Cronrath resigns from council, MacClellan voted in, Josh Grant is city attorney
Last updated 1/27/2019 at 5:12pm
The Harrington Public Development Authority met January 15 at city hall with President Heather Slack opening the meeting with the following present: Tim Tipton, Bunny Haugan, Jay Kane, Jay Gossett, Paul Charlton and Jill Plaskon. Discussions centered on the website, selection of a logo, grants and progress and direction for the vacant lot project.
The Harrington City Council met January 16, with the following present: Mayor Justin Slack, councilmen Peter Davenport, Levi Schenk, Tim Tipton and Nathan Luck, Clerk Bunny Haugan, Scott McGowan (maintenance), and visitors David Buddrius, Denisa Holling, Jess Silhan, Marge Womach and Cherie MacClellan.
Mayor Slack reported that he received a letter of resignation from Councilman Michael Cronrath early in January. Cronrath had served for 18 years. Members voted to accept the resignation, and several commented about his long and generous support to the community with his years on the council. The mayor made a recommendation to appoint Cherie MacClellan to the city council, while holding a handful of applicants’ papers, stating that MacClellan has been a faithful citizen to attend every council meeting and has sought additional information to gain an understanding of city government over the course of the two plus years she has lived in Harrington. The council voted 3-0-1, with Schenk abstaining due to affiliation with another applicant. Haugan administered the oath of office, and MacClellan joined the council members at the table. Slack stated that since former councilman Cronrath had filled the role of mayor pro tem, he would recommend that Tipton fill that position. Motion by Davenport and second by Schenk, the council approved that appointment 4-0-1, with Tipton abstaining.
An update was given on the McGregor building. Slack announced that the closing has occurred on the building and that it is now on the city’s insurance. Heat is on in the office area, the water lines were blown out and the building has been secured. Choices remain: sell, rent or use. MacClellan and Davenport volunteered to look into those options and bring a recommendation to the next council. For the $10,000 investment in the building, plus the original purchase price of the land, the valuation on the insurance is $250,000.
Joshua Grant, who had been recommended by our city attorney to be the new city attorney, sent a letter of interest, stating his fee per hour is $150, which is the same as the city paid previously. His office is in Wilbur. Motion was made by MacClellan and seconded by Davenport, and the vote was to accept Grant as the new city attorney.
Discussion was held on the surplus 1946 Mack fire truck with Municipal Research warning that there is a “risk in setting price, it must be a fair market price, it cannot be sold below market value”. Slack stated that the city’s goal is to be ready to sell by the Cruizin’ Harrington Car Show date. McGowan stated that in looking at prices for older fire trucks, the range seemed to be from $8,000 to $30,000, but there was nothing older than a 1949. When asked, McGowan stated that the original owner of the truck was the City of Spokane.
Salary adjustments for elected positions must be decided by March since the Lincoln County Auditor charges applicants who register for positions based on the salary of the position. Minimal discussion was held with no decision.
The resolution for rate increases which was approved last month was revisited with the mayor furnishing the council members a copy of the letter to the citizens with the increase that went into effect January 1.
The project of replacement of the street lights has progressed nicely and is half completed with LEDs in place. The process takes about 30 minutes per bulb. In addition, lighting in city hall was also improved whenever the maintenance crew had extra time.
No decision has been made regarding the choice of a lawn care service to take over the city cemetery and park. Council has received a bid from a company in Lincoln County with good references. Council is seeking another bid for comparison.
Letter to Citizens
A letter was drafted December 13 by Mayor Justin Slack and sent to Harrington city utility customers, as this author mentioned last month without having viewed it. The letter was sent as an explanation of the annual budgeting process for the city with the realization that Harrington as well as other cities and towns in Lincoln County are facing similar funding issues due primarily to aging infrastructure with water and wastewater systems. Slack reminded the citizenry of the 2015 implementation of a special assessment by former Mayor Gilliland which increased bills for three years and ended in December of 2017. Even with the change of mayors, the commitment to citizens was kept. Slack reported on the expenses for 2018 which included replacing a two-year old pump at the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). He explained that the failure of the pump was, “due in large part to those (non) Flushable Wipes down our toilets. Our WWTP facility cannot handle these, even though they are widely marketed to consumers as ’totally safe to flush down your toilet’.” His letter also cited, “Another somewhat unexpected financial hit was the need to update our 20-year-old Operations & Maintenance Manual for the WWTP facility; this is a requirement of our permit that we have with the Washington State Department of Ecology,” as well as another expensive Dept. of Ecology requirement to submit in Sept. 2019 “an engineering report for evaluation of biological nutrient removal.” Other items mentioned which increased the city budget were 1) the need to hire a Group II Contract Operator with qualifications for our treatment plant; 2) GIS Mapping of streets and piping; 3) increased tipping fee by the Lincoln County Transfer Station; 4) increased annual rate by our garbage hauler and fuel surcharge; 5) reduced acceptance by Lincoln County for recyclable products and 6) increased rates “practically at every line item entry that we went through, costs are increasing each year.” The end result was that, “after consideration and discussion, the proposal that was the easiest to swallow, is base rate increases of 5% to each the base water and garbage rates and a 9% increase to the sewer rates; overall this amounts to a 7.3% increase on our monthly bills or $9.84/month. For those with ’inactive’ water and sewer accounts, these same rates apply: 5% to the base water rate and 9 % to the base sewer rate; this amounts to an overall monthly increase of $4.38. Again, I cannot stress enough the discussions that ensued amongst the Council, as we as a body, aren’t raising utility rates to ’just raise rates’. This increase will allow us to better serve and cover the very basic needs of being a City as well as allow us to better plan for future grant funding opportunities by having some (a limited amount) of the matching funds needed in the current ’grant funding’ environment.” Slack’s letter continued, “This level was the minimum necessary to be able to fulfill those obligations. I’m sure that this will raise many questions, so please feel free to attend a City Council meeting or reach out to myself or one of the members of the City Council to look ahead at ways we can continue to operate a sufficient level of meeting the City’s basic needs. Best Personal Regards, Justin Slack Mayor (Appointed), City of Harrington.” The two-page letter was an impressive and detailed presentation of how this part of the budget process worked out.
New Council Member
Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Cherie MacClellan said she has worked in the administrative support field at various places, including hotels, technology companies and the commercial aircraft industry. While searching for an affordable home, she found her house in Harrington a bit over two years ago and soon fell in love with the house, the town and the community. Cherie says she believes strongly in being involved in her neighborhood and is excited to be one of the team responsible for the welfare of Harrington.