In a one-hour meeting Jan. 22, the Town Council heard three presentations, consented to the reappointment of four parks commissioners, set 2019 sewer rates with the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and agreed to a contract for fixing the elevator in Maple Hall. The last had a rare dissenting vote, by Councilmember Jacques Brunisholz.
Council agreed to have Mayor Ramon Hayes enter into a contract for $83,709 with thyssenkrupp Elevator Corporation “to modernize the elevator equipment” as described in the company’s proposal. The Maple Hall elevator has been out of service for at least two years.
Administrator Scott Thomas told Council that “this is an estimate of time and materials. The costs can go up or go down.” It does not have a preventative maintenance program. Councilmember Mary Lee Chamberlain asked about a maintenance agreement. Councilmember John Leaver speculated that a three or four year agreement would be less expensive than an annual agreement. A maintenace contract will be negotiated later.
In a phone call later, Brunisholz explained his vote showed his “dissatisfaction with spending so much money.” One concern was that the time and materials contract has “no limit; Scott [Thomas] said it could go up.” Almost $155,000 is budgeted for elevator repair.
Brunisholz questioned the need for an elevator. He pointed out that the upstairs space requiring an elevator is only 10 percent of the hall’s capacity and that the Town has a waiver from state regulators for use and rentals. He believes the lack of an elevator has not hampered rentals of the hall.
Passing the 2019 sewer rate provided an opening for Leaver to inquire about the Town’s agreement to supply water to Shelter Bay and that community paying their portion of the newly completed water main project. Hayes responded that a bill will be sent once the project is closed out. To Leaver’s question of Shelter Bay getting water from the Tribe’s water utility, Hayes said “they want to get out [of their agreement]. Our position is no.”
The Tribe’s 2019 sewer rates, which must be set annually, passed without comment from resident Dan O’Donnell, who was in attendance.
New Town Fire Chief Aaron Reinstra was introduced and thanked for taking over for Josh Morrison, who stepped down because his wife is pregnant. Hayes thanked both men, who, with a contingent of department firefighters, left to applause. Annie Avery becomes assistant chief.
Cindy Verge, director of the Tulip Festival, presented this year’s festival poster to the Town and offered thanks for the hotel/motel tax provided grant. Hayes accepted the poster.
Superintendent Whitney Meissner summarized the school levy for the gathering, part of her outreach to community organizations. She had made a similar presentation to the chamber of commerce’s board of directors that morning. She noted that this year’s levy is seven percent of the operating budget and that the expiring levy covers 11 percent of that budget.
School Board President Kate Szurek told Council “We’re just asking to do what we’ve always done. We’re just asking for the bare minimum.”
In his mayor’s report, Hayes brought up KeyBank’s April closing of its local branch, saying “we shall support the remaining bank in town.” He raised the question of a public bank, noting the issue was “not Democratic or Republican,” and that “there are a lot of good reasons for this” and that a local bank coalition in Washington is advocating for public banks.
Hayes’ major emphasis was on the town’s commitment to getting a new library built and going to the state legislature for additional funding. Last January the legislature granted $500,000, with spending to start by June 2019. Meeting that deadline is unlikely.
Hayes announced a proposed letter writing campaign from residents to legislators “We need to push for an extension and we need to get more funding from the state,” he declared.
Councilmembers agreed. Hayes stressed the importance of the library as a resource center, saying “It’s getting harder and harder in small towns to marshal resources” for public institutions.
He ended by thanking the La Conner Rotary for a $5,000 grant for a picnic shelter at the waterfront park, highlighting the “creative partnership” the town has with the chapter.
Councilmember Mary Wohleb, liaison with the parks commission, brought up the February 22 fundraiser at Hellam’s Vineyard. The $35 tickets and auction that night might finalize funding for the project.
The reappointed park commissioners are: Martin Howard, Oliver Iversen, Annie Taylor and Tom Winn, for terms expiring in 2022.
Council and staff had a brief discussion about going paperless, with the town supplying computer tablets to councilmembers for council meetings.