Eastmont parks district takes over Aquatic Center

EAST WENATCHEE — After more than two decades of being run by the Wenatchee Valley YMCA, the Eastmont Aquatic Center is under new management.

The Eastmont Metropolitan Park District has taken over the center, which has been under the YMCA since 1999. The parks board voted June 15 to terminate its contract with the YMCA, which was set to run through 2021.

Sally Brawley, executive director of the parks district, said the decision was mutual. The pool recently underwent renovations and has been closed anyway because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Brawley said the pool won't reopen until the county reaches Phase 3 of the state reopening plan. The pool, 980 3rd St. N.E., is in Eastmont Community Park.

Wells Hall 'mountain' goes to ground

WENATCHEE — Lydig Construction turned its 1,100-cubic-yard mountain into a molehill — or at least a smaller mound — in the space of a week.

The Wells Hall mountain on the Wenatchee Valley College campus appeared in February as the contractor started digging out the basement for the new three-story, 74,000-square-foot Wells Hall. Four wings of the old structure, built in 1951, were demolished in January to make way for the new building that will include 25 classrooms, offices, a conference center and the Chelan County Emergency Operations Center.

Capital Project Manager Charlie Robb said the dirt suitable for use as backfill was kept onsite until it was needed. About 800 cubic yards of dirt were to be reused and 300 cubic yards carried away.

Riley said the project has remained pretty much on schedule and budget despite weather and the pandemic.

The $37 million project is currently scheduled to be finished in summer 2021. Wells Hall's fifth wing, which wasn't demolished as part of the project, is now a standalone building that houses the campus theater and ceramics program.

Robb said the foundation work is the project's next phase.

Link gets 10 new battery-electric buses

WENATCHEE — Recent additions to Link Transit's fleet can be fully charged in three to four hours, go up to 215 miles on a charge and seat up to 32 passengers.

Manufacturer Build Your Dreams has produced 10 battery-electric K9S buses for Link. The 35-foot buses were manufactured at BYD's factory in Lancaster, California.

Link spokesman Eric West said five of the buses were replacements for a group of BYD buses purchased a few years ago, and there was no cost to replace them. The remaining five cost $705,582 each.

The buses also have wireless charging receivers from Pennsylvania-based Momentum Dynamics, which allows for on-route charging.

Link commissioned the nation's first 200-kilowatt wireless charging system for a battery-electric transit bus from Momentum in 2018, the release said. In January, Link entered into a new five-year agreement with Momentum, which will provide three 300-kilowatt on-route charging systems.

Wenatchee Valley Shuttle returns to the game

WENATCHEE — The day before COVID-19 shut down New York in March — about a week before Washington state took similar action — a Wenatchee Valley Shuttle driver was preparing to board a flight to the East Coast to pick up a brand new minibus.

"We had been working on it for a couple of weeks," owner Monique Lott said. "We'd finally settled on the one we wanted, had the cashier's check cut. Our driver was going to fly out that Friday morning. Then COVID hit New York."

A quick conference and a slew of phone calls followed. The purchase plans were put on hold. "We decided we didn't know what this was going to look like, so we wanted to hold off until it blows over," Lott said.

The decision to hang onto their cash was a good one.

In the days that followed, the company saw its ridership for the shuttle service from Wenatchee to the Seattle area and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport go from 75% capacity to a single passenger.

Although they qualified as an essential business that could have continued to operate, the lack of customers said otherwise. They shut down the service in late March.

Wenatchee Valley Shuttle reopened for business June 22, offering two trips a day (down from the previous three trips) and bringing back two of its 15 employees, to start.

Before the pandemic hit, in addition to the minibus purchase, they were planning to add a fifth daily trip this summer. Last summer, they had added a fourth run and demand had continued to grow.

The restart plan is to run two trips through July and go to three in August through the fall.

Omak, Sunnyside JCPenney stores will close

BOSTON — JCPenney stores in Omak and Sunnyside have been added to the list of those that will close as part of the company's bankruptcy reorganization.

The two Washington stores were among 13 named June 22. The company on June 17 listed 136 stores across the country slated for closure. None of those were in Washington.

Additional stores could follow, though a press release from the company states a handful of previously announced store closures were being reviewed.

The Wenatchee store so far has not made the list.

The company on June 4 announced it would close 154 stores in a first round of closures, with the possibility of additional closures to be announced later.

State's average wage climbs to $69,000 in 2019

OLYMPIA – The state's average annual wage in 2019 climbed to $69,000, an increase of 6.7% over the previous year, according to data released by the state Employment Security Department.

It's the largest year-over-year percentage increase since 1999.

The average weekly wage rose from $1,255 in 2018 to $1,340 in 2019. The figures include only wages covered by unemployment insurance.

Industries with the largest average wage growth in 2019 were:

Transportation and warehousing, up 7.1%

Information, up 6.5%

Educational services, up 6.4%.

State Charter School Commission approves Wenatchee charter school application

WENATCHEE — Pinnacles Prep's application as a state charter school has been approved by the Charter School Commission, one of four new schools statewide expected to open in Fall 2021. It will join nine charter schools currently operating in the state.

Charter public schools are tuition-free, open to all students, staffed by certified teachers and required to meet state and national standards. They are governed by a private, nonprofit board and receive public funds through the state, based on enrollment, but cannot levy local taxes.

Pinnacles Prep plans to open for students in grades 6 and 7 and add one grade a year until it serves about 360 students from grades 6-12.

Founding Principal Jill Fineis, who started in July 2019, and co-founders Sara Rolfs and Rick Wray submitted the application in February.

The new school's location has been established. The nonprofit signed a long-term lease and joint use agreement in late March with the city of Wenatchee for the Wenatchee Community Center at 504 S. Chelan Ave., Wenatchee. The school, starting in October 2021, will pay $2,500 a month for six years, with the option to renew for another 24 years.

Pinnacles Prep also agreed to manage the Community Center campus, which currently includes six other tenants whose current leases expire at the end of 2020. The facility — at least part of it — then will be transformed into the new school.

The facility remodel is expected to cost $1.5 million, with another $4 million to $5 million to add a high school wing in three or four years, she said.

"The funding will come from a variety of grants, local fundraising, and bank financing, many of which have already been secured,' she said.

Parents should be able to start the enrollment process in September.

Multi-use activity center planned for downtown Wenatchee

WENATCHEE — A trio of former apple warehouses in downtown Wenatchee could be redeveloped into an activity center with gymnastics, indoor batting cages, golf simulators and a sports bar.

Chelan Douglas Regional Port Authority commissioners approved an application from S.P.O.R.T Gymnastics to buy three connected buildings on the corner of Columbia Street and Orondo Avenue formerly owned by Lineage Logistics.

Before the sale is completed, a memorandum of understanding and a purchase-and-sale agreement will need to be drafted and approved, port authority CEO Jim Kuntz said in early July. That process could happen by the fall, but there's no estimate of when the facility could open. The company will then need to secure financing and a building permit before a sale is finalized.

The company is currently located in a building just down Columbia Street.

Owners Sue and Taryn Harris are partnering with Flint Hartwig, a local developer and owner of Eider Construction, on the project, according to the proposal. Hartwig's past projects include Bella Bistro, the Goodfellow Bros. headquarters and the Rhein Haus Building in Leavenworth.

The developers' plans for the space include a 16,000-square-foot double-height "Adventure Zone" with slides, trampolines, ziplines and a foam pit.

Other proposed features include:

  • A 9,000-square-foot gymnastics area
  • Climbing wallsIndoor batting cages
  • Rentable party roomsOutdoor event terrace
  • Fitness class space
  • Simulator pods for virtual golf, soccer hockey, lacrosse basketball or football
  • Public cafe or bar

The three connected buildings total 36,830 square feet and sit on 1.5 acres. The port owns eight other Lineage buildings on the southern side of Orondo Avenue which will likely be divided up and listed later this year. The port purchased the full campus last year for $4.5 million.

S.P.O.R.T Gymnastics has offered $2 million for the three northern buildings. The listing price was $2.1 million.

The project construction cost is estimated to be around $12-14 million, according to port documents. The business would create 50-60 jobs with wages ranging from $13 to $29 an hour.

Rafting companies hit by COVID-19, business just now starting to trickle in

LEAVENWORTH — River rafting companies around North Central Washington have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The seasonal operations typically make their money from mid-to-late April through July — depending on how the rivers are running — and before the water drops in volume and eager inner-tubers flock to the state's rivers in droves.

Unable to open until Chelan County moved into phase 1.5 on June 10, rafting companies missed a good chunk of the white water season.

"We try to do a little bit but we're down about 90-95% compared to last year," Charlie Bahla, a supervisor at River Riders in Leavenworth, said July 1. "The big water is already past us and we're in the spring melt-off."

James Moore, the owner of Orion River Rafting — located about 6 miles up the Chumstick Highway — offered a similar assessment, saying they've lost more than 50% of their business.

Most companies offer trips (including some overnight) to rivers like the Methow, Tieton, White Salmon, Nooksack along with the Wenatchee River, but with travel and safety guidelines an issue, they've been forced to keep their rafts on the Wenatchee.

To meet social distancing guidelines, Bahla said River Riders has cut the trip load from eight to four or five. They've stopped providing lunches at their picnic area — though people can still bring their own and eat by the river if they wish — and customers are asked to mask up and sit in every other seat on the shuttle to the launch site.

Douglas County among fastest-growing in state

NCW — Douglas County was the fourth fastest-growing county in the state last year, according to the state Office of Financial Management.

Douglas County saw a 2.17% population increase in the last year, according to the data, putting it behind only Kittitas, Clark and Franklin counties. It saw a 13.84% increase in the last 10 years.

Rock Island now has more residents than Waterville. Its estimated population is 1,220, compared to Waterville's 1,195.

The Office of Financial Management provides annual population estimates that are used for state program administration and allocation of revenue.

The most recent estimates, from April 1, were released in early July.

Chelan County saw a 1.58% increase in the last year, according to the data. It saw a 9.95% increase in the last 10 years.

The data show Washington had over 7.6 million residents as of April 1 — a 1.45% increase in the last year and a 13.85% increase in the last 10 years. The Office of Financial Management says most population change occurred before the COVID-19 crisis and that the increase is primarily due to people moving to the state.

Wenatchee council skips vote on noise ordinance

WENATCHEE — City noise restrictions will continue to apply to churches, at least for now.

The City Council on July 9 considered an exemption for public events held by religious organizations but decided to not take action.

The council voted in January to renew for six months, starting Feb. 28, an ordinance that includes a ban in residential areas on outdoor sound amplification by auditoriums, places of public assembly and places of worship.

That rule will now expire Aug. 28, and council members said they want the Planning Commission or city staff to work on a new noise ordinance. No date has been set to bring the matter back to the council.

After Aug. 28, the city will revert back to its previous noise code, which city attorney Steve Smith said "basically prohibits any loud, repetitive, raucous noise that's offensive to a reasonable person 50 feet away."

Current exemptions focus on events held on property owned by governments or school districts, but not places of worship.

Smith said Wenatchee is potentially not treating religious organizations the same as non-religious organizations. He cited the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which protects religious institutions from discrimination in zoning and land-marking laws.

The council could have made an exception for places of worship in January but voted against it.

Ten people addressed the council in January, with half supporting an exception and half opposing it. A major complaint dealt with Grace City Church's 2017 outdoor Easter celebration in Sunnyslope, which nearby residents said was too loud and violated their right to privacy.

Grace City is building a campus on that property to include a chapel, event center and courtyard. According to the church website, the first phase is expected to cost $11.5 million.

Inspirations Ceramic & Art Cafe is back but still offering pottery to go

WENATCHEE — Inspirations Ceramic & Art Cafe at 400 Ninth St. opened its doors July 1 for the first time since March, with a special surprise for customers: the bright yellow art studio walls are now a fresh sea green.

That's not the only changes customers will notice, though.

"We completely reorganized everything," said owner Jennifer Curtin. "We still have a lot going on, but it definitely doesn't look as busy."

The studio has been rearranged for social distancing guidelines, with painting tables pushed against the walls. Paint bottles, brushes or technique supplies like sponges or stencils are no longer out for open use. Instead, all painting equipment is kept in a separate office and supplies are distributed individually to patrons. Front registers sport new clear sneeze guards and all employees sport face masks.

Curtin, who worked as a manager at Inspirations Ceramic & Art Cafe for five years before becoming owner in December 2018, said that Inspirations officially closed its doors on March 26 after the state mandate. While renovating, they continued to provide their pottery-to-go service, where customers can order online a piece of pottery to paint at home. The pottery is available for curbside pickup, painted and then returned to the store's kiln.

"It's actually kind of funny because we offered pottery to go before COVID," Curtin said. "But, we definitely focused on marketing that during this time."

Inspirations is also improving its pottery-to-go service with the addition of tutorial videos.

The cafe still offers coffee, drinks and ice cream, but will not be offering baked goods. Customers are welcome to paint or enjoy their drinks inside or on the storefront's outdoor patio.

Council approves design contract for Saddle Rock waste rock removal project

WENATCHEE — The second and final phase of a Saddle Rock waste rock removal project will soon be underway.

Before the city of Wenatchee bought the property in 2011, it was used for mining. Environmental assessments indicated elevated arsenic levels, which led to the remediation project.

From September to November, 11,901 tons of waste rock were removed from four areas on the lower part of Saddle Rock. A $900,000 Model Toxics Control Act grant went toward that first phase, and the city has a nearly $1.3 million MTCA grant for the second phase.

The City Council on July 9 approved a $195,034 contract with GeoEngineers, which also worked on the first phase, for design of the second phase involving removal of waste rock from one or two upper areas.

City Capital Projects Manager Charlotte Mitchell told the council that data collection will be done this summer, followed by design in the winter. The project will go out to bid in the spring, and construction should begin next summer.

"Ecology wants us to figure out what exactly is the arsenic content there and do some mapping of that and try to figure out if there's maybe ways to mitigate," Mitchell said.

That could include using benches to avoid people sitting on the ground, or steering people away from areas with higher levels of arsenic, she said.

GeoEngineers will also look at the feasibility of realigning the road, Mitchell said.

Mobile barber goes from niche option to a ‘perfect’ choice during a pandemic

WENATCHEE — The Cut Truck, a mobile barber shop operated in a cargo trailer, started in Seattle as a way to get around the cost of renting a traditional space.

Owner R'shelle Therriault decided to bring the business back to her hometown of Wenatchee last September. It just so happened that was right before the pandemic put a premium on the idea of an isolated haircut experience.

"It's pretty cool because obviously there's no way we could have predicted this whole COVID thing, but now that we have all these restrictions on personal services, my setup is kind of perfect," she said. "It's just one-on-one, me and my client in a station. It's also super easy to sanitize between each person."

As soon as Chelan and Douglas counties were approved to move to Phase 1.5 of the state's reopening plan in June, Therriault opened the Cut Truck. It's now operating every weekend in the Pybus Public Market parking lot.

Therriault was born and raised in Wenatchee but moved to Seattle shortly after graduating. She worked in a few different barber shops and salons there but the idea of starting her own operation proved too cost prohibitive.

Looking for a creative way to branch out on her own, she came across someone offering mobile cuts out of an Airstream trailer.

"I thought 'It's super cool, but Airstream trailers are expensive but they're also super big and heavy,'" she said.

Then the idea of a cargo trailer — much cheaper and more nimble — came up. She purchased a 10-foot trailer and began renovations, spending about a year to acquire access to water, electricity, heat and air conditioning.

Therriault now offers appointments and walk-ups on Saturdays, Sundays and most Fridays at Pybus. Even passersby who hadn't previously been familiar with the concept have enjoyed the more private setting of the Cut Truck, she said.

"Even before safety and sanitization were a big concern for people, I think a lot of people liked that it was just kind of quiet and intimate," she said. "Sometimes when you go to a salon or barber shop there's just so much going on, so many people and it can be kind of overwhelming."

Sunny FM expands reach with help from The Key

WENATCHEE — Two local radio stations have joined forces.

Resort Radio's Sunny FM (KCSY) and Wheeler Broadcasting Inc., which owns KEYG AM and FM, entered a management and programming agreement on June 29 that allows Sunny FM to handle operations and programming for KEYG's stations and translators.

That means Sunny FM's current format and on-air programming will be simultaneously heard on 100,000-watt KEYG-FM Grand Coulee (98.5 FM) and on its associated translators. Sunny FM plays classic hits. "The Key" KEYG-FM previously played classic rock. Key Country 1490 AM will continue its country format, though more news, weather and information will be added to the mix.

The move expands Sunny FM's coverage from the Cascades to Spokane and from the Columbia Basin to the Canadian border, serving an eight county area with a population base of more than 275,000.

In addition to 93.9 FM in the Wenatchee Valley, Sunny FM will also now be heard on 98.1 FM, which serves East Wenatchee, Rock island east to Highway 28 and Quincy.

The agreement also allows Sunny FM, which technically is based in Twisp, to broadcast on an additional translator in the Okanogan Valley, 97.7 FM, located on Omak Mountain serving Omak, Okanogan, Riverside, Tonasket and Oroville near the Canadian border.

Business offices for both stations will be located and managed from the Sunny FM business offices at 10 S. Mission St., Wenatchee.

Wheeler Broadcasting's owner and general manager Mark Wheeler joined Sunny FM's sales team on July 1, according to a joint press release. He will continue to service accounts throughout North Central Washington.

KEYG AM 1490 Grand Coulee has also launched a new Country format to better serve Grand Coulee, Coulee City, Electric City, Wilbur and the Grand Coulee Recreational area.

New coffee shop and burger joint set to open in George this summer

GEORGE — Over the next couple months, the city of George is slated to add two new businesses; a restaurant called Fatburger and a brand new coffee stand called Wicked G.O.A.T. Brew.

Fatburger is a fast food franchise based out of Beverly Hills, California. The franchise has been in operation since 1952.

Wicked G.O.A.T. Brew will be a normal coffee stand with a handful of specialty drinks, said company co-owner Tami Canfield. Their coffee is their own blend through 4 Seasons Coffee Co., a coffee roasting company in Spokane. According to co-property owner and developer Caleb McNamara, the Wicked G.O.A.T. Brew is intended to open sometime in mid July and Fatburger later in mid-August.

Community center tenants seek new space for when charter school moves in

WENATCHEE — With a new school moving into the Wenatchee Community Center, the facility's current tenants are looking for other places to call home.

In late June, the state Charter School Commission approved Pinnacles Prep's application to become the Wenatchee area's first charter public school. Pinnacles Prep has a lease with the city to take over the community center, 504 S. Chelan Ave., on Jan. 1.

Dave Erickson, the city's parks, recreation and cultural services director, said there are currently no plans for another facility to serve as a community center. Pinnacles Prep was selected from a request for proposals process after the Chelan-Douglas Community Action Council gave up management of the center last year and the city started looking for another organization to manage it, Erickson said.

Leases for the current six tenants — Action Health Partners, Alcohólicos Anónimos, Amigos Unidos, Child Care Aware of Central Washington, the Literacy Council of Chelan and Douglas Counties, and Veterans Services — expire Dec. 31.

Downtown Bike Cashmere opens as promised

CASHMERE — Aaron Todd opened Downtown Bike in Cashmere as planned on June 27.

The bike shop specializes in bicycle service and repair and bike sales.

The hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at 5651 Sunset Highway. The phone number is 509-888-3889.

Pangborn's CARES Act grant will be used for operating expenses, debt payments

EAST WENATCHEE — The Chelan Douglas Regional Port Authority plans to use its $18 million CARES Act grant to cover operating expenses at Pangborn Memorial Airport and pay down past debt.

The airport was awarded $18,120,860 in April, part of roughly $10 billion in funding provided to hundreds of airports across the country. The money can be used for "any purpose for which airport revenues may be lawfully used," according to the FAA website.

The grant is distributed in response to reimbursement requests, the first of which was just submitted by the port, CEO Jim Kuntz said.

"We're starting to submit for reimbursements, I think our first check just came in the $2.6 million range," he said. 

The port requested $182,242.32 to cover operating expenses for February and $242,778.15 to cover March, according to port documents.

Alaska Airlines, which operates Horizon commercial air service out of Pangborn, in April reduced its frequency to one trip per day. Pangborn flights have seen record-low passenger volume during the pandemic.

The port is also using CARES Act dollars to pay off debt from past capital projects, most of which have been funded through general operating budgets. First on the list was roughly $2.5 million in bonds from the airport's runway extension project.

The port plans to submit reimbursement requests to pay off a host of other debt services over the next few months, Kuntz said. A big target is the Pangborn Business Park, which is on the west side of the airport.

The port purchased the Executive Flight building, which sits next to the business park, last year for $4 million. Part of the CARES Act funding will likely go to paying off remaining debt from that purchase and the cost of installing a new HVAC system.

Freeing up debt service payments will allow the port to invest in capital projects with its own money instead of relying on more-expensive FAA procurement or other outside funding, Kuntz said. The next big project is an expanded approach lighting system, which will provide significantly improved visibility in winter months.

Proposed vacation rental rules move to county commissioners

WENATCHEE — Chelan County Planning Commission finalized its proposed short-term vacation rentals on July 9, a process that has been two years in the maing.

The next step is a review and discussion by the Chelan County Commissioners who then could approve, reject or amend the code that aims at managing residential dwellings rented on a nightly basis.

Three workshops have been planned, at 5:30 p.m. July 28, Aug. 4 and 11. For details on how to sign on to the Zoom meeting, see the county's website.

A date for a final decision has not yet been set.

In contrast to previous versions, the final draft includes:

  • Conditional use permits for any short-term rentals that host more than 12 people
  • Establishes that property owners who live 200 feet from their rental count as on-premise owners
  • Provides a sunset for short-term rentals in certain areas or areas where they will be prohibited

For details on the proposed regulations, go to wwrld.us/2Bm66rm.

Port will study future uses for former cryptocurrency mine

EAST WENATCHEE — A former cryptocurrency mine in the Pangborn Business Park may one day house a "cluster" of startups or small distribution companies.

The Chelan Douglas Regional Port Authority on July 16 was awarded a $50,000 grant to study potential uses for the property. The grant, from the state's Community Economic Revitalization Board, will be matched by $16,667 in port dollars.

The property was leased in 2017 by cryptocurrency miner Giga Watt, which began construction of several "pods" to house mining equipment. The company went bankrupt in November 2018 before construction was finished. The pods are now in various stages of completion.

After an agreement with the bankruptcy court, the port now owns the buildings in addition to the land, CEO Jim Kuntz said.

"We've always owned the property but we had not owned the personal property," he said. "About two or three weeks ago, we finally finalized our agreement with the bankruptcy court and now the regional port owns not only the property but also the personal property on site."

The feasibility study will take a look at what needs to be done to finish the construction and what businesses would be suitable to lease them, Kuntz said.

"What the commissioners wanted to know is can those buildings be repurposed? Is there a way to repurpose those, in particular, for small businesses?" he said. "Obviously we're not going to be doing cryptocurrency in there and we're not doing data mining, we're going to be moving on from that."

The port hopes to begin the study soon and weigh its options later this year, Kuntz said.

"We want to move on that quickly so we're going to go out with a (request for proposals) and get a consultant on board," he said. "Then we're hoping sometime late this fall we'll have some plans or at least report back saying what can be done with it."

PUD approves design contract for Rock Island Dam rehabilitation

WENATCHEE — Eight power-generation units in Powerhouse 2 at Rock Island Dam will be rehabilitated over the next 10 years.

The Chelan County PUD Commission on July 20 approved a $4.5 million contract with GE Renewables to begin the design process for the rehabilitation, according to a Monday press release.

The design is expected to be completed later this year, with rehabilitation starting in 2022 and ending in 2030. Each unit will be down for about a year during rehabilitation.

"These units were installed in the late 1970s and have run trouble-free for the most part," Rock Island Dam Engineering and Project Manager John Sagerser said. "They have a 40-year design life and they are beginning to show signs of wear."

The eight horizontal bulb generating units in Powerhouse 2 are the only ones of their kind on the Columbia River and among few in North America.

Each "submarine-like" bulb is cased in a watertight steel shell, according to the PUD website.

Rock Island Dam's first powerhouse was completed in 1933 and the second powerhouse was built in 1979, according to the PUD's website. Rehabilitation work on the original powerhouse began in 2005 and is expected to wrap up in the next few years.

Chelan community center could be ‘a big boon”

CHELAN — Home to the third-deepest lake in the country, Chelan has no community pool where children can learn to swim.

The irony wasn't lost on the Seven Acres Foundation, a nonprofit which expects to soon break ground on the Community Center at Lake Chelan. The center will feature, among other amenities, a 25-meter competition indoor pool.

"We've got in excess of 30 teams in Manson and Chelan that are essentially competing for two or three gym spaces," said foundation board member Allan Mayer, adding, "Neither Chelan nor Manson has a swim team because there's nowhere to swim, but it's quite possible that one or both of those high schools will eventually form a swimming team."

Chelan-area residents formed the Seven Acres Foundation in 2018. The 44,100-square-foot community center, the group's primary project, has been in the works since 2017 and will be located on 6 acres at 103 Bighorn Way off of Highway 150.

It will include a gym/auditorium featuring a full-size basketball court and stage, indoor play area for children, teen room, meeting and event spaces, full commercial kitchen, work center, and offices for nonprofits, startups and local businesses. There will also be outdoor pickleball and volleyball courts and an event lawn.

The total project is currently estimated at $8.5 million, and the foundation has raised more than half through donations and public funding. The Fircrest-based Names Family Foundation, which provides grants for nonprofits promoting athletics, physical education, health and wellness in the state, has committed $500,000.

Groundbreaking is expected this fall, with construction being completed next fall on the main center. Outdoor facilities and the pool should be completed by summer 2022, though board chair Ben Williams said he hopes work will be done on those at the same time as the rest of the facility.

Williams said the initial idea was a hub for RealLife NCW Church, which had been meeting at Chelan High School. However, it evolved into a place that could offer much more than weekly church services.

RealLife has provided funding for the project and some members have been involved in its development, but the church will be a long-term tenant while the foundation runs the facility. It will use the community center for services and office space.

BE.Fit Chelan will offer exercise classes at the center, and Kahiau Volleyball Club will hold practices and games there. The Vine Coffee will be the exclusive food and beverage provider.

The head designer is Complete Design of Wenatchee, and the foundation has also worked with GCH of Seattle on the conceptual design and site plan. Rimmer & Roeter Construction of Cashmere is the primary contractor.

County considers changing code enforcement

WENATCHEE ⁠— Chelan County officials are considering moving code enforcement away from Community Development and into the Sheriff's Office to reduce a backlog of 800 to 1,000 cases.

It is at very preliminary stages, but the county is talking to Sheriff Brian Burnett about hiring three deputies to handle code enforcement, Community Development Director Jim Brown said during a June 24 Planning Commission meeting.

It would cost about $500,000 and include the need to fully equip the officers and provide them with vehicles. Some of the cost would be covered by using Community Development's current code enforcement budget, he said.

"Think of it as like an animal control deputy or some other specialized deputy that code enforcement will be all that they do," Brown said.The issue came up because Planning Commission members were talking about how new short-term rental regulations would be regulated. Some members were concerned about the cost of the county hiring three deputies just to handle short-term rental regulations.

The three code enforcement deputies would cover all code enforcement, Brown reassured the members.

Code enforcement includes things like garbage in yards and other property and building related violations.

The county is considering the change because of the backlog of complaints it is facing, Commissioner Doug England said.

"They appeal and it takes a while to get a court case and then they finally get a hearing and then they appeal that," England said. "It's a big long thing and you can drag just about anything out a couple of years."

If the process goes through the sheriff's office, deputies will be able to issue citations and it will go through district court instead of superior court, he said. District court tends to be a faster process than superior court. It's a similar model to how Grant County handles code enforcement.

Demolition leads way to foundations, footings ... septic surprises

EAST WENATCHEE — Contractors digging out the foundation for Kenroy Elementary School's new classroom wing discovered an old septic tank when they least expected it.

Add that to the list of unknowns that come with school construction projects in general, but particularly at Kenroy, said Seann Tanner, Eastmont School District's director of maintenance and services, who is herding a host of projects this summer.

"At Kenroy, it seems like every time they put a shovel in the ground up there, something unforeseen or unregistered on any drawings that we have shows up," he told school board members July 13.

Contractors also discovered the sewer main was not installed as shown on drawings. It has since been rerouted.

"The foundation excavation for the classroom addition is complete," he said.

Kenroy is one of five schools getting work done this summer — all related to class-size reduction and a realignment of the grade configurations that will put kindergarten through sixth-grade in the elementary schools and create two junior high schools for grades 7-9 starting in the 2021-22 school year. In all, 20 classrooms and four new cafeterias are being built, along with some parking lot changes and related sidewalk work.

The projects are being funded with a $22.6 million capital levy approved by voters in 2016, a $10 million state grant aimed at reducing class sizes for kindergarten through third-grade students, and $3.1 million in local funds to match.

Construction started this spring.

"It's been a long summer so far," Tanner said. "Construction projects are gearing up and cranking up pretty rapidly."

Most of the major demolition work is completed at Grant, Kenroy and Rock Island schools, he said. Some sidewalk demolition at Kenroy remains.

"Foundations are in the ground at Grant. They're formed up for footings at Kenroy (for the classrooms) and they'll start excavating the cafeteria next week," he said. "At Rock Island, the watermain and utility installation is progressing. Sewer work is completed."

Rock Island school's foundation excavation and footings work will start as soon as the utility work is completed.

He expects work at Lee and Cascade schools to start by the end of July. Some of the materials already have been delivered.

A new concession stand and restroom facility at the high school baseball field also is on the list, but the start is waiting for the irrigation contractor to identify line locations.

"We want to make sure we address any problems they might encounter during excavation before they start rather than create a bunch of additional work by destroying stuff," Tanner said.

The general contractor on the projects is MH Construction of Kennewick.

Information on the construction and reconfiguration is posted on the district's website, wwrld.us/2WvHp0z.

Two federal agencies join Chelan PUD research group

WENATCHEE — The nation's largest hydropower producers are partnering with Chelan County PUD to ensure that hydroelectric power remains the most reliable, renewable energy source for decades to come.

The Hydropower Research Institute is a data-sharing collective intended to help hydropower facilities save money on maintenance and better predict mechanical failures. The nonprofit was founded in 2018 when Chelan County PUD teamed up with Southern Company, one of the country's largest utilities, based in the southeast U.S. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers joined HRI in 2019.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Department of Energy are HRI's newest partners. The Bureau of Reclamation operates 53 hydropower facilities, which generates enough energy to power nine million homes.

"The Bureau is a big deal because it's the second-largest hydroelectric generator in the country. They have lots of data," said Kirk Hudson, HRI president and Chelan PUD's managing director of generation and transmission.

Combined, the partners represent more than 40% of the nation's hydroelectric capacity.

The Department of Energy will use the combined data for research at its Water Power Technologies Office and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Recently, its research showed that operations and maintenance costs for many aging hydroelectric facilities are rising.

"Our business model fails if our equipment doesn't last as long as predicted," said John Yale, Chelan PUD Hydro Plant Engineering Manager. The PUD operates 31 generators, each valued in the tens of millions of dollars. "By modeling how equipment will age under certain operating conditions, we can anticipate how things such as turbine blades will age over time."

For Yale it's all about the numbers. Instead of collecting information solely from its 31 units, the PUD now has access to information from 669 units from 164 plants nationwide.

"The real driver is that we don't have enough data to do it alone with statistical accuracy," he said. "We now have access to data about operations and failures at other hydro facilities that we haven't experienced, which gives us ways to predict the impact of our operations on equipment and better manage these assets."

A PUD machine failure at its Rock Island hydropower site in 2017 resulted in about $1.5 million in expenses due to repair work and lost revenue. However, data from this incident proved highly valuable to NorthWestern Energy, which had indications of a similar flaw. As a result, the company was able to preemptively make their fixes earlier – and at a time of low system demand. The total cost was $150,000, a fraction of the PUD's expenses. HRI provides the means for such proactive repair work.

"The better you can predict when failures might show up, the better you can plan for them and avoid the failure," said Hudson. "It also allows us to take a unit down for repairs when we have less river water to operate rather than times of high water or peak demand."

When utilities with hydropower can produce energy with lower maintenance costs and less downtime, it creates better reliability and value for customers nationwide. In addition, as the country moves away from carbon-producing energy sources, hydropower will be relied upon more as a clean energy source and for its flexibility, Hudson said.

"The bottom line is becoming more predictive allows us to respond with planned outages rather than forced outages," Hudson said. "The more those machines are running, the fewer emergencies we have and the less costly those repairs are. That provides better value to our customers."

Database: PPP loans awarded to nearly 2,000 employers in Chelan and Douglas counties

NCW — Nearly 2,000 employers in Chelan and Douglas counties received loans through the federal government's Paycheck Protection Program, potentially supporting more than 22,000 jobs.

Data released July 6 by the Small Business Administration and the Treasury Department offers the first detailed look at how the loans have been disbursed to individual businesses and nonprofits since early April.

The data contains information on each of the roughly 4.9 million loans issued through the program, according to a SBA release.

Recipients awarded loans greater than $150,000 were named in the data and those that received less were left anonymous. 

The majority of employers, around 1,700, in Chelan and Douglas counties received less than $150,000. More than $64 million was awarded to those businesses, with a median loan amount of $25,592.

There were 271 businesses in the two counties that were awarded more than $150,000 and named in the release. They ranged from popular restaurants like the Wild Huckleberry to stores like Stan's Merry Mart and Sav-Mart.

Larger loan amounts were provided as a range rather than an exact figure. Only two businesses, Crunch Pak and JMAC Energy, fell into the highest bracket, receiving a loan between $5 million and $10 million.

Blue Bird, Van Doren Sales, Selland Construction, Weinstein Beverage and Columbia Valley Community Health were among the employers who received between $2 million and $5 million.

The nearly 2,000 employers reported that the loans would support a total of 22,727 jobs in the two counties. Those numbers were self-reported by businesses on their applications, according to a SBA release. Some employers left that field blank or listed zero jobs.

Crunch Pak reported its loan would support 500 jobs, the highest of any employer that included a figure. Several other agriculture companies, including Blue Bird, Washington Cherry Growers, Andy Feil Orchards and Kyle Mathison Orchards, reported their loans would each support hundreds of workers, according to the data.

The two counties' total workforce numbered 65,115 people in May, according to the state's Employment Security Department. The unemployment rate was 14.3%, leaving 9,282 people out of work. That's down from a high of 15.1% recorded in April.

Several small business grant programs were established by local governments to assist struggling businesses.

The Chelan-Douglas Regional Port Authority is managing several grant programs with funding from the federal CARES Act, a state grant program, community development block grants and money from the port's own tax revenue. Those programs have provided a combined $581,137 to 116 businesses as of Friday, according to the port.

The Paycheck Protection Program has supported 51.1 million jobs nationally, or roughly 84% of all small business employees, according to the release.

The loans don't have to be paid back if used primarily for payroll costs within 24 weeks, according to the Associated Press. Some of the funds could also be used for rent, mortgage interest and insurance.

After an extension from Congress, the program resumed accepting applications on July 6 with a new deadline of Aug. 8, according to the SBA website. The loans are offered by individual lenders. More information is available at wwrld.us/PPP.

So far banks have made about 4.9 million loans through the program with an average loan size of $107,000, according to the release. Just over 86% of all loans were for less than $150,000.

The program was part of the $2 trillion CARES Act signed into law on March 27.

Arizona-based Wick Communications, The Wenatchee World's parent company, was awarded a loan of between $2 million and $5 million, according to the data. The company reported it would support 382 jobs across its operation.