Blogs Mayor's Updates
 
 

August 10, 2020

Posted on Monday August 10, 2020

It’s summertime in Colville and it’s lovely. Being outdoors more in the warmer weather is such a treat even if we are wearing masks and distancing a bit. As we get out more and see more of our community, it happens that we observe the homeless among us at the City Park, downtown, the Hope Street Rest Stop and other locations. Questions have come to me from several individuals about why they are allowed in our public spaces, with seemingly unfettered access to places where we are not used to seeing them. It may be disturbing to some, but this is my attempt to address the matter with all who live here because I care about your thoughts and feelings and want us all to operate in the realm or truth and fact instead of fear and hearsay.

Human beings are homeless for many different reasons. Lack of jobs, medical crises, family splits, substance abuse and so on. The other reality is that some (not many) don’t want jobs or help. They like the nomadic lifestyle and I get that. Some others (fewer yet) remain homeless due to feeding a substance abuse issue of some sort and then resort to criminal behavior to fund their choices. However, in my time of working with and being around the homeless people here locally, most are reasonable, respectful and intelligent and are folks that have hit on hard times and are struggling to find their way back out. That’s the spectrum as I see it and I’d like to encourage all of us to remember that before they were homeless, they were still people; people that deserve to have their basic human needs met with a roof, a bed, some food and the opportunity to work their way back into the society that largely condemns them for their failures in this life. I don’t intend that this turn into a philosophical debate about all the reasons that “those homeless folks” are distasteful to many, I do though desire to point out the truth about their plight, uncomfortable to some as it may be.

If we can all accept that some people just don’t have stationary homes to live in, then we can move on to what the remedy could look like here in Colville, which is where I’d really like to see this conversation go.  I also know that the homeless have always been among us, but that they are more apparent now due to increased numbers. I worry too, that when the deferred rents and mortgage payments come due from the suspension of penalties during this Corona virus by the Governor, we are likely to see their numbers increase even more, especially in those locations where population numbers are much higher than here.

So as a community, what can we do? Some express interest in rounding them up and jailing them, but homelessness isn’t a crime. Some would like to see us provide funding for their every whim and need and I probably disagree with that approach as well, even if it were possible. (Which it isn’t) The reality under the law is that they:

a. have a right to be in public places like all of us do, and

b. they cannot be evicted from those public places legally unless the City, Town or municipality has shelter space to offer them.

In the outcome of the court case Martin v Boise it was held that the homeless or indigent could not be removed from sleeping in or occupying a space on public property. These findings were upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and when it was appealed to the Supreme Court by the City of Boise, they declined to hear it stating that the 9th Circuit Court had ruled correctly and there was no need to re-try the case. See the quote below.

“We’re thrilled that the Court has let the 9th Circuit decision stand so that homeless people are not punished for sleeping on the streets when they have no other option,” said Maria Foscarinis, Executive Director at the Law Center. “But ultimately, our goal is to end homelessness through housing—which is effective and saves taxpayer dollars—so that no one has to sleep on the streets in the first place. We hope that the 9th Circuit decision will help communities find the political will to put that housing in place. Housing, not handcuffs, is what ends homelessness.” (Quote from the National Homelessness Law Center article December 2019, emphasis supplied)

I share that quote only because it honestly and openly states the reality of those that have no home; that they are in almost every City and Town and I believe that it’s on the City of Colville to work with those here locally that are truly trying to improve the plight of these folks. Hope Street, Habitat for Humanity, the local food banks, The Hub, The American Legion, Rural Resources and many local churches have all decided that these people need assistance; food, a warm bed, a shower, a load of laundry, access to services and help completing application forms, etc. Slowly, even the creation of low-income housing is under way here locally but the need far outpaces the current availability. It’s my opinion that we can do better, but it will require some more effective partnering, a clear focus and a strong (collective) desire to overcome this challenge that probably isn’t going away.

Your City Council has acted to accept a refund on local sales tax from the State, earmarked only for homelessness if the Governor decides to fund it. Steven County has a sizeable homeless fund and there are many local individuals that work tirelessly to address this need. It truly is a work in progress but one that is working for some and I’m proud of the many local groups and individuals involved in helping those that in many cases, cannot help themselves.

It’s often been said that there are many of us that are only a paycheck or two from becoming homeless ourselves. In these times of struggle, illness and political strife, I truly believe that if help comes at all, it will come from those here that care and have in their hearts a true compassion for their fellow man. I promise to continue to do all that I can to work towards an outcome on the matter that truly serves us all.

Mayor Ralph K. Lane Jr.
8/10/2020

July 21, 2020 Mayor update

Posted on Tuesday July 21, 2020

We are living in times that are both confusing and unsettling. Businesses are struggling, the health care system is as well and we are asked to keep “socially distant” which I’ve never been good at due to my interest and enjoyment in being around others.

Like you, I see the news daily and am at a loss to understand some of the events that I see nationwide and then I remember that I live here in Colville. I’m the Mayor of Colville and while I do worry for our fellow citizens in other places, I’m mostly concerned about us here, right now and for the simple reason of caring. I care about each and every one; families, health and prosperity. With that singular goal in mind, I respectfully submit the following:

Governor Inslee has issued several mandates, guidelines, informative press releases and the like since this COVID-19 pandemic began. While I don’t always agree with some of his politics, I do agree with his seeming desire to keep us all healthy. Further, I am in almost daily contact with our local health experts at the Northeast Tri-County Health, Dr. Barry Bacon and others that live here, have families here and do want the best for us in the Tri-County area. I suspect that you have seen as I have, the spiking number of cases here in the three Counties over the weekend and this concerns me deeply. You also probably know by now that the public gathering size has been reduced from 50 to 10, effective July 20.

I have been asked many times if I think that these mandates have a “control” element to them, a way to manipulate the population here and to scare them or force them into some manner of subservience. My answer is that I do not, at least for now. The reason I can say that and feel confident is because those here locally that have medical expertise, that I know personally and trust implicitly, are saying the same things. They are:

 

1. Wear a mask when in public, indoors and especially in a business or crowded outdoor spaces. It’s a responsible move and a caring one as by doing so, I’m protecting you from me. Simple as that. Yes, I have heard all the arguments about lack of oxygen and the suspicion about the effectiveness of a cloth mask, but at the end of the day I care about you and I hope you will endure this minor inconvenience to protect me and others like me. I’m seriously immunocompromised and for some, the C-19 may cause a sniffle or cough but for me, it could mean a casket. If you have a medical condition that won’t allow you to wear one, I’d strongly advise that you stay away from any and all strangers and let someone else do your shopping and take advantage of curb-side services for any groceries and other goods. Staff here at the City of Colville, indoor staff and outdoor, are all wearing masks when we interact with the public or even each other. Masks are required to enter any City buildings or interact with any staff.

2. Sanitize your hands often. Every surface you touch out in public has likely been touched by many others. Use sanitizer and wash frequently. Keep your hands away from your face.

3. Social distancing. We have been locked-down and I get it. Its summer and I understand the desire to be out with our friends and family. Please try to not be in too close a proximity with each other and if you must, especially with those not of your household, please wear a mask.

4. Stay home when you are sick.  C-19 can affect people differently and symptoms vary. The most common are cough, fever and shortness of breath. From what I’m told from those investigating local cases, the illness can start with mild respiratory symptoms not unlike seasonal allergies or involve the loss of smell or taste. Simply put, please stay home if you don’t feel up to par.

These days are confusing and unsettling to be sure, but I have great confidence that better days are coming and we can hasten them by all doing our part to minimize the rate of disease transmission. In my mind, there are things worse than a paper mask and they are moving back into an earlier Phase (death to local businesses) or attending your funeral. I desperately want to avoid both of these, so will you kindly join me in doing your part, our part… to slow this deadly virus as we look ahead to times when all this will be just a distant memory? I’m grateful and will thank each of you in advance for your respectful cooperation.

The State of the City in my first 6 months.

Posted on Monday June 29, 2020

Good day Colville!

  I have to start by saying that I was counting on my first 6 months in office to be a time of learning, settling in and getting to know staff and Council. The reality of that time span however has been quite different. While I have gotten to know these folks, the learning curve has been a bit like the old saying of "drinking from a fire hose". I do feel fortunate to have the staff and Council I have as they have been patient and tolerant with "the new Mayor" and my lack of mayoral experience. 
   It's long been my intent to share some information with City residents on this page, but finding the time and having accurate information to report are key and so what follows is an update, some of which you may already know.
    
   The rebuild and overlay of the Railroad Avenue/Truck Bypass is complete. It was finished ahead of schedule and under budget.These were accomplished by proper City staff project management and a local contractor that worked with the City towards efficiencies in construction and cost. I'm grateful for both these groups and look forward to using a much smoother street that will last us for a long time.
   The construction project at the intersection of Main & Astor streets has been approved by City Council and will likely begin sometime near August 1, 2020 give or take a few days. The contractor and the City have been engaged in only preliminary discussion thus far and those start dates will be solidified in the next week or so.There will be disruptions to the downtown businesses in that construction location and these are unavoidable given the scope of this project. However, we have a contractor that is mindful of our desires to keep the disruptions to a minimum and that pedestrian ability to move through that area before and after construction hours will need to be maintained. The project duration is expected to be approximately 40 days, meaning that it should wrap up in early September.

   I want to openly discuss a couple of matters that are frequently in the news these days, those being police reform and the protests that we are seeing about law enforcement, even here. 
   The City of Colville Police Department employs a Chief, a Sergeant, an Animal Control Officer, an Administrative Assistant and 8 Patrol Officers when fully staffed. The policies and directives that dictate the operational environment in which these individuals perform their duties are completely in compliance with State mandated training in such areas as the Use of Force continuum, police vehicle pursuit, force deescalation and crisis intervention. Nothing has changed within the CPD as far as law and policy compliance, except as the laws change, the training changes and the Department strives always to remain in compliance.
As for what is occurring in the other, more populated areas of Washington State with the protests, let me be clear about my thoughts on it with you.
The right to protest peacefully is an appropriate right and one that can prompt real change under certain conditions. We have had a few local protests about various things and I applaud all those that have shown us that peaceful protest can occur without the senseless violence and destruction that has accompanied these protests in other places. I cannot speak for any other locale, but I'm grateful to live in a place with dignified and sensible folks that can disagree without resorting to a fight.
To tie these two thoughts together though, if violence occurs here in any form, your trained and professional CPD is ready to protect and defend. It's their job to be sure but as I personally know most of these officers, their personal integrity and dedication to their profession would allow them nothing other than to "serve and protect".

    I've also had questions about the trees around Colville, especially the ones that are cut off, dead or dying. The City Street and Parks Departments are working as time allows, to replace these dead/dying trees and are also working to replace the trees that were cut down on S. Wynne St. Those particular trees required removal because the wrong ones were planted there many years ago and they were growing up into Avista's high-voltage electrical lines. As the good neighbors they always are, Avista cut down the trees in question and also donated $150.00 per tree with which to replace these trees with a dwarf variety that will not become the problems that the others were. Thank you Avista! Also, the old trees did some pretty significant damage to the sidewalks on S. Wynne, so City staff will also be doing some concrete work in conjunction with tree replacement. Many volunteers have served on several occasions removing the decorative rocks in the tree planters and bulb-outs so that they can be replaced with mulch/bark, reducing the summer time heat that kills these trees. We are fortunate to have so many dedicated volunteers that consistently strive towards downtown beautification.

Lastly, I want to thank and congratulate long-time City Street Supervisor Jeff Long on his retirement! He will leave the City on June 30 after 28 years of dedicated service to us all. Best wishes going forward Jeff!

As always, I want to remind residents here in Colville that I work for YOU! Please contact me anytime, with any questions, comments or concerns and I will do my best to address them in a timely manner. 

Ralph Lane Jr, Mayor
mayor@colville.wa.us
509-684-5095


   

Pool Closure

Posted on Monday May 18, 2020

These are such trying times for all worldwide, including us here in Colville. The consequences from the COVID virus have had many different effects locally and one of these recently has been the decision by City Council to leave the City pool closed for this season.

First and foremost, I want to clarify that this determination by Council was not made by them alone. It was in concurrence with Department heads and Mayor and yet as they are the financial decision-making body for the City, this choice could only have been made by them. However, I fully support the Council in this tough choice because it was one borne out of financial responsibility and a hedging against financial outcomes in crisis that are not yet clear. I also want you to understand that in my short 5 months in office, I have seen your City Council wrestle with decisions that favor the residents here even when it may not have been entirely practical to do so. They do their very best to most often come down on the side of the citizens and in this case, I fully support them in a decision that they truly didn’t want to make. That said, what follows are the reasons that we chose to not open the pool facility for this summer.

In any given year, it takes roughly two months of preparation, cleaning, filling, balancing and heating the pool and its water for it to be ready for public use. It holds approximately 300,000 gallons of water and so it takes time to complete these tasks and in each season, the costs to open it are about the same. Also, this statement omits the time and cost of hiring staff and getting them trained as well. Once completed, the facility can usually operate at a semi-predictable cost per month unless there is an equipment failure or an unusually cold, wet summer. Most of you understand that our pool operates yearly at a financial loss and always has, but such is the nature of a seasonal facility that has operational and maintenance needs all year long. So in the end, it’s a matter of timing with regard to this facility. Do we choose to open it for just a few weeks when the cost to prep and open it is about the same as for three months of normal use? What if we choose to prepare it for opening only to remain in Phase 2 where we cannot legally open it to the public? Tough questions abound.

In this C-19/Phase 2 environment that we are currently find ourselves operating within, the unknowns of budgetary impacts have created hard decisions. As you know, many businesses have been closed, employment lay-offs are far above normal and these are important details to all of us in our financial planning. Your family may choose to not buy the new RV that you have been saving for and the City must consider all methods of cost reductions for the same reasons. The risks of what could come outweigh some of optional services that the City would normally provide. I deeply dislike this and so does Council, but neither of us has the power to change what is. City leadership does consistently recognize our responsibilities to you that live here in the forms of providing drinking water, maintenance of our streets and snow plowing, effective and compliant operation of our wastewater treatment facility, effective police and fire services and so on. To us, these are absolutes that we cannot allow to be financially compromised and to that end, the decision to close the pool was not made in a vacuum nor one that any of us desired.

Mayor Lane

Small Business Resources

Posted on Wednesday April 15, 2020

Resource

Website

Emergency Loans and Small Business Guidelines

https://colvilletogether.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/U.S.-Chamber-of-Commerce-COVID-19-PPP-Small-Business-Guide.pdf

Americas Small Business Development Center

https://wsbdc.org/

Employment Security Department (Unemployment)

https://esd.wa.gov/unemployment

Employment Security Department

(COVID-19 Information)

https://esd.wa.gov/newsroom/covid-19

Department of Revenue

(Business Relief during COVID-19) 

https://dor.wa.gov/about/business-relief-during-covid-19-pandemic

Rural Opportunities Loan Fund

Rural Opportunities Loan Fund 

Working Washington Small Business Emergency Grant

http://www.credc.org/wwsbeg 

Tri County Economic Development District

https://tricountyedd.com/covid-19-information-resources/ 

Governor Inslee

https://www.governor.wa.gov/issues/issues/covid-19-resources#Businesses 

Innovia

https://innovia.org/covid19/ 

Small Business Administration
Paycheck Protection Program
https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/paycheck-protection-program

 
 

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