Photos by Ian Dunn
Local artists Rusty and Amanda Gibbs of Gibbs Graphics, along with a bunch of friends, created this snow sculpture from the big pile of snow outside the Gibbs Graphics office in Leavenworth. Amanda Gibbs said they constructed the dragon and elephant over the course of a weekend. You can find the dragon on our community page.
The annexation into the city of Leavenworth of Cascade School District property off Pine Street is once again moving forward. The annexation was started last year by the school district, but later stopped when the district and city had issues over the right-of-way line on Pine Street., but also the uncertainty as to whether the property was a wetland or not. Since then, the school district changed plans and decided to build the new Alpine Lakes Elementary School away from Pine Street, on the the practice football field property. This took away not only the wetland issues but also lessened the necessity to resolve the right-of-way line dispute. Now, the city and school district have reached agreement, paving the way for this annexation of six acres to continue. It was discussed at the Jan. 25 Cascade School Board meeting, and also the Jan. 26 Leavenworth City Council meeting.
OLYMPIA - Monday the Washington House of Representatives passed a bill 64-34 that would create a group to produce recommendations for retaining and fully compensating teachers, as required by the Supreme Court's 2012 McCleary mandate. That Supreme Court decision found the state was not meeting its constitutional obligation to fully fund basic education. Since September 2014 the court has held the state in contempt for failing to produce plans to accomplish this task, and in August last year issued a $100,000 per day penalty for failing to comply with its order. Basic education must be fully funded by 2018. The Supreme Court includes teacher compensation as a component of basic education and found that local tax levy funds, which the court considers unreliable for sustained financial resources, have paid for parts of teacher compensation that should have been paid by the state. "This is acknowledging that the current system is broken, that the current system is unconstitutional," Rep. Chad Magendanz, R-Issaquah, said on the floor. "We are affirming our commitment to put an end to that." "We believe...that we have set our benchmarks, that we have fulfilled our obligation to the state of the Washington, to the people of Washington, and to the children of our state," said Rep. Kristine Lytton, D-Anacortes. "I believe that this is our biggest hurdle. I believe that we can come together." HB 2366 establishes a task force that, with the help of a consultant, would produce for the next legislative session recommendations to fully fund teacher pay. The bill also requires action to eliminate school districts' reliance on local tax levies by the end of the 2017 session.
In response to Chelan County's proposed ban on marijuana producers and processors, the Leavenworth City Council voted, at the Jan. 26 meeting, to encourage the county to try and mitigate the issues before implementing any kind of ban. "The county, through their processes, found the production and processing have significant impact to neighborhoods, surrounding neighbors, property owners and the region. They want to process a ban," said Leavenworth Development Manager Nathan Pate. "For tonight, what we are asking is for the council's opinion for feedback because it does affect the urban growth area. Without a ban, in theory, any portion of the county, including the UGA, could receive a permit for processing and production." Councilman Elmer Larsen said he read the article in the paper about the issue and was disturbed. "It bothered me in that they said you can do it, grow, and people have spent $1 million or more. Then they say, we didn't think ahead about the ramifications therefore we are going to ban it and in two years your business goes away no matter how much money you've spent," Larsen said. "Keith (Goehner, county commissioner) said we go through this all the time with orchards. But that is like saying the pesticide you are putting on stinks, therefore you can't have an orchard." Larsen's preference was to send the county a letter recommending the planning commission work with growers and processors to develop some mitigation. Mayor Cheri Kelley Farivar pointed out that marijuana growing licenses are only for one year at a time.
While the massive amounts of snow this winter season has been a boon to recreation, it has also been problematic for the city of Leavenworth, which must clear the snow off city streets. With amount of snow that has fallen, City Administrator Joel Walinski said they now running out of room to store the snow. "We're going to have to start looking at the WSDOT lot and it is filling up. That is just from the snow we collect along Highway 2 to keep the sidewalks open. That's where we put that snow. Those big piles there at the WSDOT," Walinski said. The WSDOT plows U.S. Highway 2 off to the edges. The city plows the sidewalks along the highway, the ridge between the sidewalk and the road. That snow is being taken to the WSDOT lot at the west end of town. In terms of plowing the city streets, Walinski said that is a tough question because he knows there are a number of people out there than would say it hasn't gone very well.
At one time, the Chumstick Trail, water-sewer line project was seen as the first step toward construction of the proposed Meadowlark affordable housing project. But now, with the Meadowlark project in jeopardy, the city is still pressing ahead with the Chumstick Trail, water-sewer project because it benefits the city, paving the way for future development on the property, off Titus Road in Leavenworth. At the Jan. 12 Leavenworth City Council meeting, City Administrator Joel Walinski told the council the lift station portion of the project had been removed. He said they could not find a vendor that manufacturers lift stations with American certified steel, a requirement of the federal grant funding the project. "We need to leave that piece of the project out. That was recommended by the WSDOT to move the project forward. We do expect to come back next January to ask for authorization for that bid," Walinski said. Also invited to the meeting was Larry Cordes with Pace Engineers, the lead consulting engineers for the Chumstick Trail, water-sewer line project. He was there primarily to help bring the new council members up to speed. Cordes said preparing for the presentation was easy because he did the same one in April of 2014.
The Leavenworth City Council has voted to raise property taxes 5.8 percent. Under state law, cities can only raise property tax 1 percent per year, unless the city has banked capacity, meaning there are years when the city did not raise taxes. "We have a couple key components. We have the 1 percent cap that is typically in place. That is for $4,187.86. Unless we are going to take that to the voters, to raise it greater than 1 percent, we're recommending to stick with the 1 percent," said City Administrator Joel Walinski, at the Nov. 10 Leavenworth City Council meeting. Walinski said there are a few other things that get added to the $4,187.86, such as new construction. Based on that, he said there is revenue of $1,693 based on $1.5 million in new construction that went into the assessed roles. There is no annexation revenue for 2015. There is refund revenue of $803. "Mistakes were made, properties were assessed differently later in the year. Some people contest their assessed values. Things change throughout the year. That is what these refunds mean," said Chantell Steiner, City Finance director.
School District works to finalize capital projects Believe or not, the Cascade School District is still trying to finalize some projects around the district, as part of the $5.7 million capital projects levy. It appears less than stellar work on the part of the contractor is to blame for most of the issues. The most obvious mishap was the soccer field lights. The contractor installed the light bases without prior city approval. Later, the bases were found to be not up to code, so new bases were installed this summer. The field was also damaged by heavy equipment the winter months, in a failed attempt to install the light bases. Fairly quickly though, the field damage was repaired and it now looks great. By all accounts, the soccer field lights are working well, but there still is some work to be done to finish that up.
Experience in Uganda leaves Cascade doctor a changed man He only spent a month in Uganda treating refugees, but the whole experience changed him. Cascade Medical Doctor, Geoff Richardson, may be back in his cozy bed in Leavenworth, but the experience in Uganda is still on his mind. Richardson spent October in Uganda, working at a medical clinic, which served a large refugee camp. CM gives doctors a sabbatical after 15 years. After spending some time recharging, Richardson decided it was time to give back. He first contacted Doctors Without Borders, but they required a six month commitment. Then, he found Medical Teams International, which is based in Portland. "They send a lot of folks in for disaster relief. It is a Christian-based organization that send folks all over the world. It does not have an evangelical bent to it. They take all comers," Richardson said. "I looked at their mission, and it really gelled with what I thought was good. Talking to people who had done it before, it felt right." Richardson did not indicate a preference, but he thought they would send him to southeast Asia, since he had grown up there. But they suggested Uganda, which he knew very little about. "Only after being prepped by them ahead of time, did I have a little understanding. Even while I was there, trying to get a feel for the political climate of Uganda, took a little while," Richardson said. "Just as I was leaving, the presidential primaries were going on. The ruling party has been entrenched there. The president is trying to get another term, which was against their constitution. There was fighting, gunshots. Stuff was happening."
On Monday morning, April 29 of 2013, Chelan County Treasurer David Griffiths discovered the theft of $1.03 million in a Bank of America account used by Chelan County. The theft involved Cascade Medical because thieves accessed the Bank of America account using Cascade Medical passwords. At the outset, it seemed the thieves had stolen the $1.03 million from Cascade Medical. But that was not the case. "When this occurred, I think our community was concerned Cascade Medical had lost the funds. When, in fact, it impacted the county most of all," said CM CEO Diane Blake. At the beginning, Blake was advised by attorneys not to speak to the media about the incident, mainly because CM could still be held liable for the loss. "I really wish we could have communicated with you and our community much earlier. But I felt it prudent to follow the legal advice we were receiving," Blake said. "People will sometimes ask about it. Now, I am free to tell them. That's good. But it was a challenge, for sure. The thing I noted most was that the people were concerned, but it came from a place of caring about our organization." Because they are a public hospital district, CM is required to have a treasurer. Blake said it is customary for the treasurer of the hospital district to also be the treasurer of the county where the hospital district is located. So Griffiths is the treasurer of the hospital district.
June Responding to public complaints, Day revised Segway tour proposal Just as quickly as the debate over Segway tours in downtown parks erupted, it died down. Local businessman Dale Day had proposed Segway tours in Waterfront Park. But his plan drew much public opposition, including packing city council chambers on April 28. The matter was continued to the May 26 city council meeting, where there were again people ready to speak out against the measure. After the April 28 meeting, it appears Day had a change of heart in regards to his proposal to use the park for his tours.
May After hearing from the public, council still undecided about Segway plan The prospects of having a Segway tour though the parks of Leavenworth appeared a bit murky, after a round of public testimony on the proposal. Those for and against the proposal packed the Leavenworth City Council chambers on April 28. Local businessman Dale Day has proposed conducting Segway tours through the parks of Leavenworth. After hearing from Day and someone against the proposal, Matt Fields, at the March 10 city council meeting, the council decided to take public testimony on the proposal.