Town will consider annexation request
The Town of Twisp has renewed its fire protection contract with Okanogan County Fire District 6 for at least one more year, during which time the town will revisit the possibility of annexing into the district.
At its meeting last week, the Town Council agreed to a $60,000 contract for fire services in the coming year, an 11.6% increase over the previous two years. The fire district’s board of commissioners had approved the contract renewal earlier.
The Town of Winthrop annexed into the fire district in 2017, leaving Twisp as the only town still contracting for protection. Twisp Mayor Soo Ing-Moody said at last week’s meeting that town officials will discuss potential annexation during the coming year.
Voters in both the town and the fire district must approve a proposed annexation. If Twisp is annexed, the fire district’s tax levy will be added to town residents’ property tax bills and the town will no longer pay the district from its municipal funds.
If Twisp becomes part of the fire district, town residents will be eligible to vote in elections affecting Fire District 6 operations, and will be eligible to run for positions on the district’s board of commissioners. Currently, Twisp residents have no direct say in the operation of the fire district.
District 6 is building a new fire hall in Winthrop that will be completed next year.
In other council business:
• Approved a 1% increase in the local property tax levy, the maximum annual increase allowed under state law without a vote of residents. Local taxes levied will increase to $215,419 in 2022. The council also approved a 1% increase in the emergency services property tax levied to help support the operations of Aero Methow Rescue Service, to $52,058 in 2022.
• Public Works Director Andrew Denham said he is proposing a 3% increase in both water and sewer service rates for 2022. He said the proposed increases will reflect inflation, particularly as it affects supplies; the addition of a fourth operator position for the water system and sewage treatment plant; new equipment; and other various expenses. The council will discuss and act on the proposed increases at a later date.
• Denham reported that construction of the new civic center on Glover Street is on schedule for the planned 2022 opening. Denham said he is pleased with the work of the project management team, including the contractor and architect.
• The council conducted a public hearing, during which there was no public testimony, on the proposed 2022 preliminary town budget. As proposed, the budget would increase from $3.471 million in 2021 to $3.991 million in 2022, including the general fund as well as street, sewer, water and debt service funds. Work on refining a final budget continues.
• The council heard an update on the search to replace Denham, who earlier this year announced his retirement. The mayor and members of the town’s Public Safety Committee are reviewing applicants, but council member Hans Smith, who sits on that committee, said the pool of applicants so far does not include anyone with all the requisite certifications and no interviews have been conducted.
• Council member Aaron Studen, who represents the town on the Okanogan County Transit Authority (TranGO) board of directors, said that the agency is purchasing five new buses because the first vehicles purchased several years ago are nearing their replacement schedule, having traveled more than 200,000 miles over various routes in the county. Studen said the older buses will be kept in reserve for now when the new ones arrive.
• The council learned that negotiations for a new police union contract continue to make progress and an agreement can be expected in early 2022.
• The council approved renewal of a lease agreement with Gary and Leah Kominak for a vacant lot at Second Avenue and Lincoln Street that has been used for snow storage during the winter, and parking during the summer, for many years.
• The council renewed its contract with Town Planner Kurt Danison of Highlands Associates, to provide continuing services in 2022 at a budgeted amount of $18,750.
• The council approved the award of a $1.64 million contract to low bidder P.O.W. Contracting of Pasco for improvements to the town’s wastewater treatment system. The engineer’s estimate was $1.68 million, Denham said. “This is great news to move these projects ahead,” he said in a report to the council.