City Council agrees to several agenda items proposed at August 14 Council meeting

 

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 By Richard Uhlhorn

Several residents signed in to discuss their issues with the City Council on Tuesday, August 14.

John Olson looks forward to continuing discussions with the City of Chelan regarding the Chelan Senior Center increased parking proposal.

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John Olson

He told the City Council that its recent workshop was good, but wondered if it was a good idea for the Chamber to continue to promote Chelan in the summer and talked a little about a Hotel/Restaurant project out at Pat & Mikes. He stated that Holiday Hills and other development proposed projects will have an impact on Chelan with only one access to the City.  “I hope the City takes a hard look at these projects.”

Lisa Garbich, a local resident and proponent of increased fire and emergency services spoke about her disappointment with the fire commissioners turning down an effort to have the failed levy put back on the November ballot. “The fire department is going backwards,” she stated. Her argument was that with only six fulltime career firefighters, there would only be one or two firefighters on duty during a shift.

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Lisa Garbich 

“Not a single council member was there,” she said regarding the recent special commission meeting to discuss the levy. “We can’t rely on volunteers in the department.” She stated that the training requirements were too stringent and too high. She mentioned that there were only eight EMTs trained and zero volunteers were trained on in-water rescue or rope rescue.

“I don’t know what the argument is with the fire department, but we are going backwards. It is not acceptable for a town that is growing,” she said. “The safety of the community and visitors is important. I would like to see something happen.”

Mayor Cooney replied. “We communicate with the chief frequently. We are a separate entity and we don’t tell them what to do.”

AGENDA BILLS:

Public Works Director Jake Youngren brought an agenda bill to council for a new street lighting agreement with Chelan County PUD.

 

The PUD is updating its existing street and lighting agreements with Chelan, Entiat, Leavenworth and Cashmere to change to a LED lighting configuration. “What is being proposed is a change in power usage rates,” Youngren told the Council. “We would continue to maintain the poles.”

Councilman Ray Dobbs asked if City employees would be climbing light poles. Youngren replied, “No, we have lifts. We wouldn’t be climbing poles.

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Ray Dobbs

Currently, the City is paying $9.95 per month per pole and the PUD is proposing an “energy only” rate for unmetered lights. At the wattage X 10 hours average daily use X 30 days at .00294 cents per Kwh, the City will end up saving approximately $13,000 a year.

“The new LED lights come with a 10 year warrenty,” said Youngren. “I’m not uncomfortable with this proposal.

The City Council unanimously agreed to the new agreement.

Chelan Parks Director, Karen Sargeant requested that the City Council authorize the Mayor to execute a professional agreement with J.A. Brennan and Associates to complete the permit process for Phase 1 of the Lakeside Park capital project. This project includes the reconfiguration of the Swim Area. The City Council has already approved $150,000 for the project.

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Karen Sargeant (left) – Cheryl Grant (right)

The request by the Parks Department is prior to an effort to secure an RCO Grant for the park project. “The process to get permits is hard. We want to proceed,” said Sargeant. Brennan is familiar with who in each agency to talk too during the permitting process.

Councilwoman Erin McCardle asked if there was an additional funding necessary. Sargeant replied that there wasn’t. “The permits will allow us to go ahead as soon as we receive the grant.”

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Erin McCardle

McCardle asked if the Council had to approve a grant if the City was successful in its effort to secure an RCO grant. “Yes,” said Sargeant. The Council unanimously approve the request to move forward with the permitting process.

City Administrator Mike Jackson asked for consensus from the Council regarding the HCDA position in the Woodin Avenue Bridge Project. “There has been a paradigm shift,” said Jackson. That shift was the successful bond issue to help fund the additional funds needed to go forward with the bridge project.

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City Administrator Mike Jackson

With the bond issue, the HCDA Landing Project became a part of the City project. The City, for its part in the project will spend $155,000 and the HCDA contribution goes from $75,000 to $157,928 with $134,000 being contributed to the project. “How do you feel about this,” asked Jackson.

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Tim Hollingsworth

Hollingsworth asked if the HCDA was helping the City make the bond payments. City Attorney Quentin Batjer said he wouldn’t categorize it as a lending of credit. McCardle said, “It is more of a commitment from the HCDA as a contribution.”

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City Attorney Quentin Batjer

During Council comments, Ray Dobbs brought up the possibility of the City picking up one of the old LINK trolleys as a potential traffic/parking alleviater. “LINK is retiring some of the electric trolleys.” He thinks it would be an excellent idea to have them shuttling people to parks and around town.

Hollingsworth stated that a shuttle could help alleviate traffic if it was operating eight hours on weekends. “It would help the parking situation.

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Mayor Cooney

Mayor Cooney reported that the Rotary Club has taken on the project of opening up the Lakeside trail adjacent to Hwy. 97A by the Three Fingers to the corner of Water Street. “They are going to widen and extend the trail. Everybody is welcome to come and help between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Saturday.”

Tesla wants to install Tesla supercharging sites in the City of Chelan

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by Richard Uhlhorn

Representatives of Tesla Motors were in Chelan to give a special presentation to City Council in hopes of finding a location within the City to install a number of superchargers for owners of Tesla automobiles.

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Jorn Van de ven, project developer at Tesla gave the city council a presentation on the potential installation of Tesla supercharging stations in Chelan

Jorn Van de ven, Tesla senior project developer and Chris Wimer, Tesla market lead, shared a visual presentation and talked about the possibilities of installing supercharger sites in the City. Tesla is the only car company actively setting up supercharger sites for their car owners across the United States and beyond.

These chargers are proprietary to Tesla vehicles and will charge a car in 45 minutes to one hour. The idea of having chargers available in Chelan is assure owners that they can drive back home. Tesla’s, depending on the model, can drive 250 to 330 miles on one charge.

“Ideally, you want to charge your car at home,” said Van de ven. “However, when you travel, you will need to rely on a form of charging.”

The stations would be installed at no cost to the City, outside of the land provided. A Leavenworth shop owner just received 16 new superchargers and his dirt lot was paved. He is leasing the land to Tesla on a negotiated deal. Tesla spent an estimated $800,000 in the addition to the 16 stalls.

Chelan, which already has parking issues, will consider all options. There are several parking lots that could be used, but Tim Hollingsworth suggested utilizing a neighborhood city easement instead. “What are some of the criteria,” Hollingsworth asked? “We want an experience for our drivers,” answered Van de Ver. “We would like them to be close to amenities… to  be able to spend quality time.”

Mayor Cooney asked if Tesla purchases the (charging) power for its owners. “We look for a places ready to go. We invest in the infrastructure which adds value and weigh it against being in a town like Chelan.”

Tim Hollingsworth and Ty Witt explained that Chelan has parking issues.

Ty Witt stated that Chelan is already in trouble with parking space. Hollingsworth added that parking is at a premium, but added that the City has a lot of public right aways close to town. “These are a block or two from town.”

Cooney asked it they had been in discussions with Chelan County PUD. Van de Ver said they had. He added that purchasers of Tesla’s Model 3 would be required to pay for a charge.

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Wendy Isenhart asked if owners of other electric cars would have reciprocal rights.

Wendy Isenhart asked if there would be reciprocal rights and added that would be a nice benefit for other electric car owners. Tesla’s Chris Wimer said that it was more technical than that. “The superchargers done charge through an inverter, they charge directly to the Tesla battery.”

Chelan currently has six charging stations in the downtown area. Columbia Valley Health added another four stations at their new facility. Nefarious Winery also has a charging station.

Electric cars like the Tesla are becoming more commonplace and Chelan will begin to see more and more electric car activity as the vehicles become more affordable and offer better mileage options like the Tesla.

Hospital board, staff and docs move toward a new vision for a new hospital

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by Richard Uhlhorn

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The LCCH Board, administrative staff and several doctors listen to Consultant Jody Carona talk about the process of determining a vision for the
hospital at a retreat in Pateros.

Last Wednesday and Thursday, the Lake Chelan Board of Commissioners, administrative staff and several doctors held a retreat in Pateros to discuss the future of the Lake Chelan Hospital. After a long day on Wednesday going over mundane hospital business, the group met on Thursday to work through a process to develop a new vision for the hospital.

Consultant Jody Carona, a principal at Seattle’s Health Facilities & Development, kept the group on track throughout the day. Each participant initially had 15 minutes to explain what their specific vision is for the future of the hospital.

The Strategic Initiatives for the Board, Administration and Staff were:

  • Develop a family practice residency program for the Lake Chelan Valley in collaboration with the University of Washington and Columbia Valley Community Health
  • Attract and retain high quality medical staff in the community
  • Collaborate with the Hospital Foundation and regional partners to offer health and wellness programs

The stated Mission of the Hospital is to:

“Provide patient centered, quality healthcare with compassion and respect”

Without fail, the board and doctors all envisioned a facility that was quality driven, compassionate and empathy driven. “I would like to see a successful, compassionate care center that is financially viable with a large reserve fund,” said Jordana LaPorte. “I envison a hospital that people want to come to whether they live in our district or not.”

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Jordana LaPort – Hospital Commissioner

Mary Signorelli remarked that there is a lot of healing to do in the larger community as the hospital moves forward. “We need to rebuild trust… get outside of our comfort level and spend time doing what we are doing right now,” said Signorelli. “We need to find what is working and what is not.”

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Board Chairman Mary Signorelli

“I think we are a vial part of this community,” said Signorelli. “It is important that as a board we are the face of this community.”

Dr. Ty Witt chimed in and said, “The community can do without the hospital, but it can’t do without the doctors’ clinic. The clinic is the foundation of what happens.” Dr. Witt stated that the reimbursement model has really changed and that is why the clinic is so important to the hospital’s success. “If we don’t perform, we don’t get paid,” he said. “You are the board of commissioners of the hospital and the clinic.”

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Dr. Ty Witt

“ I don’t want to see a bad reputation,” said Witt. “Every citizen that walks in has to know that our mission is to take care of them.”

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Commissioner Phyliss Gleasman

Pylliss Gleasman stated that the hospital is now a medical campus with Columbia Valley Community Health as a part of that campus. “We need to go forward as a medical campus. We have to be sure our services are pertinent to our demographics,” said Gleasman. Fred Miller added patients need to be service with privacy and dignity.

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Dr. Keri Bergeson

Dr. Keri Bergeson, Columbia Valley Community Health, said she would like to see the Univesity of Washington as a partner with residents coming in and working at the hospital and Columbia Health. “It would be a wonderful network,” she said.

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Commissioner Mary Murphy

Mary Murphy stated that the hospital is going to affiliate. “I want to see more services that are people focused,” she said. Murphy added that the services must be of the highest quality. However, she worries about the hospital being able to afford the equipment needed for that high quality service. “I want the community to come through the (hospitals) door and it is the right door. Every door is the right door. Let’s make ourselves unique. Let’s not try to expand access… let’s be good at what we do.” Murphy added that the hospital needs a solid business plan.

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Dr. Tobe Hartberg

Dr. Tobe Harberg said the main goal of the hospital is to have good access for primary care. “We need to take care of the residents in our Valley,” said Harberg. “We need to provide better access.” He added that he felt partnerships are very important.

Dr. Harberg is afraid that once the new facility is built, the hospital will outgrow it.

Signorelli asked Carona where the group was headed with all this information. “We are going through steps to get to a vision,”replied Carona. “I know this is messy.” Signorelli stated she would like to see a 10 year vision. Carona said, “It’s a lot of work… let’s let it flow.”

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Interim CEO Steve Patonai

CEO Steve Patonai chimed in and said, “I see we are struggling a bit. I get a sense of what we are going to look like 10 years from now, but this is really abstract.”

At that point Carona put up a list of potential outcomes from the day that included:

  • Developing a primary care center with multiple access points and minimal wait periods;
  • A community hospital with higher quality and providing specialty services;
  • Develop partnerships and alliances to:
    – Provide services beyond the hospital’s scope
    2. – To realize efficiencies and improve contracts
  • – Accelerate needed investments, infuse capital, enhance quality and provide brand.
  • Provide otreach for wellness education.
  • Become a top hospital on quality and finance
  • Have reserves in place to withstand changing (medical) environment.

After Carona shared the above list, Signorelli said, “I feel really good about this. I feel like it’s coming together. Patonai added that the list gives a little structure. “Let’s work within the framework,” said Patonai.

Dr. Bergeson stated that she is excited about the potential partnership with CVCH.

Signorelli finished by saying that she was pleased with all the input during the session and was looking forward to using the input as a guide. “I was pretty delighted to have doctors here to give a different perspective,” said Signorelli. “I think we are moving in the right direction. Everyone has the same goals, but different processes to getting there.”

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Chief Financial Officer Vicki Bodle

Vicki Bodle felt the session was encouraging. LaPorte said she had learned a lot and Brad Hankins, COO, told the board that he had really enjoyed the entire process.

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Chief Operations Officer Brad Hankins

Interim CEO Steve Patonai added that he felt they had enough information to move forward with a vision for the future. “I wanted to see how the board approached the vision for the hospital. I also wanted the doctors to be involved.”

“We have more work to do,” said Signorelli during a telephone conversation on Wednesday evening. “We are hoping to have another workshop.” The next workshop which will take place in the next six weeks will hopefully give the administration and staff the direction they need to build the strategies and vision for the hospital going forward.

Cougar Creek Fire is at 30,000 acres

by Richard Uhlhorn

The Cougar Creek Fire has grown to 31,062 acres, but the 1225 personnel assigned to this fire have it 28 percent contained.

A public meeting was held at the Performing Arts Center last night for those residents and visitors who are interested and/or concerned about the fire activity.

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Chelan District Ranger Kari Grover-Weir took the time out of a public meeting at the Performing Arts Center to report on the Cougar Creek Fire at the Chelan City Council meeting on Tuesday evening.

Kari Grover-Weir, Chelan Ranger, visited the Chelan City Council meeting last night and reported that the fire is almost to Ardenvoir. “It’s burning on the east side of the Entiat River and we are really concerned about that,” she said. Crews have been putting in hand lines to hold the fire line.

She also told the Council that the smoke “unfortunately, is going to be with us for awhile.” She stated that the smoke isn’t just from the Cougar Creek fire, but from fires all around the region and into California.

Grover-Weir also told the Council that Incident Team 5 has put a Level I evacuation notice on Navarre Coulee and First Creek as a safety measure. This is not an evacuation notice and is only to let people know that they should prepare in case the fire blows up and evacuation is inevitable.

Asked if the Team has long range spotters on line in case of a high wind event, Grover-Weir stated that they were keeping a close eye on fire spotting. “The ash you are seeing in the valley is cool.” Ash was noted floating in the lake on Tuesday.

Incident Team Report –Wednesday – 8/15/18

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Burnout operations will continue on the Cougar Creek Fire as long as the weather continues to be moderate. (File Photo ©Richard Uhlhorn – 1994 Tyee Complex)

Yesterday, the Cougar Creek Fire had moderate uphill, flanking and backing runs. The light winds and an inversion continued moderate fire behavior which allowed crews to perform burn out operations to improve the depth on the most vulnerable portions of the fire lines.

This morning’s weather report have winds following upslope/up valley but will become breezy in the afternoon as westerly winds move across the Cascade Crest. These winds will hold through Thursday, especially at the ridge tops. Temperatures will be in the mid-80s to low 90s around the 3,000 foot level.

Today’s planned action includes constructing fire lines when and where appropriate, and can be accomplished safely. Crews will prepare and improve roads, trail systems, dozer scars, and exisiting contingency lines in preparation for burnout operations.

They will perform and hold burn out operations and safely permit to secure the southeast portion of the fire perimeter. They will also be providing structure defense for threatened structures.

Residents and vistors to the Lake Chelan Valley should recognize the health hazards of the continued smoke event that will probably remain in the Valley for several months.

City workshop explores upcoming issues

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by Richard Uhlhorn

On Tuesday, August 7, Chelan City Council held a special workshop to discuss issues facing the City.

Lake Chelan Sewer District:

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Public Works Director Jake Youngren reported on the Lake Chelan Sewer District at a City Council workshop on Tuesday, August 7.

Public Works Director Jake Youngren had the first item on the list of issues. He told the Council that the Lake Chelan Sewer District has expressed an interest and voted in favor of a one year extension to its agreement with the City of Chelan Public Works Department for operation of and maintenance to its sewer system.

The Lake Chelan Sewer District (LCSD) was formed in 1956 and has been serving the south shore of Lake Chelan from Minneapolis Beach to its terminus at Lakeside. LCSD currently serves approximately 256 south shore residents and has combined with the Bear Mountain Water District.

LCSD was originally run by Chelan County PUD until they got out of the sewer business and it was turned over to the City.

“It is about four percent of our effluent intake at the plant,” said Youngren who added that it costs in the neighborhood of $65,000 to operate and maintain the system. “Their infrastructure is pretty new,” said Youngren. “Anytime we have an upgrade, they contribute .”

Chelan Finance Director Cheryl Grant added that the City also receives administrative costs from the district.

There is a possibility that LCSD will ask the City to completely take over the system in the future. It is currently a Public Taxing District.

As an operator of the District, the City is responsible for any maintenance issues that arise from the system, but currently the District would be liable to pay for those issues that arise.

Senior Center Parking Lot:

The Senior Center would like to add additional parking.

City Administrator Mike Jackson brought forth a request by the Senior Center for help in expanding parking at the Center on PUD land that is currently not being used.

John Olson, representing the Senior Center, requested that the City look into financially supporting this project several Council meetings ago. Mayor Mike Cooney said, “I don’t think the PUD has any material objection to this.”

Councilman Tim Hollingsworth felt that it would not only benefit the Center but the City Ball Fields also. “My sense is that parking around town is pretty removed from this area. It would be specific to the Senior Center.” Hollingsworth mentioned the parking issues with Chelanman and that this project might alleviate that issue around the neighborhood.

“We are not asking for a freebie,” said Olson who feels that the cost of the additional parking could be shared equally by the Senior Center, City and PUD.

Youngren indicated that he could pull resources off several other Public Works projects and level off the area. “I’ll do a quick look at it. It would cost us the materials, equipment and man hours. We can do it,” he said.

Hollingsworth felt it would be an overall public benefit. Jackson stated that the City would come back to the issue during the final budgetary discussions.

TESLA Charging Stations:

Tesla has approached the City of Chelan about the possibility of installing charging stations in the City. These charging stations would be 480 V 3-Phase stations that could charge a Tesla automobile in 40 to 45 minutes.

Leavenworth is getting 16 Tesla Charging stations. The idea is that these stations would bring business to the City.

The chargers could only be used by Tesla vehicles. “We wouldn’t pay for the infrastructure,” said Jackson. The cost would run around $400,000 for eight stations.

Councilwoman Wendy Isenhart, who has been at the forefront of electric charging stations in Chelan, said, “The PUD can’t give electricity away.”

Hollingsworth suggested that the City could use its 100 foot neighborhood right-of-ways where it would be compatible with the neighborhood.

Jackson said the City would continue to talk with Tesla.

Parking Issues:

Chelan has faced a number of parking issues over the years. Currently there are several issues facing the City.

The old PUD Parking lot that the City purchased several years ago became a pay lot and not the City is looking at removing the Pay Kiosk and putting it out at Lakeside. “I recommend we go back to the way it was, said Karen Sargeant, Parks Director. Mayor Cooney said the pay parking lot isn’t working.

Councilwomen Erin McCardle, Kelly Allen and Councilman Ty Witt
all weighed in the City’s parking issues.

Councilwoman Kelly Allen said that the PUD Lot does attract a lot of employee parking. Isenhart asked why employees couldn’t purchase a Parking Permit. Councilman Ty Witt suggested a pay lot for employees. Sargeant asked what the price would be?

McCardle said it would be nice to have a map of the entire town. She also added that employees making minimum wage would not pay for parking. “Paying for parking when you are making minimum wage isn’t a reality.”

Cooney added that free parking is available right behind City Hall. He feels employees who park on Woodin and move their car every three hours are being inconsiderate. Allen said, “We need more partnerships with our employers.”

McCardle stated that a lot of complaints came in when the City had two hour parking downtown, but those complaints fell off after the three hour parking became the norm. Hollingsworth asked how many places can a person go and get free parking. “It’s a subsidy, but we struggle with managing that.”

The Lakeside Park parking issue also came up. Apparently vehicles are being parked beyond the no parking zone on the highway. It was noted that the Sheriff’s Department is going start ticketing cars that park along the highway.

Hollingsworth also suggested that the City might consider purchasing a van that could run a loop from town to Lakeside on the weekends to help alleviate some of the parking issues at the park. Councilman Ray Dobbs said that the old LINK Trolley that ran for free had five advertisers on it, and that this could be a way to pay for a City shuttle.

Another safety issue that came up are the tourists who are crossing the highway between the Lakeview Drive-In/Chelan Marina Parking Lot to Chelan Market. The City is looking for a passive way to channel people from that area to actual crossing zones.

City Council will meet in regular session on Tuesday, August 14 beginning at 6 p.m. The public is encouraged to attend.

 

Fire Commission refuses to approve levy lid lift resolution after public meeting

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by Richard Uhlhorn

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Chelan Fire Hall filled up with both proponents and opponents to re-running the failed April Levy Lid Lift that failed in April

It was a very passion filled meeting last night, Monday, August 6, as proponents and opponents gathered at the Chelan Fire Station to give input as to why or why not to re-run Fire Levy Lid Lift that failed by a 60-40 percent vote of the public in April.

Chelan County Fire District #7 Commission Chairman Russ Jones laid down a few ground rules prior to opening up the meeting to the public in attendance. “There is not a predetermined outcome to this meeting,” Jones told the crowd. Each person who signed up to speak had five or less minutes to do so.

The primary ground rule was to be respectful of everyone’s opinions. Only when some of those in attendance cheered after the first proponent spoke did Jones have to remind them to restrain themselves.

The Commissioners have been under a lot of pressure from District personnel to re-run the levy to save the six fire fighters who will lose their jobs in December when the two year FEMA SAFER Grant runs out.

“What this is about is what staffing the community of Chelan wants for its Fire District,” said Jones. He explained that the ideal situation would be to have four career firefighters at the station 24/7. “That allows for entry into a building that is on fire.” Jones also stated that response time from the Station is obviously faster than someone responding from home.

However, Jones went on to say that even with the 12 career firefighters on board now, that the administration has to fill a lot of shifts with stipend volunteers because of vacations and time off periods. “Presently, about 60 percent of those shifts are being filled by volunteers,” said Jones.

The proponents have been arguing that the loss of these six firefighters will severely impact the public’s safety.

The opponents argue that the District needs to work within their budget and rely on the six remaining career firefighters and volunteers.

The first opponent to re-running the levy was Jeri Dowell, who, at one time was the only paid professional at the fire department when it was all volunteer. Jeri stated she was not in favor of re-running the levy, stating that the voters had already spoken. “We heard from them clearly,” she said. She added that people are getting taxed off their property and asked that the District go back to their budget and work with it.

Mike Stowe, a past volunteer firefighter and officer at Chelan 7, was also in opposition. “The problems we are facing today started several years ago before you were ever on the board,” he told the Commission. “The budget has not been sustainable and, unfortunately, you three are now stuck with the aftermath.” Stowe went on to say that he feels the taxpayers are educated on the situation and cast their votes accordingly.

“The mission should be simple… deliver fire services and support, support medical services. They (fire personnel) don’t need to go on every single medical problem.” Stowe feels strongly that a volunteer fire department needs to be at the heart of delivering fire services to the community. “I have faith in the volunteer system… I think all we need are three or four trained staff and occasional wild land firefighters.”

Dan Crandall, a former volunteer with the department said he has an insider’s view of firefighting. “I looked at my taxes and said ‘Good Grief’, but $25 dollars more a month is well worth it and I would gladly pay it for the safety of my community.” He asked that the commissioners put the levy back on the ballot and hoped that it passes.

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Past Fire Commissioner Tom Peters made a strong statement against re-running the levy to retain six firefighters.

Tom Peters, a past commissioner, talked about the hiring of a consultant and getting the advice of a group of citizens to establish a long term strategy and plan for the department. “I, as chairman of the board, was instrumental in selecting an outside consultant to lead this effort,” said Peters. He added that he feels the consultant did a poor job and the product from the Citizens’ advisory group did not provide the department with a strategy for the future “or a solid foundation for building a responsible plan.”

He did agree to allow the levy lid lift on the ballot in April, primarily to hear directly from the community on whether or not they were in favor of supporting six more full time firefighters on an ongoing basis; and, if not, to allow the six SAFER firefighters time to find other employment.

Peters went on to say, that as a citizen, he could not support any levy lid lift that does not represent a balanced, affordable plan that meets the needs of the district. Nor does he believe that the community can afford six additional paid firefighters, the apparatus due for replacement and the improvements needed at the facility.

In conclusion, Peters said, “Let’s give our fire department administration and the board of commissioners the time necessary to build a plan that makes sense and that all the citizens will be best for the community.”

Marsha Holmdahl, a volunteer at the department agreed in part with Peters that the volunteers are not valued, but said that the community is growing and that it doesn’t seem that the community is in support of the district’s efforts.

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Larry Peabody, a retired firefighter from Kirkland was a strong proponent for re-running the levy in November.

Larry Peabody, a retired firefighter from the Kirkland who has moved to Chelan and is in support of putting the measure back on the ballot. “In my opinion we are at a crisis point in Chelan in regards to delivery of emergency services… kinda at crossroads,” said Peabody. “Response time by appropriately trained responders are essential to deliver of fire services.”

Peabody went on to say that if this community doesn’t take care of its immediate crisis, lives are going to be lost and property is going to be endangered. “That’s the bottom line,” said Peabody.

Don Dryer, President of the Chelan Hills Homeowner Association stated that the community needs firefighters. “This isn’t 60 years ago… 12 years ago. We need to bring the levy forward,” said Dryer. “This is about the men and women who put their lives on the line. We can’t continue to live in the dark ages. I hope you vote in favor of the levy. It is not a lot of money to save a lot of lives,” he stated.

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John Gordon, a past fire commissioner of Chelan Fire 7 asked the current commissioners to look for alternative funding sources outside of running a levy.

John Gordon, a past fire commissioner at Chelan said he is really big on volunteers. “Small towns across the nation are all volunteer driven,” said Gordon. He urged the commissioners to look for alternative funding sources. “Think outside the box… look at a hotel/motel tax… a bed tax,” he suggested. “Charge them (the tourists) a little bit. I encourage you to go that route. People aren’t ready for another levy.”

Ann Clark, a fire association member said she likes Option 4 where additional seasonal firefighters are put on. “Commissioners are responsible to serve the community in a safe way. Change is inevitable.”

Steve Garvich, a volunteer at the department, talked about the number of hours a volunteer needs to be trained and the number of drills (12) per quarter they need to attend to be active. “It is a real commitment,” said Garvich. “To be honest, I’m 65 and 30 percent of us are over 60.” He went on to laud the career firefighters as knowing what they are doing and the fact that they are physically able and have the stamina to do the job. He asked the commissioners to put the levy back on the ballot.

Mark Babcock, another retired firefighter, stated that he was also in favor of putting the levy back on the ballot. “This place is growing… it’s growing a lot. People are looking at Lake Chelan and tourism is also growing.” He went on to say that volunteers have a place in the department and need to be available to support the fulltime firefighters. However, he added that it is impossible for volunteers to get to a situation in time.

“We have to solve this. You have to keep the six firefighters. I don’t see how you can’t,” said Garvich.  His wife, Lisa was also a strong proponent of putting the measure back on the ballot.

Jacklyn Dalton, is probably one of the most passionate residents about retaining the six firefighters said that only half of the registered voters voted in the last election and she felt it was important put the issue back on the ballot.

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Robert Watson, a south shore resident told the commission that a lot more thought has to go into the department planning before running any new levy.

Robert Watson said he has great respect for all firefighters, paid and volunteer, but that while Chelan has a huge population in the summer, it is a small town in the winter. “I can’t keep my employees in the winter,” stated Watson. “What do the firefighters do in the winter… no one has an answer. Let’s think this out. I’m all for a strong fire department. I think a little more thought needs to be done here.”

Taylor Rains, a department firefighter said, “People look at this as just six guys. In December we sent people to California to help out,” said Rains. He then encouraged the commissioners to put forth a resolution to put the measure back on the ballot.

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Neither Jay Witherbee (left) or Phil Moller (center) seconded a motion by Chairman Russ Jones to put a new levy lid lift on the November ballot to raise the department’s property tax collections from $0.92 cents per thousand to $1.18 per thousand of assessed value.

Commissioner Phil Moller said, “My position has not changed. I think we can accomplish the need with the current budget, so I will have to vote No.”

Commissioner Jay Witherbee said, “Voters have given us a clear direction. We need to look at other options.” He felt that a levy might be possible in 2019, but not this year. Moller replied that he felt the department could retain three of the six, but Witherbee said, “I don’t know that.”

Chairman Russ Jones put forth a resolution to retain three firefighters by putting a levy lid lift on the ballot that would raise the amount the fire department receives from property taxes to $1.18 per $1000 of assessed value. “That would allow us to retain three firefighters and put $150,000 into the apparatus account.” He made the motion and called for a second which didn’t come from either Moller or Witherbee, so the motion failed and the department is back to working out details to live on their current budget.

Special meeting tonight at Chelan 7 to discuss fire district staffing levels

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6 p.m. at Chelan Fire Hall
232 East Wapato
Chelan

By Richard Uhlhorn

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Chelan Fire Commissioners – Jay Witerbee, Phil Moller and Russ Jones will gather information from the public at a special meeting tonight at Chelan Fire Hall.

This evening at 6 p.m., Chelan County Fire District 7 commissioners are holding a public meeting to hear from both sides of the argument of whether or not to re-run the ballot measure that voters voted to fail in April.

There has been a concentrated effort by the local firefighters and the district to save the six career positions that are paid through December on a FEMA SAFER Grant.

The District paid $14,000 for a consultant and group of Chelan residents to assess the District and one of the issues was retaining the six firefighters after the grant ran out. The consultant came back from the community and reported that while the community likes the level of service the District provides, it did not want to raise taxes to pay for retaining the six firefighters. by a overwhelming vote of 60-40 percent.

Despite the Consultant’s and his team’s report, the District bowed to the firefighters wishes and ran the issue on the ballot anyway and the voters voted by a overwhelming vote of 60-40 percent against raising taxes. The cost of retaining the six would run $860,000 a year.

Proponents of putting the issue back on the ballot argue that the issue failed because the public wasn’t educated enough to know what they are losing service wise, and that it would be a detriment to the public safety of residents residing in the District.

The opponents are arguing that raising taxes and retaining these six firefighters is not the answer to the District’s issues. They would like to see a more balanced career firefighter/volunteer district with a resident program.

Currently, if these six firefighters are let go after the grant ends, the District still has six fulltime career combat trained firefighters and a number of volunteers who are either combat trained and/or are becoming combat trained giving the District 24/7 coverage.

Russ Jones, chairman of the board would like to see a compromise to the situation and try to retain three of the six firefighters by possibly raising the current levy level from $0.92 cents per assessed value by $0.25 cents or a $1.17 cents per assessed value.

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Chairman Russ Jones hopes that tonight’s discourse is respectful.

“I hope we hear from both sides tonight,”  said Jones. “I also want the discourse to be respectful.”

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. upstairs in the conference room at Chelan Fire Hall.