By Don Nelson
The pre-summer rush of tourists is taking its toll on Winthrop’s public bathrooms.
At last week’s Town Council meeting, Town Clerk Michelle Gaines told council members that Winthrop has fallen behind on keeping its public facilities clean and welcoming — and there have been complaints.
The town’s public toilets include those at the downtown visitor information center, the Winthrop Ice & Sports Rink, the Winthrop Barn, the library and the baseball field.
The town had budgeted 18 hours a week for toilet maintenance, but the person who currently holds the position also has a full-time job and it’s difficult for him to keep up.
As a consequence, Gaines said, the toilets need “serious attention.”
“A lot of work needs to be done at Town Hall,” she said.
Gaines suggested increasing the position to 30 hours a week. She said there is money available in the budget. “We could keep a person busy with a lot of tasks,” she said.
The council agreed, and the position will be advertised at 30 hours with a wage of $12.73 an hour — which council member Mike Strulic said might not be enough to attract good candidates.
“It’s low pay, not that many hours, and an unpleasant job,” Strulic said. “It needs a decent wage to be attractive.”
The town is also looking for a deputy marshal to fill the position that has been vacant since former deputy Mark Harreus left in February. Harreus had raised questions about how the marshal’s office is administrated and filed a whistleblower’s report alleging several operational deficiencies. In its formal response, the town rejected most of the claims.
Through its civil service commission, the town is advertising for an experienced law enforcement officer, offering a salary range of $3,534.96 to $3,676.36 per month. Applicants must have been employed for a minimum of five years in a public law enforcement agency in a comparable position.
Marshal Rikki Schwab and deputy Ken Bajema are handling police work in the town now, with help from part-time law enforcement officers.
In other business, the council learned that the town has sold two surplused law enforcement vehicles it has been trying to get rid of: a Chevy Tahoe that went for $1,500, and a Dodge Durango with a blown transmission that drew a bid of $450. The town earlier sold a Ford Explorer.
In addition, the town is still hoping to sell the so-called “purple police car” — a 1977 Pontiac Trans Am DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) vehicle that in recent years has appeared in parades or parked near the ball field in Winthrop with a manikin in the driver’s seat, intended to deter speeders.
The town had set a minimum bid of $5,000 for the Trans Am because the model is a collector’s item, and the car has only 62,500 miles on the odometer. Town staff is now reconsidering the minimum bid and the car will be on the block again soon.
Strulic also suggested that the council consider hearing public comments at the beginning of its regular meetings (as the Twisp Town Council does) rather than at the end. Council members agreed to consider the idea.