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East Wenatchee considering annexations

EAST WENATCHEE — East Wenatchee could see a bump in population and tax revenue if four proposed annexations are completed.

The city is negotiating with Douglas County on four annexations under recently approved legislation that allows governments to annex through an agreement between both parties rather than a vote or petition.

The city’s population could increase by an estimated 1,439 persons, or 10%, said city Community Development Director Lori Barnett. That number could increase another 3% once a few residential developments in the annexation areas are completed.

The proposed annexation areas are:

South Kentucky Avenue

This area covers the area west of South Kentucky Avenue and South of 3rd and 4th streets. The inclusion of a number of car dealerships within the area, namely Town Toyota, Apple Valley Honda and Town Ford Lincoln, would be a significant sales tax revenue increase for the city.

Stone Ridge Subdivision

This proposed area would cover part of the Stone Ridge subdivision, namely 56 homes and two empty parcels. The entire area is currently under residential zoning.

10th Street North East

This area includes Evergreen Memorial Park & Mausoleum, orchards and a handful of homes. The entire area is currently under residential zoning.

Sand Canyon Estates Subdivision

Two empty parcels and 19 homes from the Sand Canyon Estates subdivision would be included in this annexation. The entire area is currently under residential zoning.

The city’s original proposal only included the South Kentucky area; however, the county submitted that the other three areas also be added. County Commissioner Marc Straub said those areas are pockets right along the city and county border.

“They don’t make good sense for the county to continue to provide urban services when the city is better equipped to provide those services,” he said.

Changes for residents

Once the county and city come to an agreement, they must provide 30-days notice to special districts like fire and water. The city would also send out an explanation of the process and a list of what would and wouldn’t change to each resident of the annexation area.

Barnett said residents in the annexation areas shouldn’t see any impact in regards to special purpose districts like water, sewer and parks since rates are the same in the city and county. However, she added it’s too soon to know how residents’ tax rates would change since 2022 taxes are not yet finalized.

“I just know that historically, city tax rates are less than the county road tax rate,” she said. “Since the city tax replaces the county road tax, that part of their tax bill will be reduced.”

Becoming a city resident would also mean changes in day-to-day services, such as dealing with East Wenatchee Police rather than the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office or going to municipal court instead of district court.

Developers would also need to be aware of where they are at in their permit process when the annexations take place. If a building permit is completed by the county, the county would continue to administer it until the building is completed. However, if the permit is in progress, administration would be transferred to the city.

Straub said he thinks the transition would be fairly seamless for residents.

“From the county’s perspective, it’s about how do we minimize that impact moving forward for the citizens,” he said. “I think the best way to do that is through a well thought-out interlocal agreement. You just stand a far better outcome than just by petition or some other method.”

Changes for the city and county

The annexations would be a numbers game for the city and county governments. The city could pay the county $1.5 million total for the four annexations over the span of four years, said Straub. In an earlier comment, Barnett said the city was planning on paying the county $375,000 a year for three years, or $1.1 million total. 

“It affords the county the opportunity to kind of get weaned off of the taxes that they would typically be collecting in these areas,” she said. “But it relieves them of the responsibility to provide services. So there’s just kind of a little bit of give and take there.”

Straub said although the annexation would represent a loss in revenue, the county is comfortable with the current agreement.

The city would likely come out better financially compared to previous annexations. The city hasn’t annexed county property since 2006, but the city paid the county over $1 million each on prior annexations, said Barnett.

“We were trying to do one about every four or five years because it took us that long to recover,” she said. “It was a big financial hit to us.”

This time around, there are no large recent road improvement projects the city would need to repay the county for, and the city would share less tax revenue.

The biggest increase in tax revenue for the city would be sales tax, particularly in the South Kentucky Avenue annexation area. But the city would also be able to collect additional property taxes, utility taxes and car tab fees.

The city would take over maintenance of the streets within the area. The extra responsibility would likely require an additional employee and another plow truck.

The city only occupies 30-35% of its urban area, meaning it still has a lot of room to grow. This is different from neighboring cities like Rock Island and Wenatchee, which occupy upward of 85% of their growth areas, said Barnett.

She added that expanding city limits would attract more economic development since most people don’t realize that while the city’s population is just 14,000, the urban area’s population is closer to 30,000. A larger official population would mean the city is eligible for more state money.

Barnett stressed that since the city has not yet finalized an agreement with the county, there may be changes to the terms of the annexation or the annexed areas themselves before the process is finalized. If the current annexations go well, the city hopes to do annexations on a more regular basis.

“We recognize that we really need to start growing into our urban area,” she said. “It is to our benefit, community wide, to have the incorporated area larger and have less folks living in the unincorporated area.”

This story has been updated to clarify Commissioner Marc Straub's comment about how much revenue the city would share with the county. 

$20 million affordable housing project coming to Entiat

ENTIAT — A 65-unit affordable housing complex in Entiat that will primarily serve farmworkers is slated to be completed by October 2022.

The $20 million development was announced Monday by non-profit Enterprise Community Partners, the Housing Authority of Chelan County, the city of Wenatchee and the Office of Rural and Farmworker Housing (ORFH).

The Mountain View Family Housing community, 14425 Olin St., on the site of a former orchard, will consist of 12 buildings, including two-story townhomes, single-story apartments and a single-story common building. Of the 65 units, 52 will be set aside for local farmworkers.

The community will be a mix of one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments. Families and individuals must earn between 30-50% of the area median income, depending on the unit. Rents will range from $376 for a one-bedroom apartment to $991 for a four-bedroom.

“Housing opportunities are in short supply throughout Chelan County,” said Marty Miller, director of the Office of Rural and Farmworker Housing. “The Mountain View development is a big step in the right direction to create quality, affordable housing for families living and working in Chelan County.”

The project is being subsidized by the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, a federal program that issues tax credits to state governments which can then award the credits to private developers of affordable rental housing projects.

Scott Hoekman of Enterprise Community Partners said their investors will put in about $14 million and will receive $16 million in tax credits over the next 10 years. He said Banner Bank is also putting in $1.2 million, the state Housing Trust Fund is putting in $4.5 million and the Housing Authority will put in $200,000.

Hoekman added the flexibility of the credit allowed them to target the needs of farmworkers and their families — a crucial need, according to those involved in the development.

“Often there is a real urgent need for affordable homes that are specifically targeted to agricultural workers and their families,” Hoekman said.

Alicia McRae, Housing Authority executive director, cited a 2019 housing market survey conducted by real estate firm Kidder Mathews, which determined agricultural housing a big need in the area.

“Based on these projections, the development of 52 units of agricultural housing will still leave a significant unmet need for this type of housing in the primary market area,” McRae said.

But demand for agricultural housing is only a part of the growing need for affordable housing. In fact, the development’s 65 total units may only be a drop in the bucket.

McRae said there are currently 772 families on existing Housing Authority property waiting lists and that the current low vacancy rates indicate a continued high rental demand.

That demand is already evident by the interest in Mountain View Family Housing. McRae said there are 43 families who have already asked to be placed on a waiting list for the new development. Although the Housing Authority, which will manage the property, won’t start formally marketing the units until spring 2022, it is maintaining an informal waiting list. Interested parties can call 509-663-7421 to be placed on the list.

Chelan County opts for a blue road salt for this winter

WENATCHEE — Chelan County road crews have opted to use a new road salt that is meant to melt snow and ice quicker than the usual road salt they use. It will be hard to miss because it’s blue.

The new road salt, “Ice Kicker,” comes from Spokane-based company, Saltworx, and is meant to work at lower temperatures than regular, white road salt as well as melt snow faster, said Brad Harn, Chelan County road superintendent.

“(It’s) always been on a list of potential products that we were going to look at,” Harn said.

Three years ago, Harn said, county crews tested the product near Cashmere and saw that it melted the ice and snow faster than regular road salt.

But the major reason for the switch now, Harn said, is the price increase of white road salt. White road salt is going for about $148 per ton which is $24 more expensive this year due to issues in supply and demand, Harn said. At $145 per ton, Ice Kicker was now the cheaper option.

Its blue color also means plow drivers will be able to monitor where the salt has been applied as it stands out much more in the snow than white road salt. Drivers will have a better opportunity to use less product than typical road salt because of the conspicuous color, he said.

The county also uses a 50-50 mix of rock salt and sand to create more traction when conditions get icier which also helps in reducing the amount of salt used, according to Harn.

Sand alone is not a de-icer, said Jill FitzSimmons, a Chelan County spokesperson.

The county purchased about 2,200 tons of Ice Kicker salt for the winter. In an average winter, the county uses somewhere between 2,400 tons and 2,600 tons of road salt but always chooses to buy less to see if it will be able to save money, Harn said.

And on a yearly basis, the public voices concerns about the use of salt which can damage or kill trees or create rust on cars, FitzSimmons said.

“Salt can harm vegetation and trees,” Harn said. “The damage is highly dependent on the amount directly placed on or around the vegetation. The amount Chelan County Public Works use is probably 60% to 70% less than the (state Department of Transportation) uses.”

The state department works on plowing 24/7 while the county only plows for school buses five days a week with a lighter crew on the weekends, FitzSimmons said.

And in Chelan County, more trees are dying of drought or disease — and not the use of salt, she said.

The new salt is also supposed to be about 50% less corrosive to cars than regular salt, Harn said.

Drivers can also wash their cars during the winter to wash off any salt, FitzSimmons said.

Cecelia Fears finds solace in her teepee
  • 1 min to read
seabrook / World photo/Don Seabrook 

Cecelia "Cece" Fears, 69, plays her guitar Friday in a teepee she has been building for months in her Wenatchee front yard. "It's just a place to get away and isolate myself from everyone," she says.

WENATCHEE — Drivers along Miller Street might have recently noticed a new piece of peculiar-shaped architecture. It’s a teepee Cecelia Fears has been building in her front yard.

“[I] was up there this morning starting to cut the smoke chute hole,” Fears said after pulling a cover off a fire pit. To her right sat an overflowing box of wood.

Fears started building the teepee in June. Her next step is to add a patchwork quilt covering on the outside.

seabrook / World photo/Don Seabrook 

Cecelia Fears walks to her house after a guitar session inside her teepee. 

The covering will have beautiful patterns, she said. Fears’ daughter-in-law, Tevra King, is designing the patchwork.

The plan is to hang out in there reading books and playing guitar. “It’s just my little place … where I can just gather my own.”

Fears cut bamboo poles and wrapped them together to hold up the teepee. The floor is layered with two tarps below, cardboard boxes, an insulated blanket and carpet above.

seabrook / World photo/Don Seabrook 

Cecelia Fears ducks into her teepee, guitar in hand, on Friday.

Leaves cover the edges around the teepee for insulation and to keep water out. “I figured that would help,” she said.

She hopes the tent continues to be a warm space come winter.

Fears said she built the teepee for herself and did not initially think about visitors. But people are welcome to stop by and take a look. “I like talking to people and I like meeting people,” she said.

For Fears, it is fitting that the teepee may be finished by Thanksgiving. She hopes the teepee will act as a reminder of values like helping those in need.

Fears said she is part Cherokee and that the teepee is meant to reflect the kindness that Native Americans shared when pilgrims first arrived in America.

History is very important and everybody should reflect on where they are now, she said.

A lot of people take for granted what is good in their life, she said. Fears recalled that for five years she had lived out of her car in a parking lot in Wenatchee.

seabrook / World photo/Don Seabrook 

Cecelia Fears, Wenatchee, has played a guitar for 38 years, growing up on Whidbey Island. She moved to Wenatchee 10 years ago and says she's always wanted to build a teepee. 

“This Thanksgiving I give thanks for what I do have. It may not be much, but it’s more than a lot.”

Horizon cancels some Wenatchee Valley flights; Pangborn manager blames pilot shortages

EAST WENATCHEE — Horizon Air has dropped some November flights in and out of Pangborn Memorial Airport, reportedly due to a shortage of pilots.

Flights originally slated for Tuesday and Wednesday arrivals and departures were canceled, and Airport Manager Trent Moyers said more flights could be canceled throughout the month. Moyers cited an Alaska/Horizon Air pilot shortage as a reason for the reduction.

“If they’re looking to try and bounce back from that, if you will, it is quite possible that it will pick back up again,” Moyers said. “But I know there are certain days that there’s flights in the middle of the afternoon that won’t operate.

A spokesperson for Horizon Airlines could not be reached to comment.

Moyers said he won’t know if the dropped flights will continue into December until he receives a schedule from Horizon.

He said the airline has no set day each month to send its flight schedule. Sometimes, Moyers finds the flight schedule in Horizon’s flight booking before it is sent to him.

“It’s entirely up to them as far as when they schedule it,” Moyers said. “We don’t have any say or sway as far as when flights occur. It’s up to them, and when they publish that, it’s also up to the airline.”

This uncertainty can create some logistical challenges. A firefighter is required to be stationed at the airport 15 minutes before a flight’s arrival and 15 minutes after departure.

“It does take a little bit of coordination to know what that schedule is going to be,” Moyers said.

The standard flights at Pangborn, such as an early morning arrival and an evening departure, have stayed relatively consistent over time. Changing the schedule of flights during the day is also straightforward since the airport is already staffed.

“It’s on the weekends when that can be something where it’s a little bit more challenging to schedule that. So, we got to make sure somebody’s covering and available for those flights.”

Horizon on Oct. 3 cut back its daily flights into and out of Pangborn from three to two. The third flight had been added in June. At the time, a Horizon spokesperson said the change was part of “part of standard seasonal operation changes.”

Moyers said those looking for information on their flight should check with Horizon. The airline will typically notify customers booked on impacted flights, Moyers said.