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The News

Thursday, 09 July 2015 00:00
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Stevens County Sheriff/Fire Marshal Kendle Allen ordered a burn ban on July 4 to cease all open burning in the unincorporated areas of Stevens County including recreational fires. Backyard barbecues are still allowed for food preparation only. A water source must be readily available within 25 feet.
The burn ban will be in effect until further notice.
Violations of this order shall be investigated and prosecuted by the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office/Stevens County Fire Marshal, and the Stevens County Prosecuting Attorney Any person(s) conducting open burning who fails to take immediate action to extinguish or otherwise discontinue such burning when ordered or notified to do so shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
A violation of this order is a misdemeanor and shall be punishable upon conviction by a fine of not more than $500 or imprisonment for not more than 90 days, or both.

 
Thursday, 09 July 2015 00:00
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The Chewelah City Council adopted two new ordinances at their regular meeting last Wednesday evening, July 1. One amended the city’s 2015 budget and the other modified the zoning regulations dealing with commercial fences.
Ordinance #885 amended the city’s 2015 budget, increasing the total by $411,206. Most of the increase was due to $332,072 in proceeds from the sale of both the Armory building to Chewelah Performing and Cultural Arts (PACA), and the W. Main Ave. building to Randy’s Auto Service. Those proceeds will be applied to the construction of a new city shop building later this year. Among other expenses, $25,450 will be spent to repair the roof and refinish the floor at the Civic Center; $16,169 will fund wage increases that were approved by the council in April; and $15,000 will be paid to PACA for rental of the Armory building until the city’s new shop is completed. The budget amendment was approved unanimously.
Ordinance #886 revised the commercial fence rules in the city’s zoning regulations. Previously, electrical and barbed wire fences were not allowed for commercial fencing. Under the new rule, electric fences are still prohibited but barbed wire will be allowed “on the upper one-quarter of the fence and shall be installed vertically or projecting into the property,” according to the rule.
The new regulation “fixes some of the non-conforming uses like the [school] bus garage and Ernie Smith’s old yard that already has barbed wire . . . so it straightens up some issues we already have,” City Administrator Mike Frizzell said about the fence rule.
The council also continued their discussion from last month about the future of Chewelah’s planning commission. City Attorney Charlie Schuerman presented to the council a memo outlining planning options under the city’s newly-approved Code City classification.
Councilwoman Krisan Lehew related that she had spoke to a representative from the City of Oroville while attending the recent Association of Washington Cities (AWC) conference. Lehew said that person strongly advised against Chewelah eliminating its planning commission but did not have time to discuss the issue in detail at the conference. Lehew indicated that she would like to have a more detailed discussion with him and other experienced officials before making a decision for Chewelah. The council agreed to continue the discussion and delay decision to a future meeting.
Frizzell gave an update on the new city shop construction project. He said that the engineers have completed the design work and the city will advertise for construction bids later this month. Then the council will select the low bidder at the August 5 regular meeting, with construction beginning soon after.
“We are still looking at construction to be completed in October,” he said.
Frizzell also explained to the council that the city would be having a surplus sale on Friday, July 24, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Surplus items from all departments will be available for public viewing at the Wastewater Treatment Plant, 102 Hunt St., and sealed bids will be accepted. Bids will be reviewed Monday, July 27 and winning bidders will be contacted.
“There will be three fire trucks, pickup beds, a bunch of office furniture, water pumps, aerators . . . a little bit of everything. We will get rid of some of the stuff that’s been stored everywhere,” Frizzell said.
Mayor Dorothy Knauss announced that she had been elected to serve on the Board of Directors of the Association of Washington Cities. In that position, she has also been appointed to serve as co-chair of the Small Cities Advisory Committee.
The council’s next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, July 15, 6:30 p.m.

By Jared Arnold, The Independent Staff

 
Thursday, 09 July 2015 00:00
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news henneman cities-struggle-with-pools350Finding a cool place to escape the summer heat is harder for Stevens County residents than it has been in the past, as two of the three pools in the county have closed in recent years.
In 2013, both Chewelah and Kettle Falls were forced to close their pools due to funding issues. Only Colville has been able to keep up with the financial demand of maintaining and operating their 70 year old pool.
All three pools were built during the 1950s and 60s and have recently begun to experience structural and mechanical issues.
The Chewelah pool, originally built in 1968, closed in 2013 both due to a leak and an inability for the city to maintain the operating costs.
Mayor Dorothy Knauss, who served on a Pool Advisory Committee under former Mayor Clancy Bauman, said the committee determined the costs for fixing the leak and making the bathrooms ADA compliant were high.
“The pool was leaking 2500 gallons of treated water per day. Our group researched grants to repair the pool and estimates were between $300,000 - $400,000, plus the guarantee that we would continue to operate it for 50 years. This did not include any work to the shower rooms, nor plans to make the facility ADA compliant,” Mayor Knauss shared. “We paid $6,770 to Pool World for 2 separate studies in 2013.”
Annual operating costs for the 35 x 75 foot Chewelah pool averaged $38,455 per year but revenue for the pool only came in at roughly $12,000.
Due to the significant cost to repair the structure, Mayor Knauss said the City has made the decision to remove the pool.
“The City has made the decision to remove the current pool when time permits – possibly as early as 2016,” said Mayor Knauss, who said she floated the idea of raising funds for an aquatic center to replace the pool, but there was not enough interest to pursue the idea.
While the Kettle Falls pool has also been closed since 2013, citizen efforts towards funding the pool and an interest in the city to reopening the facility mean it will not be removed anytime soon, according to City Administrator Dave Keeley. Keeley said the city also invested in a new furnace shortly before the pool’s closure in 2013.
“The issue was funding to keep the pool open,” said Keeley. “When the state voted to privatize liquor, we lost those revenue dollars and that meant we had to make a lot of hard choices, including laying off a policeman.”
If an effort to find a new source of funding for the pool, some Kettle Falls community members are running a “Float the Pool” campaign to gather enough signatures to ask the Stevens County Commissioners to approve putting a Kettle Falls Parks and Recreation District on the ballot. The District would act as a separate taxing district to fund pool operations only, instead of funding the pool from the city’s general budget. A similar petition was circulated last summer and the signatures were presented to the Stevens County Commissioners this spring, but the Commissioners chose to alter the petition request to limit the taxing district to only include the City of Kettle Falls limits. The petitioners, who had asked for a larger taxing district to support the $50,000 annual cost of pool operations, were frustrated with the Commissioner’s decision and are making another effort to gain signatures for a second petition.
So for those hoping to take swim lessons or have a lifeguard-attended place to take the kids this summer, Colville is the only option.
Colville, like Kettle Falls and Chewelah, has also had challenges with its circa 1954 pool, including a leak that was repaired with the addition of a pool liner in the early 2000s.
Colville Recreation Coordinator Jake Wilson said grants and donations helped the city afford the cost of the liner, which has a 20 year or more lifespan.
“The liner looks really good, but at this point our next item is the filtration system which just had its 70 year anniversary, so we are encouraging the City Council to prepare for that expense,” said Wilson, who noted upgrading the filtration system may cost as much as $100,000.
Operating expenses for the Colville pool average $88,000 a year, with pool revenue logging in at around $21,000. The pool facilities include the 60 x 30 foot pool, a 30 x 25 shallow pool and a wading pool outside.
In addition to hosting swim lessons and the Colville Sharks Swim team, the Colville pool is also open for use Monday through Friday. One former Colville Swim team member, Emma Schantz, was recently accepted onto the UCLA swim team. Her brother, Dylan, also a former Colville Shark, swims for St. Cloud University in Minnesota.
Wilson said one of the primary reasons the pool stays open is support from the city council.
“The City has been very supportive of the pool and wants to keep it open,” he said.
Higher annual revenues to the City of Colville also make the cost of subsidizing the pool more feasible for that city. In 2013, Colville drew $11.8 million in revenue, compared to the $4.7 million collected by Chewelah and $3.3 million by Kettle Falls, according to the Washington State Auditor.
However, despite the financial challenges, some communities are continuing to fight for the future of their pool. The Kettle Falls “Float the Pool” Committee will be holding a meeting with the Stevens County Commissioners on July 20 at 4 p.m. The committee will ask the Commissioners to revise their resolution so the community can vote on the creation of a recreation taxing district to support the Kettle Falls pool. The meeting will be held in the Commissioner’s Hearing room at 215 S. Oak in Colville. The meeting is open to the public.

By Jamie Henneman, The Independent Staff

In This Photo:  The Chewelah city pool has sat empty and unused since 2013, due to budget cuts. Jamie Henneman photo

 

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