City Council members approved the letter drafted by Clearwater County Economic Development Specialist Chris St. Germaine, responding to the Columbia Basin Initiative proposed by Congressman Simpson, at the Orofino City Council meeting held July 13. The letter has also been endorsed by the Clearwater County Commissioners.

Several months ago, the City received a request from the Port of Lewiston to endorse their letter opposing Simpson’s concept to breach the Lower Snake River Dams. At their regular meeting on April 27, council members agreed that they would like to draft their own letter to be more specific to Orofino’s concerns with the proposal.

St. Germaine has a clear understanding of the economical impacts a shortened or closed fishery season has on the community. She also traveled to Washington D.C. with the Idaho Wildlife Federation, fishing outfitters, and Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association to meet with Representatives Simpson and Fulcher, Senators Risch and Crapo and staff, as well as the staff for Washington’s Representative Dan Newhouse.

In the letter approved by the council, St. Germaine identifies the $8 million revenue lost to the hospitality sector due to the closure of the steelhead season in December 2019.

Another significant contribution to the local economy is logging and wood resources and recreation-based businesses. “This deep connection to natural resources for economic sustainability is relevant because for decades, our community has been at the mercy of federal regulation, policy, and process,” stated St. Germaine.

She continued with, “Locally, perception of the initiative is that it was developed in a vacuum without local insight or opportunity for local input.”

Orofino City Council and Clearwater County Commissioners urge Simpson’s office to:

Convene regional working groups to engage and include business and elected leaders in the discussion of how and what actions make sense to facilitate sustainability in the Columbia River anadromous fishery.

Encourage and support policies, legislation and actions that result in meaningful anadromous fishery recovery.

Facilitate the implementation of functional recovery of the river system ecology by reducing the massive levels of predation currently limiting Smolt to Adult Return rates to sustainable levels.

Include strategic and equitable action plans that factor in all available resources in the Columbia River System fisheries management portfolio to sustain population viability.

“We pledge to respond willingly and thoughtfully in the development of an equitable, honest, open and strategic solutions driven discussion with all affected communities whose economies are intrinsically tied to the health of salmon and steelhead populations.”

Sanitation service

rates to increase

The current Consumer Price Index or CPI, from May 2020 to May 2021 is 4.7 percent. Simmons Sanitation Service Inc. is requesting a 4.7 percent increase to the base rate on both residential and commercial contracts.

Departmental reports

Administrator Ryan Smathers informed the council that funding to construct the sand volleyball court was approved by the Blue Cross Community Transformation Committee and will be located in the City Park, behind the bleachers for the arena. There are also plans to paint court lines for half a basketball court between the splash pad and fair exhibit building.

The proposed contract for the Orofino Rural Fire District has been updated reflecting the changes requested by the council.

Smathers shared that the City signed a land use agreement with Idaho Department of Lands to use the graveled lot next to Clearwater-Potlatch Timber Protective Association off of Hwy. 12 for fire control, equipment inspection and as a potential camping area for firefighters.

In a meeting with aviation traffic control, Smathers learned that there would be an increase of helicopter traffic at the Orofino Airport.

Last in his report, Smathers said the budget would require a huge number of amendments this year, due to the CARES Act funding for Covid, unexpected projects, and the purchase of a new police office.

Treasurer Donna Wilson informed the council of a tentative budget to be adopted at the Aug. 10, City Council meeting. Once submitted, figures may be reduced, but not raised. She advised department heads to be thorough in evaluating future expenses to be considered for this coming year and to report them to either Smathers or herself, so they may be considered in the tentative budget proposal.

In addition to submitting the Building Permit report for June 2021, Building Official Todd Perry reported issuing 22 letters to property owners regarding weed control, adding to the risk of potential fires. Perry added that neighbors were primarily the ones to call the city offices in fear that their properties were also at risk. So far results have been successful. “The last thing we want to do is cut it ourselves and bill the property owners, But we have and will continue to do so, if necessary.

Other news from Perry included an update on the progress of a viewing area and the new handicapped accessible sidewalk up to the dike, to help make the access to the City Park arena area more easily attainable to those in wheelchairs. Guardrails still need to be added, but the sidewalk should be ready for use before Clearwater County Fair Days.

Public Works crews typically stay busy all year long, this month being no exception. Supervisor Shane Miller was happy to announce that a truck load of hot mix asphalt was brought from Lewiston to complete the sidewalk project on College Avenue.

Another cloth rag was discovered blocking the pump at the Main Street lift station. Crews borrowed the hoist from Riverside Water and Sewer District to lift the pump and remove the debris.

The park lawns took a beating during the LoggerXross event as campers on the grounds prevented the watering schedule during some very hot weather. They have been fertilizing and watering heavily to revive the lawn.

A leak was suspected at the Splash Pad in the park, although it is uncertain due to the amount of water applied to the lawns. They continue to monitor the situation.

Miller also stated that the dike inspection performed by the Corps of Engineers went well. They did report some corrosion on the Orofino Creek side, which will be addressed in the upcoming Orofino Creek mitigation project.

Police Chief Jeff Wilson provided an update of the new police station. The contractor has patched and primed the walls for painting, which the police staff had anticipated doing to save money.

The contractor has offered to finish the painting which could be done this week if approved by the council for an additional $8,000. Wilson said as he looked at the amount of preparation needed for painting, he asked if it might be considered in order to help speed up the process of being able to move in. The council agreed and approved the additional money for painting. Carpeting will be placed once the painting and trim are finished. Wilson anticipated all will be finished by the contractor in the next couple of weeks.

As for many other folks since the pandemic, Compunet has experienced delays in acquiring all the necessary equipment for installing the communication systems and has offered to supply missing pieces of equipment until they can be delivered and installed later at no additional cost. Wilson stated he didn’t want to rush them as there will likely be the usual disruption of operations in getting all the kinks worked out. He believes that a realistic date to be in the new building by mid-September.

Wilson concluded his report with the news that all officers were back from vacation, ending his three month term of night shifts. He said the experience was a good thing in that the community has changed a lot since his becoming chief, and he had the opportunity to identify problem spots, and recognize various individuals that his day job as administrator didn’t provide. He plans to continue working one night shift per week to stay current of the situation.

Water/Wastewater Supervisor Mike Martin reported that the department had been busy wrapping up various projects which had been budgeted, but were awaiting parts, completed. Martin added the recently purchased dump truck was painted and due to be delivered soon.

Fire Chief Jon Hoyt told the council that the auditors would be in to collect the documentation required to complete their report to establish the department’s rating.

Hoyt explained that over the past couple months, they had received calls to assist Kamiah Fire Department with the Kooskia mill fire and several car accidents between the jurisdictions.

The department does not yet have a mutual aid contract with Kamiah and Hoyt has drafted an agreement for Kamiah, similar to those written for other fire departments, for the council’s approval. Hoyt said he wanted all the paperwork to be in place for calls in the future.

Hoyt shared that he was really proud of his department for the way they responded to the Canada Hill Fire. “I’m aware that the public was not happy with my absence, as I was away on the Snake River Complex Fire. I was on my way back to town when the tones went off. I listened to all the radio traffic and was really impressed with my command staff to have stepped up and handle the fire. I don’t take vacations often for the reason that I am somewhat leery of leaving it to command staff to take over. They proved to me they could by the way it was all handled. Everybody did what they were trained to do and they did it perfectly”

Hoyt noted that one captain will be out for the latter part of July and another captain needs to be out for an unspecified amount of time due to medical reasons.

With that said, Hoyt asked to fill the third captain position that he had requested upon his arrival to the department. The position was budgeted but never filled. Hoyt would like to fill the third captain’s position with the lieutenant, which comes with a stipend of an additional $100 per month and then move one of his firemen to the lieutenant’s position.

Burn ban in effect

A NEW BURN BAN went into effect beginning July 14. There are to be no open flames anywhere. Barbeques MUST be covered. The use of fire pits, even those with grills are not permitted. The ban will continue until sometime in September which will hopefully bring rain to the area. The new ban gives fire personnel the ability to make folks put out their fires, before they escape up the hill. Criminal charges will be applied to those refusing to follow the rules.

“We had the good fortune to have had 23 aircraft, numerous agencies, and private individuals with dozers helping us get the Canada Hill Fire under control. This community really came together once again.”

Minutes, bills and claims

The council approved minutes of the regular Council meeting held June 22, regular bills, plus additional bills and payroll.

Council comment

Councilman Shannon Schrader asked about the progress on the bike park proposed to be constructed next to the skate park on Dunlap Road. Smathers explained that with the dry conditions and fire activity that clearing the trees for that space at this time is not an option, and the project is on hold.

Councilwoman Jennifer Dunaway asked about the completion of the basketball courts adjacent to the elementary school and was told that the weather was just too hot to apply asphalt at this time.

Dunaway did report that the pickleball courts were used frequently. A day of lessons followed by a tournament the following day was planned for July 30, and 31, respectively.

Upcoming meetings

The next City Council meeting is Tuesday, July 27, at 6 p.m.

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