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Photos: Practicing art at "The Patch"

Port Authority purchases 72.5 acres near Malaga for redevelopment

MALAGA — The Chelan Douglas Regional Port Authority in September added another property to its redevelopment inventory.

The port authority purchased 72.5 acres of undeveloped land in the 5300 block of Malaga Alcoa Highway between Malaga and Alcoa’s Wenatchee Works plant. The sale with Lojo Orchards LLC closed for $1.37 million on Sept. 30, according to assessor’s records.

It’s one of the largest properties either county ports has purchased in decades, port authority CEO Jim Kuntz said Monday.

“We’re optimistic about the future of this property,” he said. “At 72 acres, it’s going to be our large-lot parcel to have in our inventory to recruit new business and jobs to the greater Wenatchee Valley. And it’s a piece of real estate we really needed in our portfolio to market to some of the larger requests we get from time to time.”

The port often helps businesses looking to move to the area — or those expanding their existing presence — find property to develop. In the past several years the port has acquired several properties of its own to sell or lease back to the private market.

Among those purchases is 125,000 square feet of commercial space in downtown Wenatchee it bought in 2019. It’s now subdividing and reselling that former Lineage Logistics property for redevelopment.

In September 2019 it purchased the Executive Flight building near Pangborn Memorial Airport, in part to house its headquarters, and to lease out space for other businesses.

It also purchased 32.5 acres of land for $1.5 million in 2008 to build the Cashmere Mill District. Two industrial buildings on that land were completed last year.

The new property, which was purchased with money from the port’s general fund, will fit a specific need in the port’s portfolio, Kuntz said.

“Anybody that wants to put in a server farm, like those you see up in the Quincy area, those are probably targets for this piece of property. From time to time we get manufacturing interest as well,” he said. “The majority of our leads are from companies looking for low power costs in general. That makes Chelan County and that particular site beneficial.”

The property is a short distance from Alcoa, putting it in a power corridor that already has infrastructure to support higher power needs, Kuntz said. It has an orchard but is otherwise undeveloped.

“Our goal is to attract new investment, one that will add good family-wage jobs to that site and enhance the tax base of Chelan County,” he said. “Those are our two goals and I think this large parcel, I’m optimistic that it’ll be pretty strategic way for us to acquire those.”

The port would be open to either selling or leasing the property, depending on the interested business. If it were sold for redevelopment, the port would likely search for another property to replace it in the inventory, Kuntz said.

“I think it’s just good business to always have a large-lot parcel in your inventory if you’re involved in economic development,” he said. “So if, down the road, we had a good company that wanted to buy it and create the family-wage jobs we want to add I think we would likely sell it. Then we would be trying to find a replacement property.”

Supreme Court nominee says she is not 'hostile' to Obamacare, dodges on abortion

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett said on Tuesday at her U.S. Senate confirmation hearing she is not hostile to the Obamacare law, as Democrats have suggested, and declined to specify whether she believes landmark rulings legalizing abortion and gay marriage were properly decided.

Barrett, a conservative federal appellate judge, answered questions from senators for the first time on the second day of her Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing. It gave Barrett a chance to respond to Democrats who have opposed her because of her potential as a justice to undermine the 2010 healthcare law and its protection for patients with pre-existing conditions.

Trump has asked the Senate to confirm Barrett before the Nov. 3 election in which he is seeking a second term in office.

Barrett declined to say if she would step aside from any election-related cases that reach the court. The Republican president has said he expects the Supreme Court to decide the election’s outcome as he faces Democratic challenger Joe Biden. Barrett said no one at the White House sought a commitment from her on how she would rule on that or any issue.

“It would be a gross violation of judicial independence for me to make any such commitment or for me to be asked about that case,” Barrett told the committee of possible election cases.

Barrett declined to say whether she would consider stepping aside, as Democrats have requested, from an Obamacare case due to be argued at the court a week after Election Day in which Trump and Republican-led states are seeking to invalidate the law formally called the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Barrett noted that the new case centers upon a different legal issue than two previous Supreme Court rulings that upheld Obamacare, which she had criticized. Barrett declined to say how she would approach the new case, but said, “I am not hostile to the ACA.”

Barrett also said the White House did not seek her assurance that she would vote to strike down the law.

“Absolutely not. I was never asked — and if I had, that would have been a short conversation,” Barrett said.

The Affordable Care Act is Democratic former President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement and has enabled millions of Americans to obtain medical coverage. Democrats have blasted Trump for trying to kill Obamacare amid a deadly pandemic.

Republicans have a 53-47 Senate majority, making Barrett’s confirmation a virtual certainty. If confirmed, Barrett, 48, would give conservatives a 6-3 Supreme Court majority. She is Trump’s third Supreme Court appointment.

Like other Supreme Court nominees before her, Barrett opted to sidestep some questions on some matters that could come before the court.

Regarding the 1973 ruling called Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion nationwide, Barrett said she would consider the various factors usually applied when justices weigh whether to overturn a precedent.

“I promise to do that for any issue that comes up, abortion or anything else. I’ll follow the law,” Barrett said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the panel’s top Democrat, asked Barrett whether she agreed with her mentor, the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be overturned.

After Barrett declined to answer, Feinstein told her, “So on something that is really a major cause with major effects on over half of the population of this country — who are women, after all — it’s distressing not to get a straight answer.”

Religious conservatives are hoping the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade.

Republican committee chairman Lindsey Graham, asked Barrett, a devout Catholic and a favorite of religious conservatives, whether she could set aside her religious beliefs in making decisions as a justice.

“I can,” Barrett said.

During her 2017 confirmation hearing after Trump nominated her to her current post on the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Feinstein told Barrett that “the dogma lives loudly in you” — a comment that some Republicans said represented anti-religious bigotry.

Questioned by Feinstein, Barrett declined to say whether she agreed with Scalia that the 2015 Supreme Court ruling called Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing gay marriage nationwide was wrongly decided.

“I have no agenda and I do want to be clear that I have never discriminated on the basis of sexual preference and I would not discriminate on the basis of sexual preference,” Barrett said.

Asked about George Floyd, a Black man killed by police in Minneapolis in May in an incident that triggered widespread protests, Barrett said the issue was “very, very personal for my family” because of her seven children, two — adopted from Haiti — are Black. Barrett said she and one of her daughters, Vivian, cried together after seeing the video.

“It’s a difficult one for us like it is for Americans all over the country,” Barrett said.

Barrett said “racism persists” in the United States but declined to give her view on whether it is systemic or how it should be addressed.

Barrett was nominated to a lifetime post on the court on Sept. 26 by Trump to replace the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The four-day confirmation hearing is a key step before a full Senate vote by the end of October on Barrett’s confirmation.

Health district extends free COVID-19 testing in Wenatchee Valley

NCW — The Chelan-Douglas Health District will continue testing efforts this week in Wenatchee and East Wenatchee.

Free testing will be available from 1 to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday at Wenatchee High School, 1101 Millerdale Ave., according to a news release from the health district. East Wenatchee residents can get tested from 1 to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at New Song Community Church, 11 N. Iowa Ave.

Last week, 1,553 Wenatchee and East Wenatchee residents were tested for COVID-19, according to the news release.

The health district extended COVID-19 testing to this week to improve public safety, said Nathan Weed, interim health district administrator. The more people who get tested and find out they have the virus, the more people who can quarantine and the more contact tracing that can be done.

“The community testing is very much about identifying cases, getting them isolated, finding their contact, getting them quarantined and boxing in the virus,” Weed said.

People have been a bit confused about the testing to reopen the Wenatchee School District versus the community-wide testing, he said. The health district and school district are working together to test students between kindergarten and second-grade to see if it would be safe to reopen schools. But the community-wide testing doesn’t contribute to that testing.

“We’re certainly inviting folks from the school-based testing to get tested at our community sites, which are also being run at a school,” Weed said. “So, you know, I see where there is some overlap.”

The two counties need to get down to 25 positive cases per 100,000 people over a two-week period to move to the next phase, according to Gov. Jay Inslee’s phased reopening plan. Chelan and Douglas counties are at 136.8 per 100,000, up from 114.4 last week.

Many reasons could explain the uptick in positives reported, Weed said August and September are often the best months for a reduction in respiratory illnesses to occur.

But also people may have started to relax in regards to some safety measures in recent weeks, he said. The health district has seen a decrease in masking compliance over the past few weeks.

“They are gathering in groups that are somewhat sizable and maybe not gathering as reasonably as they could,” Weed said.

The increase in positive cases signals to health officials that the community needs to push even harder at measures like social distancing, masking and not meeting in large groups, he said.

“It’s a little silly, you know, saying, ‘Really wash your hands,’ but it’s probably one of the most effective public health messages that we’ve ever come up with,” Weed said.

Q&A on COVID-19 testing

WENATCHEE — The Chelan-Douglas Health District and Wenatchee and Eastmont school districts are partnering up to check the prevalence rate of COVID-19 in the community, with community testing efforts that continue this week.

Rachael Doniger, interagency management team spokesperson with the Chelan-Douglas Health District, answered a few questions about COVID-19 testing.

Wenatchee World: Why should people be tested and why now?

Rachael Doniger: Being tested for COVID-19 is important for public health so that disease transmission can be tracked and interrupted to help prevent the spread of this virus. A positive test for COVID-19 alerts individuals that they have the infection, allowing them to take steps and self-isolate or quarantine to protect their loved-ones, friends, and community members. Testing and early identification allows for public health agencies to start contact-tracing to slow and prevent the spread of the disease.

Initially, tests and supplies were limited across the nation. However, supplies, equipment and capacity to test have improved with results available within three to four days. There are now enough supplies to collect and process tests.

WW: Is it safe to be tested? Will there be sick people there?

Doniger: It is safe to be tested. Testers are wearing appropriate PPE based on their assigned task, the people being tested stay in their vehicles.

WW: Will the people doing the tests speak Spanish and English?

Doniger: Translators are available to assist if there is a need.

WW: Is this really needed? Why not just open the schools?

Doniger: Our local schools are an important part of the infrastructure in our communities and they play an important role in preventing the spread of illness. They continue to collaborate, share information and review plans with public health officials at Chelan-Douglas Health District to protect their school and childcare communities and our communities at large. For further information, please see the “Region 7 K-12 Guidance for Reopening to Classroom Instruction.”

WW: How does the testing work? Is it for adults and children?

Doniger: The test is a nasal swab test. It is not painful, just uncomfortable for a moment. It is for adults and children (per CDC, ages 1 month — 18 years old). The CDC has special guidelines for testing children younger than 28 days old. Minors can get a test with permission from a guardian.

WW: What information do I need to share about the person being tested?

Doniger: There is no requirement to show identification. Individuals are asked to share contact information, so they can receive their results. In June, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued new laboratory data reporting guidance requiring a few demographics requirement that includes race, ethnicity, age and sex. Per Adm. Brett P. Giroir, M.D., assistant secretary for health, “This will enable us to ensure that all groups have equitable access to testing and allow us to accurately determine the burden of infection on vulnerable groups. With this data, we will be able to improve decision-making and better prevent or mitigate further illnesses among Americans.”

WW: A team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there is a lack of trust of official sources among some Wenatchee-area residents, and a lack of COVID-19 communication. Is anything being done with this testing effort to address that?

Doniger: The Chelan-Douglas Health District is continually striving to improve relationships with our community members, partner agencies and organizations, and stakeholders. We recognize clear communication is one way we can foster these relationships and gain the trust of our community. New avenues are being developed and put into place to help bridge gaps in communication.

We are making great efforts to set up testing throughout both Chelan and Douglas counties. We also are going to extensive efforts to connect with our communities about any upcoming testing by making door-to-door contact with residents while keeping within appropriate COVID-19 guidelines; increasing and streamlining public outreach efforts; connecting with faith-based and nonprofit communities; working with advocacy groups and the business communities, to name just a few. We have developed literature, flyers, pamphlets and other written material in both in English and Spanish.

WW: Where can I get more information in Spanish and English?

Doniger: For testing dates and locations, visit our website at cdhd.wa.gov/, follow us on Facebook @ChelanDouglasHD and Twitter @ChelanDouglasHD, or people can call our hotline — English (509) 886-6476 or Spanish (509) 886-6477.