Town wants to be prepared for emergencies
By Ann McCreary
The devastating Carlton Complex Fire in 2014 left much of the Methow Valley without power for 10 days, greatly hampering the ability of local government officials and emergency managers to respond to the ongoing crisis.
In the wake of that disaster, Twisp officials turned to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for generators to ensure that communications and essential services like municipal water could be maintained in future emergencies.
This week, more than two years after the fire, four generators from FEMA have finally arrived and were being installed.
“We’ve been working solidly on pushing this through. One thing I’ve learned being in office, is that things just take time,” Twisp Mayor Soo Ing-Moody said this week.
Two large generators were installed next to town well houses on Marble Street and Lincoln Street to power well pumps and ensure that Twisp’s water system remains operable if electricity is lost, said Andrew Denham, public works director.
Another generator was installed behind Town Hall, and the fourth generator is a mobile unit that is stored at the public works headquarters in Twisp and would be used to power the Lookout Mountain booster station that sends water uphill to residences of that neighborhood.
The cost of the generators, including installation of concrete pads and wiring, is about $184,500, Denham said. FEMA required a 25 percent match for the generators, which was shared by Twisp and the state Department of Emergency Management. Part of the town’s match was provided through labor to prepare the sites for the generators.
“We’re obviously relieved that we got through another fire season without having them,” said Ing-Moody. “We’ve always been prone to outages, but when we have extended outages comingled with disasters, these generators would be a lifesaver for us and our ability to respond.”
New civic building
In another initiative to better prepare for future emergencies, Twisp is continuing to move forward with plans to replace the current Town Hall building on Glover Street with a new civic building that will house town offices and serve as a command center for the entire valley during disasters like the Carlton Complex or Twisp River fires.
The Twisp Council was scheduled to hear an update on the civic building project at its meeting on Tuesday (Oct. 11). The town has selected Architects West of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to design the new civic building as well as a new public works shop to replace a shop that adjoins the current Town Hall building.
The state Legislature allocated $1 million to Twisp to begin work on the projects, which are expected to cost about $2.7 million.
Plans call for razing the current Town Hall building, which is plagued with structural and functional deficiencies, including cracked walls, inadequate fire and security features, poor ventilation and water damage.
After the Carlton Complex roared through the valley in 2014, knocking out power and communications, town officials realized how inadequate the facility is to meet the community’s needs during a disaster.
The building had no generator to provide backup power and was closed during much of the disaster. The mayor worked out of her home during the disaster and the town’s police officers “did most of their work in their vehicles … we couldn’t use the building for even charging radios,” Ing-Moody said.
“During a time of crisis the inability of our municipal facility to operate, provide communication and function as an emergency incident command center was a significant detriment to the town’s ability to effectively respond,” she said.
“The incident command portion [of the civic building] is going to be pretty important to us in planning … to capture the needs for communication and emergency management coordination,” Ing-Moody said.