By Kara McMurray Gazette Reporter
Rosalia School District’s three-year levy proposal on the Feb. 14 ballot is intended to provide funding for capital improvements over the next three years. The special levy approach is intended to take the place of a bond issue which carries an interest expense, according to Rosalia Superintendent Larry Keller. The district’s current bond expires at the end of 2017, and the levy, if approved, would actually be five cents less per $1,000 of assessed valuation when it appears in 2018 for the first of a three-year run. “This capital levy is in lieu of a bond, and it will be $200,000 per year,” said Keller. “We’ll pay as we go, and there won’t be an interest rate. We’re trying to be good stewards,” said Keller. “I’m excited that we’re going to be able to do it this way and save the taxpayers some money,” he added. This levy would allow the school to make safety, security and infrastructure improvements. Estimated levy rate would be $1.14 per $1,000 of assessed value to generate $200,000 over each of three years, 2018, 2019 and 2020. Rosalia voters in 1994 approved a $3.1 million bond issue to build a new gym, and in 2005 approved $700,000 for roof repairs. The capital levy proceeds would be used to replace the current ag shop roof, replace the school’s aging HVAC systems, replace windows at the elementary and high school, add additional security cameras, replace fire alarm and phone systems and finish the exterior door replacement program. “These are things that we need to be doing, not things that are nice to have,” said Keller. Keller said the board and district wanted to get the levy on the ballot as soon as possible, though. That is because as soon as it is passed, the district would be able to get to work with its reserve funds. “There is a way that once you pass it, you can collect money sooner by borrowing it, but we don’t want to do that,” he said. “We want to start work, but we don’t want to borrow the money.” The district, Keller said, has built up a reserve fund, and if it had the assurance of the levy passing, he said they would feel comfortable using reserves to at least get a start on the needed projects this year. “It would be just to get us started out of reserves,” said Keller. “It wouldn’t be a whole lot.” The district plans to use $100,000 from reserves this year, which would be reimbursed by levy proceeds, and would then use $200,000 from the levy in 2018 and 2019 to continue to work on the projects. In 2020, the district would again collect $200,000, but it would use just $100,000. “This is going to be good to get this work done,” said Keller, noting the ag shop roof would be one of the first items on the list for this year if the levy is approved. Keller urged anyone who has questions about the levy to contact him or the school board. A newsletter has also gone out to the district with a fact sheet about the levy to explain it for voters. Keller can be reached at 523-3061 ext. 3118 or at email@example.com.
By Garth Meyer Gazette Reporter
Washington State Parks prepares to go to bid this month for sterilant to be used on a controversial stretch of the John Wayne Iron Horse Trail. The chemical – a pre-emergent herbicide to be sprayed before any vegetation grows – is to be paid for from the remaining $46,000 of a 2016 state legislature proviso. The document called for State Parks to find and spend $100,000 on noxious weed control on the 20-mile trail section from milepost 1904 (Ewan) through 1924 (Benge-Ritzville Road). The limited distance sprayed was due to the late start–beginning work in April after the legislative proviso. This year could go much farther. “We would like to do it all,” said Andrew Fielding, State Parks environmental planner, eastern region, referring to Lind to the Idaho border. “That would be the best outcome.” Fielding said State Parks’ intention is to start in March. “That’s what the railroad would have done and still does today,” Fielding said. Fielding, who is based in Wenatchee, oversaw the work last year, done by a seasonal trail technician Brandon Valle, a private contractor and a Washington Conservation Corps member. “I went out on the ground, checked the contract, they did a nice job,” he said. “No vegetation was coming in the areas we asked him to do it.” Branden Spencer, a landowner along the stretch of trail near Ritzville, questioned several aspects of the spraying, one of which is the charge that “91.5 percent was spent on labor and eight percent on chemicals.” “That didn’t take into account the sterilant contract last year,” Fielding said. “It might have made it like 30 percent, for a rough guess.” “That’s information they should have,” Spencer said. Overall, Fielding said he believes in the work. “I think it’ll improve things greatly,” he said. “I think we’ve got three to four years of catch-up until we can get it into an annual maintenance mode.” The proviso did not give money to State Parks for this, instead instructing them to pay for it themselves. “We’ll continue to focus on this and find the money as funding is available,” said Fielding. “We are making every effort to address any landowner’s concerns with weeds.” Some of the weed control money came from a vacant ranger position last year on the Columbia Plateau Trail. The eight-month seasonal salary funds were moved toward the proviso. State Parks is now in the process of hiring a new ranger for 2017. Money also came from Parks’ annual statewide weed control fund. In 2006, the John Wayne Trail section from Beverly to the Idaho border was transferred from the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to State Parks. “I think the DNR’s posture was holding it for future development,” said Scott Griffith, State Parks’ regional manager for southeast Washington. “For us, we did not have surplus funds to meet these needs of undeveloped properties – when we’re just trying to keep our gates open.” Spencer points out a difference in public and private land. “If somebody transferred a piece of property into my name and I had no money to take care of it year after year, I can’t just ignore that. In year one I’d get a notice from the weed board, and if I still don’t do anything, in three years I could be subject to foreclosure.” As for the question about money spent on labor versus chemicals, Griffiths suggests timing is part of it. “You could argue that you should spray for nearly every dollar, but a big portion of the last year-and-a-half has just been assessment,” he said. “I accept some criticism about our weed control measures but I don’t accept that we don’t know what we’re doing.” Griffith indicated that the program is in its infancy, depending on what may come next. “From the Beverly Bridge west, on the trail you’ll find a clearly followed spray program, a great noxious weed control program running for 20 years.” The Lind to Idaho-border section of trail has been a subject of controversy after it was almost closed by the legislature in 2015. Since then, a public planning process ensued, which resulted in $6 million in 2017-19 budget proposals to further address weed control, maintenance and more trail-user and adjacent landowner concerns.