sometime in April, these recycling bins will be removed.

City Administrator Mike Jackson told the Council that while the program has been successful, the value of commodities has dropped. The City has been spending $253,000 to fund the recycle project and will use those funds to offset the estimated annual cost of the new curbside recycling program.

Jackson said that glass and paper have no value. “Tons of bailed paper is going into landfills,” said Jackson. Last year the recycling center had $85,000 in revenues. “The equipment is aging and the County is moving to a volunteer curbside program,” Jackson said. “We have moved to mandatory curbside recycling.”

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The City’s Recycling Program
is changing to curbside

Jackson said Chris Bell Associates was coming back to Council before implementation of the plan and suggested that the Council authorize the Mayor to finalize and execute the Notice of Termination of the current Interlocal agreement with the County.

Mayor Mike Cooney said, “We have been losing money. We don’t have a time and we want to be good neighbors. We are not springing things on people.”

On Thursday, Brenda Blanchfield of the County’s Solid Waste Department said the UTC has selected Zippy as the franchised hauler of recycled material in the Chelan area. “The County will have a volunteer curbside recycling program,” said Blanchfield.

That means that Zippy is working on a program to deliver a recycling container to those individuals outside the City limits who want to continue to recycle at some price point.

The cancellation policy of the interlocal agreement is 90 days. The City hopes to roll out its mandatory recycling program by Earth Day in April.

The City Council unanimously moved to authorize the Mayor to finalize and execute the Notice of Termination between the City and County.

The County replied to the City with a letter from County Engineer Eric Pierson, who hoped that the City will “entertain coordinating/contracting with Zippy to help reduce the burden of the cost to haul recycling materials to Spokane for both the City and County in hopes of minimizing the impacts of the transition to the new program.

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Fire District Special Election requested by firefighters

by Richard Uhlhorn

There has been a lot of misinformation on social media concerning the upcoming April Special Election by Chelan County Fire District No. 7. After talking with Commissioner Russ Jones, the issues become clearer.

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A Chelan Fire & Rescue firefighter sprays water on a structure fire on Hwy. 150.
File Photo by Richard Uhlhorn

First, the District employees 12 full-time firefighters, six of which are being paid under a Federal grant that ends at the end of this year. “They wanted to put the levy request out in April,” said Jones. “If it fails, then they can begin the process of looking for other employment opportunities in the fire services.”

The District had aTask Force of 10 local business representatives and residents who reported that they liked the current level of service. However, if the current levy request doesn’t pass, the District will not be able to retain the six being paid under the grant.

The six original employee firefighters will be retained and the level of service will go down, but the Fire Station would still be manned 24/7.

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Currently, the District collects 92 cents per $1,000 dollars of assessed value. The new request is for $1.32 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Of that request, $660,000 (31 cents) of the additional money collected would be used to retain the six firefighters. Seven cents of the additional money ($150,000) would be used to establish an equipment replacement fund and two cents of the additional money ($50,000) would be used to enhance the volunteer program

“The firefighters wanted us to go for the maximum $1.50 per thousand, but we couldn’t do that,” said Jones. In agreeing to go to the public with this Special Election, the commissioners made it perfectly clear that this was a community decision. “We get zero community input at our commission meetings outside of the fire service,” he added. “The bottom line is that this Special Election is input from the community. It is whatever the community wants, “said Jones

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Chelan Fire & Rescue firefighters work a structure fire on Hwy 150.
File Photo by Richard Uhlhorn

The District currently has 60 volunteers on board, but according to Jones, it is harder and harder to get volunteers nationwide. “There are a lot of hours a volunteer has to put in,” said Jones. The District can no longer, because of Federal and State requirement, recruit a volunteer and hand him a hose. Jones would like to propose that a volunteer spend two years before being eligible for a career position which he feels should be an incentive for volunteer wishing to enter the fire services.

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World Spay Day is Tuesday, February 27

Saving an animal won’t change the world…
but for the animal, the world changes forever.

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by Richard Uhlhorn

Mayor Mike Cooney proclaimed that Tuesday, February 27, to be “World Spay Day” in the City of Chelan at the Chelan City Council meeting on Tuesday, February 13.

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Mayor Mike Cooney proclaimed Tuesday, February 27 “World Spay Day.”

Last year, according to Peri Gallucci, District Leader Volunteer for the Humane Society of the United States, the Spay/Neuter Program at the Wenatchee Valley Humane Society performed 3,654 Spay/Neuter surgeries in 2017 and has significantly reduced the intake and euthanasia of animals since the program’s inception in 1988.

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Peri Gallucci
District Leader – Humane Society of the United States

In addition to the Humane Society, veterinarians, local and national protection organizations, and private citizens continue to work together to advocate the spaying and neutering of pets and community (feral) cats through “World Spay Day” in the United States and the world in 2017 and continue to join together to continue this work in 2018.

“There were 2,554 adoptions at the Wenatchee Humane Society last year,” said Gallucci. Unfortunately, the statistics are appalling. There are 2.4 million healthy and adoptable cats and dogs are put down in animal shelters each year due to the lack of critical resources and public awareness.

Over 90 percent of pets living in poverty (families that cannot afford to spay or neuter their pets) and 98 percent of feral and stray cats go unaltered. If you have one male cat and one female cat that are unaltered and they are left to breed, you’ll end up with 12 cats in the first year, 67 in the second year, 376 in the third year, 2,107 in the fourth year and it goes on and on. By the time you have reached the seventh year, 480,000 cats will have been born.

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Feral Cats that have been unaltered can breed up to 480,000 cats in seven years. 

The Wenatchee Humane Society has a program to help low income people spay or neuter their pet. Through this program, we will reduce the number of cats and kittens coming into our shelter and give more of them another chance for a long and healthy life.

The goal is to make this crucial veterinary service available so recipients will continue with regular veterinary care and reap the benefits of maintaining a healthy pet with local veterinarians.

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There is also a program where community cats (feral) can be brought in for spaying or neutering and then returned to their haunts without adding to an ever growing problem.

If you are looking to adopt a pet, the Wenatchee Humane Society spays or neuters all dogs, puppies, cats and kittens before they leave for their new homes. Regular adoption fees for dogs start at $110, adult cats range from $25- $65 and the fee to adopt kittens is $75 unless there are special prices listed in the pet’s description.

The adoption fee includes spay or neuter, well health exam, a microchip and initial vaccinations. The Society’s adoption fees are far less expensive than having each of these services performed on your own.

For more information on these programs, call the Wenatchee Humane Society at (509) 662-9577 or visit their website at: https://www.wenatcheehumane.org/spay-neuter/

Council receives update presentation on Woodin Avenue Bridge Project

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Planning on tThe Woodin Avenue Bridge Project is 90 percent complete with bidding slated to go out in April. Project completion is estimated for November

by Richard Uhlhorn

City Council received a 90 percent design presentation on the Woodin Avenue Bridge design work being conducted by Dan Ireland, SCJ Alliance, at its Tuesday, February 13 City Council meeting. “We are kinda in the home stretch,” Ireland told the Council.

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Dan Ireland with SCJ Alliance updated the City Council
on project planning for the Woodin Avenue Bridge Project.

The presentation updated the Council on Funding, construction traffic control methods, construction schedule, and communication methods during the upcoming Woodin Avenue Bridge project slated to begin this April.

The project will incorporate three different segments into one construction project that is scheduled to be completed by November, 2018. It includes a new waterline underneath the bridge, restoration of the bridge structure itself and repaving of the road surface. The Woodin Avenue Bridge is also slated to become a one-way road

The primary goal of the project is to limit disturbance to the general public and local businesses.

“We are still asking for input,” said Ireland who indicated they would start advertising for the project in April. “It’s going to impact our larger contractors in the area,” he said.

Councilman Tim Hollingsworth asked, “Have you been communicating with Campbell’s about work hours and so forth?” Ireland replied that they have been communicating with the most impacted businesses and will attempt to offset any issues as much as possible.

Councilwoman Erin McCardle, who is also the new executive director of the HCDA (Historic Chelan Downtown Association), asked to be added to an email list on project updates so she can keep the downtown businesses informed about any issues that might crop up that will affect them during the construction process. “We will communicate with the public about the ongoing work so there are no surprises,” said Ireland.

The bridge will be usable throughout most of the project with only several segments of the construction project shutting it down completely.

The funding for the restoration of the bridge structure is from federal dollars. It has been preliminarily approved to combine the waterline project with the one-way project that have independent environmental permitting processes into one construction project which will allow the City to work with an additional $250,000 TIB grant funding.

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Proposed Construction schedule:

April/May – Bidding and Contracting
June through November – Bridge Restoration work
June – Phase 1 Waterline work
July – Phase 2 Southside waterline work
August – Phase 3 East Columbia and West Columbia.
September – Paving
October/November- Project Wrap-up.

It is estimated that there will be eight bridge closures during the month of June and four during the month of September.

Construction schedules will be updated weekly by Email, city website and social mediaChelan_1200px_280px