COUNCIL MEETING TIME CHANGED
Because the July 4 holiday falls on a Wednesday, the Winthrop Town Council has moved its regular meeting time to 7 p.m. on Tuesday (July 3). The council meets in the Henhouse room at the Winthrop Barn.
By Don Nelson
Winthrop’s next public works superintendent will be moving from one end of the state to the other for his new job.
Mayor Sally Ranzau said at last weeks’ Winthrop Town Council meeting that Jeff Farvis, currently the public works superintendent in La Center, will take over his new position on July 9.
Farvis replaces Rick Karro, who was the town’s public works superintendent for 25 years before his recent retirement.
La Center, north of Vancouver in Clark County, has a population of about 2,800, or seven times Winthrop’s population of around 400. Farvis has a staff of seven employees in La Center, according to that city’s website. In Winthrop, he will supervise three employees.
Ranzau said Farvis and his wife plan to relocate to Winthrop.
“This is very timely for us,” Ranzau said of the hire. Recently, the town has been down to two public works employees. “Jeff [Farvis] is going to be excellent. He’s very knowledgeable.” Farvis has been public works superintendent in La Center for about 15 years, the mayor said;
Ranzau told the council that Karro has agreed to work for the city on a temporary basis as needed, at a rate of $39.25 per hour. Meanwhile, Ranzau said the town has hired a third public works employee, Taylor Ralston, who recently moved to the area. “We’ll have a full staff” when Farvis arrives, she said. Ralston’s full-time position is included in the town’s 2018 budget, and was created to handle a variety of public works and maintenance tasks around the town.
In other business at last week’s meeting, the council agreed to waive the fee for a zoning variance application by Larry Goldie and Blue Bradley for a home they are building on Lufkin Lane. In a letter to the town, Goldie and Bradley noted that they have incurred additional expenses related to construction because they were given inaccurate information about where a town water main crosses their property.
“After we bought the property, designed a house and had blueprints drawn up, we called for utilities to be located and it was only then discovered that water line was not under that easement, but was 25 feet to the south in the middle of our property and without an easement,” they said in the letter.
Goldie and Bradley said the town was not cooperative in helping them solve the problem. “The town’s unwillingness to work with us in any way to remedy the situation was both surprising and troubling,” they said. Additional expenses including redesigning the house and additional excavation cost them more than $2,500, they said.
When they applied for a variance for a porch roof to be closer to the property line than setback regulations allow, they were told the application would cost them $650. They said that because the town’s own maps were inaccurate, that fee should be waived.
Town Planner Rocklynn Culp told the council in a memo that she considers the applicants’ request for a fee waiver “reasonable,” but added that the council should act on the fee before the actual public hearing on the zoning variance at the July 3 council meeting.
Town Clerk Michelle Gaines confirmed that the “water line was never built in the actual easement.” The council unanimously agreed to waive the fee.
Council member Kirsten Vanderhalf asked Ranzau, “are we going to run into this again?”
“Quite likely,” Ranzau said. Goldie pointed out that the same water line runs through a neighbor’s yard, “and there’s no easement there either.”
Also at last week’s meeting, the council reviewed the final draft of the “Winthrop In Motion” plan for better downtown mobility and an improved streetscape. “Winthrop In Motion” is a “multimodal” planning effort supported by a state grant to come up with ways to make it easier for pedestrians, motorists, bicyclists and mobility-impaired people to negotiate downtown Winthrop’s streets and sidewalks. It also includes planning for a more visually appealing “streetscape” and for compliance with Americans With Disabilities Act requirements.
Jennifer Argraves, a locally based consultant who helped develop the plan with Alta Planning + Design, told the council the plan is a guideline, not a final solution, and that many options are available for the town to consider and, perhaps, adopt. She said more study will be needed. “It’s just a concept,” Argraves said. “It’s not set in stone. We will need to get more grants to see if it’s feasible.”
The council will consider adopting the draft plan at its July 3 meeting. Until the draft is approved, the town can’t seek out applicable grants.
In other business:
• The council appointed Anne Acheson to the Winthrop Planning Commission. Acheson is a former council member and mayor who served on the planning commission earlier before moving on to the Town Council. Her term expires in July 2014. Current Planning Commission member Art Campbell was re-appointed. His term also expires in 2014.
• Ranzau reported that she has been in discussions with Rick Northcott, former council member and mayor who was recently elected president of the Winthrop Auditorium Association, about renewing the town’s contract with the association for the operation of the Winthrop Barn. Ranzau told the council that “we made a few changes” and Northcott is expected to take the proposal to the auditorium association meeting next Monday (July 1).