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Time for change

Dear Editor:

The upcoming election for Okanogan County commissioners in Districts 1 and 2 are very important for the well being of the citizens and the lands of this immense county.

Our present commissioners have acted against the wishes of the residents of Chiliwist and the Methow Valley. Rulings that the commissioners have supported and advocated have led to lawsuits and bitter controversy. The monies spent defending these ill-advised and unpopular issues have led to lost revenue that could be used to update the juvenile detention center or keep county employment in the county. It’s time for a change in leadership. Please vote in August and November for change.

I am voting for Andy Hover, a well-balanced, thoughtful and open-minded person and candidate. Andy has a strong background in business and farming, essentials in this community. Andy can win and will do a great job for the citizens of Okanogan.

Mike Real, Winthrop

Ban recreational fires

Dear Editor:

After reading the article by Marjorie “Slim” Woodruff  — “In this season of fire, nix the campfire,” July 20 — I felt compelled to write you.

I would like to add my 2 cents worth.            On Monday, July 18, of this year I was visiting relatives who were camping at a local campground in the Winthrop area. I was very dismayed, and distressed, to see at least a half-dozen very large (over 3 feet high) bonfires burning throughout the campground.

Yes, the fires appeared to be within fire grates or fire rings. And yes, there were no unattended fires. However, whether water or other approved fire extinguishing equipment was readily available I don’t know. Additionally, the fires appeared to be within 25 feet of structures and other combustible material.

I didn’t say anything to the campground manager at the time because I was not fully aware of the details of the county’s burn ban resolution. I have since read Okanogan County Commissioner’s Resolution 51-2016 and I believe these fires were not in compliance.

Given our history with fire the last couple of years I have to question the wisdom of our county commissioners allowing recreational fires in the first place.

I don’t mean to deny anyone the enjoyment of sitting around a campfire. But if our county commissioners are going to allow recreational fires, then it must be incumbent upon this business owner, and others who may rent out property, to ensure their patrons are in full compliance with the county resolution.

Personally, I would like to see a complete ban on recreational fires as well. It seems the prudent course of action. Clearly we can’t rely on all visitors (or some county residents for that matter) to show some common sense. I for one do not relish the thought of losing my home to wildfire. And I’m sure I’m not alone.

Pat Nordby, Winthrop

More trail work

Dear Editor

We’d like to add to the list of wonderful groups who maintain local trails. The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) has been a presence here for three years. We have volunteer trail stewards who are charged with doing lighter-duty maintenance, and determining where larger projects are necessary. Then a volunteer work crew is organized to do the more specialized aspects.

A good example of this is this past weekend, when at least 20 people came together, most from the west side (one visiting from South Africa!) to work the Bridge Creek trailhead north to Cutthroat Pass. Folks, you will have smooth sailing (over 80 trees logged out) heading that way, you’ll see new signs helping with trail finding, and examples of brushed trails and better drainage. If you’d like to volunteer, you are welcome! Check out the website, www.pcta.org, for opportunities and join!

Teresa Skye and David Ward, PCTA trail stewards

We can do better

Dear Editor:

Past experience shows two things about our primary elections. Only a minority vote, and a few votes more or less can decide an election.

We have a totally dysfunctional board of county commissioners. Instead of dealing with the county’s real problems, they’d rather spend our money on silly claims such as taking charge of federal lands. These are the same folks who gave away a public road to the richest landowners in the county, free of charge. They flout or simply ignore state laws at will, then get sued and our tax monies pay the lawyer fees.

We have a chance for real change at the county level. Two seats are open. In the Methow’’s district, we have two excellent candidates challenging the incumbent. They are Andy Hover and Ashley Thrasher. You can also tell your friends over in District 1 that they can bring real change by voting for Chris Branch or Ted Reinbold.

There is still nearly a week to vote and a lot of people who haven’t yet voted. Please, folks, if you think our county can be better, send in your ballots now.

Randy Brook, Twisp

Ignorance about easements

Dear Editor:

I don’t understand how county commissioners Campbell and Kennedy can run as “property rights” advocates. They are telling the citizens of Okanogan County that they will not support conservation easements that will enable a farming family to stay on the land and to use that land for what it was intended. There is no loss of tax revenue. 

Commissioner Campbell says no “to easements that use public money” What is he talking about? Why not? Our tax dollars (public money) may or may not benefit me personally but those dollars are generally used for the good of the general public within our county. Shouldn’t he respect the landowners’ decision?

Commissioner Kennedy has indicated that we need more homes if our county is to grow and farmland should not be put into easements when it could be used for homes. She doesn’t seem to know that many easements allow more than one home while keeping farmland intact. Shouldn’t she support conservation easements if landowners want to stay on their land and put it into an easement? Isn’t that their right?

Having been raised on a cattle ranch I personally believe if a willing landowner wants to use the conservation easement tool to keep their land in agriculture they should not be stymied by our commissioners.

That is one of the reasons I am voting for Andy Hover County for commissioner in District 2.

Carl Miller, Winthrop

Flawed plan

Dear Editor:

I’m addressing the people of Okanogan County who have a lot at stake in the general election. Land use and water policy done carelessly by ignoring state laws and guidelines will cost you a lot of money, like it did us here in Kittitas County.

I know what I am talking about as a former land use planner now retired. Our commissioners back in 2006 were David Bowen, Alan Crankovich and Perry Huston, your current  planning director. They voted to approve a comprehensive plan that was non-compliant with state laws and regulations. Our county spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and other public resources and after seven years lost over 90 percent of what they were defending. They lost to citizen groups in partnership with Futurewise. Do you want this for your county?

Ask those running for county commissioner and the incumbent not running this year to rethink their support for your current county comprehensive plan. High densities in rural lands, lack of water resources physically available and legal to supply development and policies that don’t adequately protect water quality won’t survive legal challenge.

If Okanogan County goes forward with this flawed plan, it’s going to cost you dearly.

Jan Sharar, Ellensburg

Vote for Thrasher

Dear Editor:

We hope many registered voters in the Methow will join us in voting for our niece, Ashley Thrasher, in the upcoming primary election for Okanogan County commissioner. Of course we are voting for her because she is family, but that is only one of many reasons for doing so. Ashley wasn’t born here, nor is she a descendant of a multi-generational local family, which is one of many factors to consider in choosing a candidate, and one that perhaps is overstated in its importance. Ashley would work hard for this community and the county. She would bring a fresh perspective, good energy, compassion, open-mindedness and fairness to this position. In all the interactions as commissioner with the public, other counties, state and federal agencies, Ash would represent Okanogan County well, in a manner in which we will all be proud and impressed. Vote for Ash!

Paul Butler and Bo Thrasher, Mazama

Thrasher is qualified

Dear Editor:

“Fire on the mountain, lightning in the air” can be too soon forgotten. Ashley Thrasher’s recent smokejumping and fire experience are an essential qualification for the office of county commissioner.

I too was a smokejumper, followed by a long career as a national park and forest ranger — often with a wide variety of fire personnel to work with. They are not all equal! Smokejumpers receive the best training and get the most experience.

I’ve had to help my fellow jumpers show ground crews how to bury themselves in dirt to survive a fast-moving crown fire. This was before the foil shelters, and was shown in the recently re-released Red Skies Over Montana. And yes, before our present time, there also were extremely hot, fast-moving fires that got very big. Read The Big Burn by Tim Egan, or watch its PBS version on DVD, for an account of 1910’s disasters, and the blunderings of uninformed and unprepared government. It’s one of the best historical accounts of how the U.S. Forest Service came to be, and how it’s had to change to survive politically. There’s much more extreme fire history before 1910, but Egan is a good start.

Take it from this old timer — extreme forest fires have been with us long before Smokey and today’s surprised crop of new firefighters, who started out during the post 1910 era of the 10 a.m. suppression mandate.

Either we thin the forest, or nature will do it her way. Ashley is best qualified to help us choose the friendlier alternative.

Eric Burr, Mazama

Financial surprises

Dear Editor:

This spring the county commissioners found themselves with a big problem. They did not have enough money to pay three to four months of normal expenses until April property tax receipts arrived in the county’s account in mid-summer. Leah Mc Cormack, county treasurer for 10 years, reported at the commissioners’ meeting in early April that during her years as treasurer she had never seen as dire a revenue shortfall as had occurred then. 

How did this happen? Aren’t two of the incumbent commissioners campaigning on successfully balancing the budget?

The budget and its management is one of the most important roles of the county commissioners. It involves the same process we wage earners do with our paychecks; making sure the money coming in matches the money going out. So, balancing a budget is not the end of the job — it is the start. Commissioners should be reviewing monthly the cash flow, making sure their projections for the year match up with the reality of running the county. Well, somehow, this did not happen this spring. Everyone was surprised with a huge shortfall that required the depletion the “rainy day” reserve fund in order to meet payroll and routine expenditures. When April tax revenues came in, the county replenished the rainy day fund, so they are back on track — we hope.

There were lots of excuses, like wildfires, for why the shortfall occurred, but the bottom line is that the commissioners were not overseeing the county’s finances on a monthly basis. If they had been, they would have seen this coming way before they finally did. They do approve monthly vouchers for expenses and payroll, but there is no record in their minutes that these expenditure approvals are tracked against budget projections.

This is not the promised “… review of the budgets.” Or if it is, then it is not adequate. If you say you are accountable, then you should deliver accountability.

Stuart R. Gillespie, Oroville

 

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