methow grist 2011-2014 archive

Trucks Coming, Officer Going
Winthrop Town Council News

Winthrop Marshal Rikki Schwab reported to the town council Wednesday (June 18) that she will buy two new 2014 crew cab Chevy Colorado trucks which the department will purchase at a cost of $29,900 each to replace two of the department’s malfunctioning vehicles.

Originally Schwab planned to buy two used 2008 Colorado trucks. But she told the council that she has located two brand new vehicles from an Idaho dealer that the town can afford. The total cost, including transfer of existing police equipment to the new trucks and replacement of a malfunctioning emergency light bar, is $72,753, she said. The funds will come from unused payroll and benefits plus $12,000 already set aside for vehicle purchase, Schwab told Methow Grist.

photoOutgoing Winthrop Deputy Marshal Ken Bajema receives a commendation from new Marshal Rikki Schwab.

“I’m very pleased they are new vehicles,” councilman Michael Strulic, who initially had objected to the truck purchases, told Schwab. She said she is pleased the town can start with preventive maintenance on new, rather than used, vehicles.

Mayor Sue Langdalen announced that Deputy Marshal Ken Bajema has resigned. He has been the town’s sole full-time law enforcement officer since the November 2013 resignation of Marshal David Dahlstrom.

Bajema was awarded two police commendations for his service by Schwab at the meeting - one for outstanding performance during his stint as the town’s lone marshal, the other for saving the life of a young person about to commit suicide.

Bajema said it’s “not often” that law enforcement officers have the opportunity to be publicly recognized for their work. “I really appreciate that,” he said of the commendations.

Reserve deputy Bryan Alexander also received a commendation for his assistance to Bajema and for “helping us on short notice,” said Schwab. Alexander was unable to attend the meeting. Langdalen also announced that police clerk Darlene Schoenwald is retiring after 10 years as clerk.

The council voted to amend conflicting town regulations governing Westernization signage that inadvertently led to approval by the town’s volunteer Westernization Architectural Committee of signage for Mike Kutz’s Bunkhouse Inn on Bridge Street. The signage does not comply with size regulations for business areas zoned B-1, according to the council. Peter Larsen, a neighbor of the inn, has filed a complaint with the town.

But that does not solve the town’s dilemma of what to do about the sign, council members agreed. “It needs to be removed,” said councilman Rick Northcott of the signage. The council asked Mayor Langdalen to meet with Kutz to pursue a solution.

photoOkanogan County Emergency Services manager Scott Miller, front left, asks the Winthrop Town Council to adopt the county's multi-hazard mitigation plan. Listening, clockwise from left, are council members Rick Northcott and Mortee Banasky, Mayor Sue Langdalen, and council members Michael Strulic and Gaile Cannon-Bryant.

Okanogan County Emergency Services manager Scott Miller asked the town to adopt the county’s new multi-hazard mitigation plan within 60 days and explained the emergency services assistance the town gets from the county.

The county provides emergency services throughout the county at a minimal cost to towns, he said. The annual emergency services cost that must be paid by Winthrop, based on its population of 405 residents, is $1,168, said Miller. The county pays the rest, he said.

The county intends to purchase an emergency notification system that would cost the town another $100 to $150 a year, Miller told the council. “We don’t have enough staff to knock on doors” when evacuations are required, he explained. The system would allow residents to be notified by personalized phone and internet alerts, he said.

The new hazards assessment completed by the county rates the Methow Valley’s flood potential as “moderate” and “relatively low” compared with the east side of the county, Miller said. Earthquake peril also is rated “relatively low,” and landslides are a “low possibility,” he added.

The chance of wildland fires is “moderate,” he said, but the valley’s severe weather profile is “very high.” Snow, ice, and power loss due to thunderstorms are major factors contributing to that rating, Miller said.

“We don’t have a terrorist problem,” Miller concluded. But he handed the mayor a disc with secret instructions for coping with terrorists that he said should be locked in the town’s safe.