(By Jared Arnold/Chewelah Independent)
Decision to not pursue federal or state grant opportunities centers around handicap accessibility…
In a surprising move last week, the Chewelah City Council decided to not pursue grant opportunities to help rehabilitate the city’s public swimming pool. Mayor Dorothy Knauss explained to the council that she had received a call from Congesswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ office about grant money for the shuttered pool but the mayor declined any help based on the council’s decision in July to wait two years while Bob Belknap and a community group worked to develop a plan to re-open the pool. This comes just weeks after the city agreed to coordinate with Belkap’s group on testing and assessing the viability of the pool.
“So, I said the city is not interested in applying for a grant. Now correct me if that’s not [the council’s] interest, but your vote was simply to let the thing lie for two years,” Knauss explained to the council about her decision. Belknap was not present at the meeting to discuss the issue with the council.
The mayor’s decision to not pursue federal or state grant opportunities for the pool appeared to center around handicap accessibility challenges at the existing site.
“As I reported before, [Recreation and Conservation Office outdoor grants manager Kyle Guzlas] went over and looked around the pool and he came back and told Mike [Frizzell] and I that there is money to repair pools but, with their limited funding, he didn’t think ours would ever make it far enough up the chain because it is on a hill and that makes handicap accessibility [difficult] and any grant that we would get would have to make the total thing handicap accessible and be done with prevailing wage, not volunteer labor,” Knauss said. “So I just wanted to pass that on to you, and if I’m not reflecting your wishes you need to tell me that,” the mayor told the council. No members of the council contradicted the mayor’s position.
Richmond Lane right-of-way dispute
Two Richmond Lane residents and pilots addressed the council about right-of-way encroachments on the street there. Richmond Lane also serves as a aircraft taxiway for pilots living on the street adjacent to the Sand Canyon Airport.
New resident Ray Watson explained to the council that he will not be able to taxi his airplane on Richmond Lane because of some trees that have encroached into the designated 60-foot street right-of-way. He said that, in some places, the trees had reduced clearance width on the street to as little as 30 feet.
Watson told the council that many of the issues had been resolved by neighbors that agreed to remove the offending trees but that some issues still remain, especially with trees on or near the property of Lee and Sharon Dorrance.
“[The trees] present a high level of risk of damage to an aircraft,” Watson said.
Lee Dorrance, a long-time pilot and resident on the street, conceded that some of the trees planted on his property line 25 years ago had grown sufficiently that they now encroach on the right-of-way and could impede aircraft. He agreed that one large tree could be removed and another could be limbed to provide better clearance. However, he argued that popular general aviation aircraft should not need more than 50 feet of clearance to taxi safely.
Although he did not think it was necessary, Dorrance suggested that if he is required to remove obstructions from the right-of-way, then the entire length of Richmond Lane should be examined and have obstructions removed.
“We did a rough survey up and down Richmond Lane . . . and there are 92 big trees that have to be removed. There’s over a hundred small trees,” Dorrance said and noted that there also numerous bushes, fences and mail boxes that may need to be removed.
City Administrator Mike Frizzell suggested to the council that a official survey be conducted on the right-of-way to determine the exact boundaries. He estimated that the cost would be $3,000.
City Attorney Mike Waters agreed with Frizzell that a survey would help determine the city’s liability in the situation.
“From a legal perspective, a survey that would allow evaluation of these facts is highly recommended,” Waters advised the council.
The council voted unanimously to allow the administration to go ahead with the survey.
Golf course fire station
Chewelah Fire Chief Dave DeVeau presented a $18,000 quote for materials to construct a 36-foot by 60-foot fire station at the golf course, suggesting that the project may be more affordable than initially thought. Recently, the mayor and council have discussed options for the construction of a fire station in the golf course neighborhood on a lot currently owned by the city on Golf Course Road.
However, without substantial grant funding from state or federal agencies, recent construction estimates from the administration of $479,000 had apparently put the project out of reach for the city.
“I think we may be trying to over-complicate a simple situation,” DeVeau said to the council about the discrepancy between the basic needs of his department and the administrations estimate. “[All] we need is a two-bay building that’s heated with a bathroom and can hold two fire trucks. [$479,000] to me seems to be outlandish.”
Frizzell pointed out that DeVeau’s quote was only for materials and did not include concrete, bathrooms, or labor. DeVeau agreed.
Mayor Knauss directed Frizzell and DeVeau to work together to develop plans for the simplified station and get firm construction estimates.
Council applicants to be interviewed
Six applicants will be interviewed by the council at the September 6 meeting to fill the open council position number six. The applicants are Patrick Sawyer, Mike Bentz, Mary Ludwig, Luke McGuire, Evan Schalock and Winston Griepp. The position was vacated when Roberta McMillin resigned in July. The term of the position expires at the end of December 2019. The person appointed by council would fill the position until the results of the November 2019 election are certified.
The next regular meetings of the city council will be held on Wednesday, August 16 and Wednesday, September 6 at 6:30 p.m. in the City Hall council chambers. The August 16 meeting will include an open public forum for residents to discuss their concerns directly with councilmembers.