District residents to have a say in February election
By Don Nelson
Residents of Winthrop and Okanogan County Fire District 6 will vote on whether to annex the town into the district at a special election on Feb. 14, 2017.
The Winthrop Town Council approved a pre-annexation agreement at its meeting last week, setting the election date and terms of the annexation if it is approved.
Voters in both the town and the district must approve the annexation for it to go forward. Residents of Twisp, which contracts with the district for fire protection and is not part of the district, won’t vote in the February election.
If the annexation is approved, it will take effect on Jan. 1, 2018. For next year, Winthrop would continue to pay District 6 for fire protection under terms of the existing contract.
Winthrop would no longer pay the district for annual fire protection, the cost of which will be about $50,000 in 2017. If the annexation is approved, the District 6 levy would be instead be imposed in the town. The first tax levy collections would be in 2018.
Other conditions of the pre-annexation agreement:
- Each jurisdiction will pay a share of the election costs, no matter what the outcome.
- The District 6 chief would be responsible for overseeing fire protection within the town.
- The town would lease the existing fire hall and other properties that it owns to the fire district for $10,000 a year. Terms of the agreement could be reviewed after four years.
- The town would transfer ownership of equipment and furnishing at the fire hall to the district.
- Winthrop would allow the district to use the fire truck that the town currently owns, at no cost to the district.
- The town would maintain fire hydrants within town limits.
In other business, the council approved a 1 percent increase in its local property tax levy — the maximum allowed under state law for the 2017 budget. That amounts to an increase of $1,715. Also approved was a 1 percent increase in the Emergency Medical Services levy, which goes to help pay for services provided by Aero Methow Rescue Service, a total of $498 added to the overall levy.
A public hearing on the proposed 2017 budget will be held at 6:05 p.m. next Wednesday (Nov. 16) in the Henhouse Room at the Winthrop Barn. Copies of the proposed budget can be reviewed at Town Hall.
The council also agreed to consider a resolution supporting the Methow Headwaters Campaign, a local nonprofit organization that is coordinating opposition to future industrial-level mining in the Methow River headwaters near Mazama.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack announced recently that work has begun on the process of withdrawing more than 340,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service lands in the upper valley from new mineral exploration or mining. Vilsack expressed support for the Methow Headwaters Protection Act (S2991) — legislation submitted this summer by Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell (both D-Washington) calling for permanent withdrawal of the land at the headwaters of the Methow River from future mining.
Hannah Dewey, representing the Methow Headwaters Campaign, told the council that the campaign represents a coalition of residents, more than 140 local businesses and more than 35 other organizations that support limits on mining. The Twisp Town Council earlier passed a resolution of support, she said.
Mayor Anne Acheson announced that a grand opening for the new refrigerated ice surface at the Winthrop Rink will be held on Dec. 1. Also, the town’s Westernization committee will talk about proposed changes to the Westernization code at the council’s Dec. 7 meeting.