Town Council | Waterville street problems to be addressed before winter

By Karen Larsen
Empire Press Correspondent

Waterville residents will soon be seeing road equipment working on a number of streets and intersections around town. They should also see improved road conditions in some of the most problem stretches of the town’s street system before fall and winter weather sets in. At its regular Aug. 20 meeting, the Waterville Town Council approved a resolution declaring an emergency related to the condition of these particular areas of the town road system and waived public bidding requirements for their repair.

Emergency repairs were authorized for First Street from Chelan Avenue to Baker Street, Second Street from Chelan Avenue to Baker Street, the intersection of Greene Street and First Street, Birch Street from Columbia Avenue to Greene Street, West Park Street from Walnut Street to Locust Street, Central Avenue from Locust Street to Third Street, and Adams Street from Poplar Street to Third Street.

Mayor Royal DeVaney told council members that the town has reserves that could cover up to $86,000 in repairs. He said that utility superintendent Marty Ramin was working on getting a quote from Mitchell Trucking & Paving for the work. DeVaney expected the work to begin within the next few weeks.

In other matters, the town’s planner Kurt Danison was present for discussion concerning the town’s planning and zoning commission. The discussion came about because it has been difficult to find times when a quorum of the members of the commission could meet to discuss issues. DeVaney wanted to explore the possibility of changing town code to require a planning and zoning agency rather than a commission. The agency would be made up of town staff members. Unlike the commission, the agency would not hold public hearings on matters related to planning and zoning, rather these hearings would be held when recommendations are considered by the town council. DeVaney said that he has noticed that some towns and cities have moved to the agency format for planning and zoning.

Danison said that he thinks that though it can be difficult to get the commission members together to meet, he does feel that they provide valuable insight. He also thinks they help reduce the workload of the town council members because they spend time researching issues and then make recommendations to the council.

The group consensus was that the planning and zoning commission should be retained, but that its members determine a day that will work for regular meetings every month. Current city code specifies that this should be the second Tuesday, but there are conflicts with that day for many of the members, so they have ended up rescheduling the meetings to various days depending on availability. Once the group decides on a meeting day, the code will be changed to reflect this.

Councilwoman Jill Thompson also expressed concern that the council has not been given much information about the discussions and work of the planning and zoning commission. It was decided that council members will be provided commission meeting minutes in their packets. It was also agreed that Danison will attend council meetings once a quarter to give a report on the work of the commission.

Another issue was the occasional need to address planning and zoning issues quickly. This could be the case for current discussions on whether the town will allow cryptocurrency mining, what areas of town this should be allowed and what special conditions should apply.

According to town attorney Steve Smith, if the town has a planning and zoning commission then there is probably no way to bypass their input in the event that changes need to be considered more quickly.

Douglas County Sheriff Kevin Morris gave a report about recent law enforcement activity. He highlighted the incident of a juvenile who had escaped from detention Aug. 1 while he was at the Douglas County Courthouse for a court appearance. After escaping custody, the juvenile stole a vehicle in Waterville. He was located in Wenatchee and taken into custody after a short pursuit with a Chelan County unit. The vehicle that was stolen was totaled in the pursuit.

Council members unanimously approved the most current solid waste management plan.

Thompson, who serves on the Chelan-Douglas County Health District Board, reported that the board had discussed air quality conditions from smoke and the number of rabid bats that had been captured and tested in the area.

Air quality levels in the area have ranged from very unhealthy to hazardous, according to Thompson. Masks have been available at Pioneer Park Deli, city hall and the Waterville Post Office. She advised everyone to wear masks while outdoors. People with asthma, lung disease or heart disease should be especially careful. Thompson also reported that the health department plans to purchase a monitor to measure indoor air quality, so that conditions in schools, hospitals and other public buildings can be monitored.

Thompson said that over 70 bats have been turned over to the health department for testing this year. Ten of these have tested positive for rabies. She said that 23 people have been treated for bat-related encounters.

DeVaney reported on an ongoing discussion with the Douglas County Solid Waste Advisory Committee regarding an idea brought up by the county commissioners to hire a consultant to locate a site for a transfer station in the county should the current landfill reach capacity. Waste Management officials have communicated that the landfill will not reach capacity for another 96 years.

Chamber of Commerce President Keith Soderstrom has expressed interest in placing a gazebo in Pioneer Park west of the sunken garden. The gazebo could be a place for bands to play and could be used for weddings and other events. Soderstrom believes the chamber can raise all of the money needed to build the gazebo. DeVaney said that the gazebo would be a benefit for the town, if indeed the money for it could be raised.

Town hall will be closed Sept. 3 in observance of Labor Day. The next town council meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4.