By Don Nelson

The Winthrop Auditorium Association’s board of directors has proposed a new five-year agreement to continue operating the popular Red Barn for the Town of Winthrop.

The town owns the Barn building, but the association handles operations, booking and other day-to-day requirements. A 25-year agreement between the town and the nonprofit association is expiring soon.

Robert Stone, president of the association board, offered the proposed operating agreement at last week’s town council meeting.

Stone said the association had attempted to extend the existing agreement “to no avail … we were told there would be a new agreement.”

The association board contacted an attorney who helped them develop the three-page proposal, Stone said. The board has endorsed the document, he said.

Under the proposal, the town would be responsible for all structural upkeep, mechanical systems, fixtures, equipment and grounds; and also be responsible for paying utility costs, insurance, taxes and snow removal. The barn association would be responsible for bookings and for setting usage rates.

The Barn has experienced periodic operational and maintenance challenges. The building’s sewage treatment system was recently upgraded. But the town budget doesn’t currently include funds for improvements such as a renovated kitchen, upgraded bathrooms, new paint, and better sound and lighting systems.

The council had not seen the association’s proposal before last week’s meeting and will discuss it a future meeting.

In other business, the council set Jan. 31, a Wednesday, as the date for a council workshop to discuss issues facing the town and ideas for dealing with them. The session, open to the public, will begin at 6 p.m. in the Henhouse meeting room at the Barn.

The council also approved a request by Marshal Dan Tindall for funds to pay former Okanogan County Deputy Sheriff Laura Wright to help with getting the property and evidence storage areas properly set up. Tindall said there are “many discrepancies” that need to be addressed to make sure the area complies with standard regulations and expectations for evidence storage. “Evidentiary rules have to be met,” he said.

Wright has been helping on a part-time basis, the marshal said, and the marshal’s office is about halfway through taking care of the discrepancies.

The council authorized up to $1,250 that will come out of the marshal’s office funds for reserve officers and overtime.

Appointed to the town’s Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, which advises the town on how to use hotel and motel taxes to promote tourism, were Josh Buehler, Mike Pruett, Barry Simmons, Paul Peterson, Lori Loomis and Melanie Whitaker. Council member William Kilby chairs the committee.