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Cantwell, Reichert seek wildfire solutions

Photo by Steve Kadel
Appearing at last week’s wildfire roundtable meeting are, from left, Rep. Dave Reichert, Sen. Maria Cantell, and Bret Daugherty, adjutant general of the Washington National Guard.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) wants to improve the way crews fight forest fires, and she organized a roundtable discussion on that topic last week in Wenatchee.

"We need to make sure the fire agencies are responding appropriately," she said. "We have extremely volatile areas because they are so dry. We need a quicker response."

U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) also attended the session and said instant communication is "absolutely necessary" to reduce damage from blazes such as the Chelan Complex fire. Despite the availability of increasingly sophisticated technology, he said, there are times when first responders from different agencies can't talk to one another.

Cantwell and Reichert were joined Aug. 18 by two dozen local and state government officials as well as land management personnel to discuss the problem. Cantwell noted that six of Washington's most destructive and costly fire seasons have occurred since 2000.

She is proposing legislation that would allow faster responses, more pre-fire planning and better communication in rural communities most affected by fast-moving wildfires. The bill also would permit more tree thinning and controlled burns.

"We need to make sure we're better prepared," Cantwell said.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015 More...

Spirit of America Memorial Committee gets set for dedication on Sept. 11
It has taken more than a year, and thousands of hours a volunteer time, but Cashmere's Spirit of America Memorial Committee is just about ready for the big dedication on 9/11.

The whole process started a-year-and-a-half ago as some local folks were contemplating competing against other cities for the 9/11 memorial. Former County Commissioner Tom Green joined the group about that time, becoming the chairman of the committee.

"It was a small group. It got bigger when we were serious about doing a proposal. The proposal had to include a demonstration of financial ability of what we said we wanted to build, and that we would have a place to build it," Green said.

It took four months to find a location, behind the Riverside Center. The group made a presentation to the Foundation Board which owned the memorial and ultimately won it. Since then, Green said he was asked to stay on the committee that would actually build a site to house the memorial.

It has taken more than a year to get this point, with mostly all volunteers.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015 More...
Playground equipment installed at Vale Elementary School
Children will have a new outdoor structure to climb when school opens Sept. 1.

Money from last year's Fun Run, in which students collected pledges for distances covered, allowed the school to purchase the equipment. Employees of R&R Construction of Carbonado finished putting the structure in place last Friday.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015 More...
Port of Chelan honors fallen firefighters
Port commission chairman calls for forest fuel reduction

Business as usual took a timeout last Thursday as Port of Chelan County commissioners observed a moment of silence before their regular meeting.

Commission Chairman Mike Mackey and others honored three firefighters killed earlier in the week during the Twisp River fire. Mackey noted their bravery and commitment to duty, saying, "They ran toward the fire, not away from it."

Commissioners went on with routine business later -- they were updated on activities at Pangborn Memorial Airport among other things -- after paying their respects with heads bowed.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015 More...
More areas depicted in new Upper Valley Museum display panels
The history of the upper valley is more than just Leavenworth. There's Peshastin, Dryden, Blewett Pass, Lake Wenatchee, Plain and Steven Pass. Those areas are now being highlighted in new panels at the Upper Valley Museum in Leavenworth.

"The new panels were just installed. Gibbs Graphics made them for us. There are six new panels to include more areas of the upper valley," Bobbi Ferg, UVM board member.

The Wenatchee Museum and Cultural Center produced the first 12 panels, written by Chris Rader. The Wenatchee museum was too busy to produce more panels, so Ferg said they turned to Rusty Gibbs at Gibbs Graphics, with Rader writing the stories.

"He tried to make them similar so they fit right in. They all look the same, and tell the story of the upper valley," Ferg said of the new panels produced by Gibbs Graphics.

The space at the Upper Valley Museum is fairly tight, so a couple panels had to be placed doors, she said. Freg acknowledges the museum needs to grow, but for the time being, they will rotate their displays.

In terms of adding the new panels, Ferg said the board felt it was time to recognize the surrounding communities.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015 More...
Citywide chip seal project completed for 2015
The city just completed the 2015 citywide chip seal project, which included chip sealing, crack sealing and patchwork. Building and Planning Director Mark Botello said they completed work on Mill Avenue, Chase Avenue, Fircrest Drive, Aldous Street, Newberry Street and South Division Street.

"It's part of our citywide maintenance program. We did it last year. We did it again this year and we're planning to do it again next year. It is a good preventative maintenance program," Botello said.

Every year, the city updates their six-year transportation plan. As part of that, Botello said they identify certain streets around town that need to be reconstructed, have concrete repaired or streets that are not quite ready for reconstruction, but are at the point where they need to be preserved. That would be a chip seal project.

Each year, the city has a public hearing and updates the six-year transportation plan.

"We can apply for grants and do some long term planning. We do update it every year because some projects are removed from the list. These are completed projects. Then, next year we'll add more streets that need to be preserved," Botello said. "Every year, we have a public hearing, we assess our streets. Get estimates. Then we go through the planning process and budget for these streets."

Botello said they have completed a lot of streets in town, including reconstruction projects. But after the Aplets Way project, he does not expect to see any more reconstruction projects for another five years.

Mainly, he said they need to get into the residential areas and chip seal those streets to make them last longer.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015 More...
Council examines plans for Goodwin Bridge replacement
The Cashmere City Council, at the Aug. 10 council meeting, viewed an image of what a future Goodwin Bridge replacement would look like. The proposed bridge shifts north to align it with Hay Canyon Road, said Mark Botello, Building and Planning director.

"It's a county project, county bridge. It's a long term, big project. Right now, they're working on securing grant funds. There is some property acquisition needed for this project," Botello said.

The bridge project has been in the works for a couple years, Botello said, but really moved to the front burner when the county received $12 million grant, for bridge improvement.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015 More...
Phosphorous removal project could have wide ranging implications
A phosphorous removal project currently being conducted at the new Cashmere Wastewater Treatment facility could have huge implications for cities, counties and farmers. Engineer Tom Coleman with RH2 Engineering and dTec Systems, has developed an ecomonical method of removing phosphorous from the wastewater stream and recovering it in a way that it would be useable for agriculture.

"Phosphorous is a limited resource for agriculture in the world. There is only so much of it. It's becoming very valuable. This system would be a method of much more economically removing the phosphorous than any plan that already exists. Also, it would generate the phosphorous for other uses," said Cashmere Mayor Jeff Gomes.

Gomes said Coleman received a grant from the EPA for this project. Phase one would last six months, Gomes said. If that proves out, it will go to phase two. The project is taking minimal space at the treatment plant, and no staff time, Gomes said.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015 More...
Jarvis substation upgrade to improve electrical service
The Chelan County PUD is just getting started on upgrading Jarvis substation in Cashmere. Chad Rissman, PUD engineering manager of distribution, said the substation is non-standard with lower voltage.

"We're converting and upgrading the substation basically by replacing the electrical equipment inside of it, the power transformer and the circuit breakers to be able to work with the Chelan PUD's standard voltage," Rissman said. "It will be higher capacity too, our standard capacity size."

With this upgrade, Rissman said they will be able to eliminate the two other substations and still have the same capacity. There are currently three substations in Cashmere.

Some parts of the Jarvis substation are very old, he said.

"In fact, I think some of the equipment was surplused when Chelan PUD converted parts of Wenatchee. We actually had some old files on some of the equipment used in there. It had a great life," Rissman said.

Since 2008, the PUD has been working on converting the distribution lines throughout the streets of Cashmere. Rissman said they have been converting those lines to be able to accept the standard voltage level.

In doing so, they've installed dual wattage transformers. These are the distribution transformers that actually serve the homes.

"What that allows us to do take a shorter outage. Instead of replacing the transformer when we go to covert and bring the new substation online, we'll be able to turn the power off, go through and change the switches on the transformers down the street and pick things up a lot faster on the new substation," Rissman said.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015 More...
City modifies zoning to make it easier on churches
The Cashmere City Council is trying to make easier on churches in the city. Building and Planning Director Mark Botello said this is something worked out with the Planning Commission. He said when they run into people in the community, one of things that concerned commissioners was to allow churches as a permitted use within certain zoning districts.

"In the county, we have the SR (suburban residential) zone. Right now, churches are allowed with a conditional use permit (CUP). We changed it from a CUP to a permitted use outright. But they still have to go through SEPA and environmental review, development standards," Botello said.

This change was made through all the zones, except single family and public. Churches within single family zones will still be allowed under a CUP.

Botello said there are no churches pressing for this change. So why the changes?

"I am very familiar with all the developments that are going on here in town. I know Christ Center is building this big church near the fairgrounds. They are permitted through a CUP, so every few years, they have to go through the county to get a permit extension on their CUP, which cost more money and time," he said.

Botello said he discussed the situation with the planning commissioners.

"We decided it would be best to look at the zoning citywide and those were the amendments we proposed, to allow churches to be permitted outright, within those certain zoning districts," he said.

Cottage Avenue Park

The city is in the process of upgrading the play equipment in Cottage Avenue Park. Botello said they have purchased a new piece of playground equipment. They are also adding more playground chips.

The reason they are upgrading the playground equipment is because of an insurance audit.

"There was a metal dome at the playground deemed unsafe. We had to take that out. When we took that out, I went to the Cashmere Council with some of the adjacent property owners and discussed a replacement," Botello said. "We've met with the property owners that live around there. Actually, they selected that piece of playground equipment."

The playground equipment includes a couple slides and a suspension bridge, similar to Simpson Park. Botello said the upgrades were paid for from city capital funds.

"We met with the property owners and I guided them into looking at different types of playgrounds. They chose this one. We presented to council two months ago," he said. "The equipment had been there a long time."

Wednesday, August 12, 2015 More...
Link Transit installing cameras in all buses
Smile next time you are on bus. You might be on Link Transit cameras. Link Transit is in the process of outfitting its entire bus fleet with cameras, interior and exterior. Seven years ago, the Washington State Transit Association issued a series of best practices for the industry, surounding liability and safety issues. There are 26 transit systems in the WSTA pool.

"This best practices came out, saying it was recommended for transit systems, when finances are available, to equip their fleet with bus cameras, both interior and exterior," Todd Daniel, Link Maintenance and Technology manager. "Number two, for liability reasons. Unfortunately, we live in an age when it can be and is an issue. It helps us in the forensics of an accident to understand what took place."

Seven years ago, Daniel said they tried to accommodate those best practices through a couple of grants, but those did not come through. So fast forward to 2015, Link budgeted $350,000 to implement a camera system throughout the fleet.

"We had seven buses that we equipped new from the factory with cameras. The best practices said, for now, equip your new buses, and when you get the funds, go ahead and equip your older fleet. So we are following our best practices guidelines," Daniel said.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015 More...

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