(By Jared Arnold/Chewelah Independent)
Will work with group on Community Needs Assessment…
The Chewelah City Council agreed to partner with the YMCA of the Inland Northwest to conduct a Community Needs Assessment after a presentation at their meeting last Wednesday evening.
John Ehrbar, COO of YMCA of the Inland Northwest, spoke to the council after being contacted by councilwoman Dee Henderson and meeting with Mayor Dorothy Knauss and City Administrator Mike Frizzell. Ehrbar explained that the purpose of YMCA, commonly known as the Y, is building communities and making communities stronger through three areas of focus: youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.The organization accomplishes it’s goals through activities such as youth sports, child care, aquatics/swim lessons, mentoring, dropout prevention, preventive wellness programs, chronic disease prevention, and building a legion of volunteers.
“We are here to see if there may be interest for the Y to have some type of involvement to help this community, help build the foundations of this community as we have in other communities around the country,” Ehrbar said.
“That could be youth sports programs, opportunities to partner with the schools, or child care,” he said while explaining that the Y’s involvement varies according to the needs of each community. He noted that the Y does not compete with existing programs but rather tries to create synergy among various activities.
Ehrbar added that facilities such as gyms or aquatic centers are possibilities after market studies are done and donations are collected from the local community.
“If that’s a direction we wanted to go, we would form a group of leaders from this community to help guide us in that conversation,” he said.
Ehrbar said that the first step in the process would be to gather feedback through the Community Needs Assessment. He indicated that the assessment could be accomplished through a survey or open public forum where members of the community could ask questions and learn more about what the Y offers.
The council agreed to move forward with that and Knauss said she would work with Ehrbar on the details and letting the community know how they can participate.
Property sales questioned
After questions from the audience about recent city property sales, Mayor Knauss said she would explain the recent property sales and sales process at the next council meeting.
Mayoral candidate Bob Belknap questioned the legality of the city’s sale of two land parcels on Sand Canyon Road that included water wells.
“I’ve heard that there are two utility properties that have been sold without the requisite public hearings and I haven’t found those public hearings any place and I was just wondering: Is it true that those wells were sold and if so, why public hearings weren’t held? If they weren’t held, can we recoup those wells?” Belknap asked.
Council candidate John Kabosky also questioned the process for selling city-owned property after conversations he has had on the campaign trail.
“I think we need to remember that each tax-paying citizen of Chewelah owns a little itty-bitty piece of the city property. I think that should be kept in mind. I’ve looked and looked to see where these properties are listed and I cannot find out what properties are for sale or how valuation of those properties are determined. I think there’s an unclear part of when a property is brought forward with an offer, of what due diligence is done to make sure that we’re getting the most value from that property, especially as we are a city that is in financial trouble. So that is my question: Where are we able to find that information of all the city property that is listed as potential for sale and the bidding process for them?” Kabosky asked.
More audience comments
Chewelah School District Superintendent Rick Linehan thanked the council and citizens of Chewelah for their support of the capital levy to rebuild Snyder Field and Track.
“It is a centerpiece now for our community,” Linehan said, noting that the project was completed on-time and under budget.
He said that the next focus will be to improve the school building infrastructure.
John Grumbach gave an update for the Chewelah Chamber of Commerce and reminded them that the Candidate Meet and Greet would be held on Oct. 11 and the Annual Auction and Dinner would be Oct. 21.
No grant for airport purchase
Mayor Knauss announced to the council that the city was not awarded a Washington State Department of Transportation -Aviation grant to help purchase the airport property. The city currently leases the land that the airport sits on from the Department of Natural Resources. The council directed Knauss and Frizzell to continue looking for ways to purchase the land.
Administration mum on Kaiser lawsuit
When councilwoman Dee Henderson asked the Mayor for an update about the litigation against the Kaiser family, Knauss explained to Henderson that that discussion, when necessary, would happen in executive session.
“We don’t comment on pending litigation, on the advice of our attorneys. So, if our attorney has an update for us, he will show up in executive session that evening,” Knauss said.
Later in the meeting, the council unanimously approved an additional $20,360 in attorney costs for the “Kaiser matter” bringing the total costs to $50,360 since legal action started in 2016.
In other business, the council unanimously approved a budget amendment that decreases overall 2017 spending by $24,537.
A reciprocal maintenance agreement with Washington State Department of Transportation (DOT) was unanimously approved. DOT will provide 300-400 cubic yards of winter sand mix in exchange for use of the city’s loader at the stockpile site on the north end of town. The agreement expires March 31, 2018.
The council also heard the introduction of a ordinance granting a new 25-year franchise to Avista Utilities for the operation of their electric system in the golf course area. The ordinance is scheduled to be approved at the next council meeting.