Wednesday, April 17, 2024

County Commissioners discuss wildfire escape routes and road signage


Editor’s note: The following meeting summaries of the Board of Commissioners of Okanogan County (BOCC) for the last week of February, are taken from notes provided by County Watch (

OKANOGAN – Wildfire was once again a topic discussed by the Board of Okanogan County Commissioners in their final February meetings.

Monday, Feb. 27 a.m.

  • A public comment from Isabelle Spohn, regarding the need for an updated Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan regarding wildfires, ingress and egress and escape routes with up-to-date signage for dead-end and closed roads, sparked a discussion by the Commissioners. They agreed that an up-to-date plan is important and discussed problems of achieving that. Maurice Goodall (MG) of Emergency Management addressed this topic later in the meeting, and the Commissioners plan to discuss it with Josh Thomson, the County Roads Engineer.
  • Zak Kennedy updated the Commissioners about the state legislature’s current session in Olympia.
  • Fairgrounds manager, Naomie Peasley discussed funding sources for new rabbit cages and barns for both racehorses and 4-H horses. The rabbit cages and some of the horse barn project will have to wait until next year.
  • Planning Director, Pete Palmer, told the commissioners that Isabelle Spohn continues to disagree with Palmer’s assertion that the Tunk rezone hearing was properly advertised. She also said several members of the Farm Bureau have requested public records associated with the Tunk rezone.
  • Goodall discussed roads during fires. Commissioner Branch says the BOCC should pay attention to the NEPA and SEPA documents and make comments about roads going through forests. Goodall said the county maintains a list of people with special needs who are notified in emergencies. County residents can call Emergency Management to discuss being included in the list.
  • Commissioner Neal said the Priest Lake, Idaho, Sheriff’s Office is offering hiring bonuses of $10,000 for new hires and $25,000 for lateral transfers. He knows this because he saw an advertisement on TV for the bonuses.

Commissioners reviewed the amount of ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds

  • they’ve allocated to date--$7.1 million of the $8.2 million the county was awarded.
  • Commissioner Branch urged the other commissioners to sign a letter to Senator Murray, requesting money for a feasibility study for a multi-county treatment evaluation center designed to keep people out of jail, if a jail term isn’t what would help the situation. He’ll also solicit support from David McClay, CEO of Okanogan Behavioral Health Care and Sheriff Budrow.
  • Commissioners held two Executive Sessions.
    • To discuss litigation and potential litigation, inviting Esther Milner, Chief Civil Deputy Prosecutor, Pete Palmer, Director of Planning, and Rocky Robbins, Planning, and
    • To discuss potential litigation, inviting Esther Milner and Shelley Keitzman, Human Resources and Risk Management.
  • Commissioners and Esther Milner discussed proposed changes to the county code. 
    Tuesday, Feb. 28, a.m.
  • Board reduced Fairgrounds rental cost for school-related functions, 
  • BOCC to send letter of support for WDFW pinniped removal (salmon predators), concern of putting PNW Grey Squirrel on Endangered Species list. 
  • Update from Assessor:
    • Hired new Appraiser I,
    • About 5,000 Seniors are in reduced/no tax program due to income, 
    • Taxpayers have 30 days from change-of-value notice to appeal. 
  • Putting together 'policies & procedures' form for new Fair Advisory Committee members.
  • Update from Public Works:
    • Solid waste manager testifying on 'bottle bill” in Olympia,
    • Working with Civil Deputy to draw up agreement for Omak business to take waste elsewhere, 
    • Considering maintaining Newby Creek Road,
    • ER&R (Equipment Rental and Revolving fund) rates have increased,
    • Two options for WDFW purchase; option to purchase or just compensation – will be on the consent agenda next week.
    • Another four acres of waterfront to sell to WDFW. 
  • LTAC (Lodging Tax Advisory Committee) appointee needs to be Okanogan County resident – definition of resident?

Bilingual pay being extended to non-bargaining positions and Teamsters represented employees.

  • Discussion of Public Information Request regarding the Tunk Basin, investigation into Commissioner Branch. Branch says it’s going to be an effort to smear him and wants Commissioner Neal to hear the history of water availability in the Tunk Valley. Commissioner Hover stands behind his Tunk rezone decision


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