In an unusual move by a member of the Chewelah City Council, councilman John May left his normal position in order to address his legislative peers from the opposite side of the podium during the “audience comment” segment of last Wednesday’s regular council meeting – a segment normally reserved for citizens to address the council concerning the city’s business.
May gave an impassioned speech to the council regarding his concern about illegal immigrants and drugs in Chewelah, encouraging the council to take a strong stance against both.
“I would like this community to not be inviting to certain groups of folks. And the first group of folks that I’m thinking about are those people that are in this country illegally. The second group of folks that I’m thinking about are those people whose occupation is the production, manufacture and distribution of illegal drugs,” he explained about his desire for the future of Chewelah.
“The thing that the council needs to understand is that it’s like a seed: somebody comes, they live here and are part of one of these groups, and if they find that they are comfortable here then they notify their friends and their friends notify their friends … They’re like a cancer,” May explained.
“How do you cure a cancer?” he asked rhetorically before offering his prescription. “I can tell you for a fact: the best way to cure a cancer is to catch it early and get rid of it.”
“How do you put an end to it? The frontline crew for doing that are the [Chewelah Police Department],” May continued. “They need the support of [the council] … and the idea that they want to do the best they can do to rid the community of those kinds of folks.”
Coincidentally, May’s comments were followed later in the meeting by a presentation from Deputy Bob Bond of the Spokane County Sheriff’s Department regarding his agency’s K-9 Unit. Bond, a 28 year veteran of the Spokane County Sheriff Office and current K-9 Training Coordinator, discussed the effectiveness of using dogs to locate suspects and evidence at crime scenes, especially drugs.
Bond made the presentation to the council after being invited by Chewelah Police Chief Mark Burrows and Officer Matt Miller. Burrows and Miller are both interested in starting a K-9 program in their department.
Bond, along with his patrol dog Plotts, demonstrated for the council how a K-9 locates drugs in a room and also how the dog can be used to bite and help apprehend a suspect. Plotts is an eight year-old German Shepherd.
Bond explained how the K-9s are a “force multiplier” for his department. He said a single dog adds the effectiveness of eight human officers to a police department because of their heightened sense of smell, ability to track suspects, quick crime scene searches, and effectively de-escalating violent situations. He said that angry or resistant suspects tend to comply with officer commands when faced with a K-9.
In other business, the council tabled a proposed resolution that would change cemetery policies after councilman May called a new rate at Chewelah Pioneer Cemetery a “money grabber.”
The resolution would add a $250 charge for the weekday opening and closing of cremain burials at both Chewelah Pioneer Cemetery and Chewelah Memorial Park cemetery. Saturday and holiday service would be $500.
“I can understand the expense of $250 for burying the cremains at Chewelah Memorial Park because that’s a perpetual care facility and it’s got sod, but $250 dollars to bury cremains at Pioneer Cemetery is ludicrous,” May complained.
May related that he recently buried two cremains at Chewelah Pioneer Cemetery with a post hole digger and was finished in about 15 minutes.
“I would like to see us do something about that difference, at least [at the] Pioneer Cemetery,” May suggested. “It’s a money grabber!”
The council referred the issue back to the City Administrator for further review.
In other audience comments, resident Lois Kluckner questioned the council as to why ratepayers are being billed monthly for recycling when recycling is not available. Councilman Payton Norvell answered her question, explaining that the recycling facility is still under construction and would soon be available for city residents. He also said that, even though the facility is not yet open for use, the revenue generated from the one dollar monthly charge is being used to fund its construction.
Mayor Dorothy Knauss and City Administrator Mike Frizzell were both absent from the meeting. Mayor pro tem Sharon Ludwig conducted the meeting.
By Jared Arnold/The Independent Staff