Preliminary special election tally shows voter overwhelmingly rejecting a ballot measure to create a Methow Valley Recreation District
Legally grown marijuana has arrived in North-Central Washington. Monkey Grass Farms began bringing plants in to its Wenatchee facility Monday after announcing it has received producer and processor business licenses from the state Liquor Control Board.
Company: Omak growing location slated for 2015
A North-Central Washington company plans to start growing recreational marijuana in its indoor Wenatchee facility tomorrow and anticipates receiving a license soon for its outdoor operation in Omak. But by the time Monkey Grass Farms puts the finishing touches on the Omak facility, 14 Monkey Grass Road Suite A, it will be too late to start growing this season. Marijuana will start being produced there next spring, co-owner and Omak facility manager Lynette Key said. “We’ve had a lot of questions about what’s going on up here,” Key said. “Initially we wanted to do it up here in Okanogan County, and then when they (the state Liquor Control Board) cut the licenses, we knew it would be restricted. “We decided to start with the indoor because we knew it would be a perpetual crop,” she said. “As soon as we get that up and running, we’ll continue down the road here, get the surveillance system up and running.” Monkey Grass Farms is the first company in North-Central Washington to receive producer and processor business licenses from the state. In the first year, the company projects it will pay the state $1.3 million in sales tax revenues, Key said. Key is one of the company’s five owners. The others are Eric and Mary Cooper, Katie Cooper and Joni Elder, she said. “I moved here from Utah specifically to do this two years ago,” Key said. “Eric Cooper has been in the medical marijuana business in Wenatchee for 10 years. I was just kind of a little grower for him, and we teamed up.” Key said she’s a good friend of the Omak landowner, Richard “Bud” Vest, who “made us such a great deal and let us come out here.” “Without him, we wouldn’t have come this far, this fast,” she said. “He’s been super supportive of our venture and is giving us great leeway.” “I guess I’m the guinea pig. I’m willing to help anybody,” Vest said. The 88-year-old has lived in Omak since 1932. “I’ve never used it; it will not be in my house,” he said of the marijuana. “But if I’ve got a chance to lease a little land …” A longtime member of the Shriners, Vest said he plans to use the money he makes from the lease to help build a new restroom in the Spokane Shriners temple. When Key proposed the idea of a marijuana-producing business on his property, Vest said they went together to speak with his attorney and the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office to start ironing out the details. Law enforcement visited the site as well, he said. The three-acre parcel already has an 8-foot-tall wooden fence surrounding it, and the land has been graded and water lines have been installed, Key said. A 30-by-40-foot shop sits on the northeast corner of the fence, which is visible from U.S. Highway 97 north of town. Much of the crop will be covered by greenhouses and hoop houses, Key said. An estimated 3,000 plants may fit inside the area, depending on their size. In the future, another three acres adjacent to the parcel will be fenced in and readied for marijuana production. “As soon as we have the license, we’ll get it up to speed as fast as we can,” she said. “Next year, everything grown here in Omak will be sent to Wenatchee to be processed.” Harvest season for an outdoor crop will last from springtime until October. Vest’s property falls outside of Omak city limits, which relieves Monkey Grass Farms of a potential local battle to get all the necessary paperwork for its facility. The city has maintained it will not issue licenses to businesses with operations that are illegal under local, state or federal laws. Marijuana growing and use is legal in Washington, with certain restrictions, but remains illegal under federal law. “We wish Omak would reconsider their position because we feel like this is a good revenue (source),” Key said. The Wenatchee facility is located in the former Budweiser plant, 3710 Highway 97A. With a Tier 3 restricted producer license, Monkey Grass Farms will be able to grow recreational marijuana in a 21,000-square-foot canopy. Processing will be done on-site, Key said. The producer license is noted as “restricted,” because the state revised its guidelines to lower Tier 3 producing areas temporarily from 30,000 square feet to 21,000. “We’re going to produce as much as we can in that 21,000 given space,” Key said, noting that the pending license application for the Omak facility is for Tier 3 as well. “We initially planned on building all of Monkey Grass in Omak, and it just got bigger and bigger as we got started,” she said. That prompted the company to start looking into other producer-friendly locations. About 2,500 plants will be moved into the Wenatchee facility to start. From there, it takes about 90 days to cultivate the plants before they’ll be ready for processing. There are no plans just yet to hire employees, Key said. “For now, the owners, we’re just doing it ourselves until we get it up and running,” she said. As of Tuesday, 12 companies had been granted producer licenses in the Spokane area and on the west side of the Cascade Mountains. Ten companies – the majority of which received the producer licenses – also received processor licenses. No licenses have been given to retailer applicants yet. A lottery will take place in Okanogan, Douglas and Ferry counties next week, and in other counties around the state, to determine which qualified applicants will receive retail licenses to fill the limited quotas. In all three counties, the number of applicants exceeds the number of available licenses. Okanogan County has been allocated five retail licenses, one of which must be located within the city of Omak; Douglas County is allocated three licenses, one of which must be located in East Wenatchee; and one license is up for grabs in Ferry County.
Special election ballots are due Tuesday for a handful of issues in Okanogan and Douglas counties. Okanogan County sent out 5,659 ballots and 2,452 were returned as of Friday afternoon. The Douglas County Auditor’s Office mailed 847 ballots, because the only two items are for Fire District No. 15 and the Bridgeport School District. As of Friday afternoon, 358 ballots had been returned. Douglas-Okanogan County Fire District No. 15 is asking voters to continue its emergency medical service levy for another six years at the same rate, 47 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. The cities of Pateros and Brewster are asking voters to approve EMS levies for the same amount, but that money will be given directly to EMS. The ballot notes that each city still has a contract for EMS services with Fire District 15 even if the measures are defeated. EMS is primarily funded through property taxes and private payments, EMS Director Tonya Vallance said. The levy “basically guarantees 24/7 coverage for the patrons in the area,” Vallance said in a previous interview. “Once the tone goes off, the taxpayer switch – for lack of a better word – kind of goes off, and the individual is paying for it then.” Okanogan and Douglas counties’ ballots also includes a request from the Bridgeport School District for a $3.9 million, 20-year bond issue to rebuild a portion of the elementary school that is comprised of portable buildings. Per property owner, the measure breaks down to about $1.84 per $1,000 of assessed value. The portables were intended to be temporary when they were installed in 1977 and have since become leaky and moldy, Superintendent Scott Sattler said. Electrical wiring and other safety issues also have become a concern, aside from the need for more space for a growing student population. Tearing down the portables would make way for 16 classrooms, a music room, computer lab, an improved playground and multi-purpose room, as well as an updated kitchen to provide breakfast and lunch for all 820 students district-wide. The entire project is estimated to cost about $8.5 million, but the state would contribute $4.6 million of that. This is the second attempt for Bridgeport to pass the bond request. Voters turned it down in the Feb. 11 special election. Although 54 percent of voters supported it, bond issues need a supermajority of more than 60 percent to pass. In the Methow Valley, voters living within the school district will decide whether to create the Methow Valley Recreation District. It would be a junior taxing district within Okanogan County, allowing it to collect a portion of property tax revenues for operations. The district’s purpose would be to not only seek funding for new recreational opportunities and projects in the Methow Valley, but help provide funding for already existing facilities such as the Wagner Memorial Pool in Twisp and the Winthrop Ice and Sports Rink. Thirteen candidates have thrown their hats in the ring to fill five commissioner seats on the recreation board, if it is created. They are Don Fitzpatrick Jr. and Julie Palm, Position No. 1; Christine Holm and Kevin Van Bueren, Position No. 2; Brent Walker, Steven Stacy and Camden Shaw, Position No. 3; Mike Fort, Bart Bradshaw and Kristin Devin, Position No. 4; and Paula Stokes, John Northcott and Julie Muyllaert, Position No. 5.
Eagles Club puts out 80 dozen eggs for annual hunt
It takes a lot of people to dye 80 dozen eggs. For the past eight years, the Quad City Eagles have enlisted the help of area residents of all ages to help get ready for the annual Easter egg hunt in Marina Park, 801 Jefferson Ave. It’s a big job, with hundreds of children turning out for the Saturday morning event. Volunteers prepare the hard-boiled eggs, stuff even more plastic eggs with candy and create prize baskets. This week, help came from about 15 residents at Harmony House Health Care Center, 100 River Plaza in Brewster, as well as parents, other adult volunteers and the children themselves. “They enjoy it. They look forward to it,” said Harmony House Activities Director Melody Ervin. Donning their bunny ears for the occasion, Harmony House residents made quick work of 15 dozen eggs. “I think it’s fun doing this,” resident Gwen Armbruster said as she dipped an egg into blue dye Wednesday afternoon. “I always enjoyed helping my kids color eggs. This makes us remember doing it with our kids.” Eagles member Pat Schweigert said dying eggs with the seniors every year is “just as much fun as doing it with the kids.” “To me, the most fun part is seeing them with their ears,” she said. “And they just love it, and that’s what it’s all about.” Ervin said the residents also fill plastic eggs with candy for an Easter egg hunt hosted at Harmony House for the employees’ children. “It gets them into the spirit of Easter,” Ervin said. “Of course they eat a few (pieces of candy). Why not?” “I enjoy watching them,” Ruby Field, president of the residents’ council, said of the children who visit. Thursday at the Eagles Club, 1030 Columbia Ave., there was a bigger turnout this year of children looking to ingest some sugar and paint 65 dozen eggs. “I’m making a bunch of Seahawk-colored eggs,” 5-year-old T.J. Mosier declared as he plopped two more eggs into cups of green and blue dye. Other children didn’t seem to have a particular coloring method. “I’m just colliding colors together,” said Cambria Swogger, 11, of Bridgeport. She and Estrella Toga, 11, carefully applied dye to their eggs using brushes. Toga said this was her first time coloring eggs at the Eagles. “It’s so random,” she said of her technique, swirling a brush through paint. “I’m just going with the flow.” Eagles member and egg hunt coordinator Dianne Sleeper said she thought this year’s event was a success. “The kids all had fun, they did a great job,” she said. “Thanks to all the adults who came and helped.” While children listened to high-tempo dance music, ate cookies and drank juice, they were careful to avoid the pool table where 30 prize baskets sat waiting for Saturday’s hunt. Ten baskets would go to the winners in each of three age groups: 1-3, 4-6 and 7-8. While the egg-coloring events are a fairly new tradition, the Eagles’ egg hunt has been ongoing for more than a decade, Sleeper said, noting that it usually draws families from Brewster and other towns as well. Easter egg hunts were planned in several area towns Saturday, including Pateros, Mansfield, Omak, Tonasket, Grand Coulee, Riverside, Winthrop, Conconully and Oroville. Egg hunts are planned today at 10 a.m. in Nespelem at the Colville Tribal Convalescent Center, 1 Convalescent Center Blvd., and at 1 p.m. in Republic at the Eagle Track Raceway, on Airport Road south of town.
Weather prompts delay in spring burning in Methow Valley
The Methow Valley Ranger District is gearing up for a prescribed burn Thursday on about 20 acres 10 miles west of town.
Consulting firm alters website after Chronicle probe
The consulting firm that had counted Three Rivers Hospital’s CEO among its principals has removed his information from its website.
Colville tribe plans project in Johnson Creek drainage
The first phase of a proposed fish barrier passage project along Johnson Creek will not begin construction in June as planned, but some residents are objecting to the project.
Resident collects more than enough signatures in less than two weeks
Local residents will be able to vote this summer on whether to recall Mayor Marilynn Lynn.
J. Scott Graham to be offered salary plan April 28
Three Rivers Hospital commissioners will wait until their regular meeting month’s end to consider a contract before formally hiring a new administrator.
Critical care company plans May opening
Northwest MedStar plans to open a new, full-time base at the city-owned Anderson Field Airport next month.
By Jennifer Marshall The Chronicle MANSFIELD – A ninth-grader is enlisting the help of her fellow Mansfield High School students to raise money for a new one-room schoolhouse in a disadvantaged country. “I think it’s sad that there’s a bunch of kids who don’t get to go to school… and I just wanted to help them so they get the opportunity we get,” Samantha Conrad said. Conrad, 15, said she was inspired after attending We Day in Seattle last month. She and 16 other Mansfield students heard presentations from several celebrities, including Martin Luther King III, actor Edward Norton, rapper Flo Rida, Seattle Seahawks players Russell Wilson, Derrick Coleman, Bobby Wagner and Jermaine Kearse, and more. The event was hosted by Free the Children, an international charity that encourages youth to take an active role in their communities. “The main point is it’s not just about you, it’s about everybody,” said teacher Jessica Schultz, who accompanied the students on their trip. Conrad said the message she took from We Day was “that not everybody has the opportunities that we get and we should be more open to help people.” The basis of Conrad’s idea was a program called We Create Change, one of several service-oriented programs Free the Children organizes. In We Create Change, youth are tasked with raising $20 worth of change to purchase one brick to help build a school. Conrad’s goal is to raise at least $1,000, she said. To that end, she has placed fliers and piggy banks around the school and hopes to start gathering donations from the community soon. “I even got my little sister involved in it and everything,” she said. Shaylyn Book, a second-grader, has talked to her classmates about the fundraiser and “took all this money she was saving for a toy she really wanted and put it in the piggy banks,” Conrad said. As of last Thursday, about $50 to $60 had been raised. Donations are funneled through a special fund in the Associated Student Body, and Schultz said they’re still working on the legalities of accepting community donations. The schoolhouse to which Mansfield contributes could be built in one of several areas, such as Ecuador, India, Africa or Asia, Schultz said. Taking the effort a step further, she said she’d like to help build the schoolhouse and plans to raise money as well for that. Schultz said the cost for a three-week trip could be about $4,000. Conrad is also spearheading a food drive. As of last week, students had chipped in about three boxes of non-perishable food that will go to the Chelan-Douglas Community Action Council. The food drive ends Saturday.
Fire Chief Kevin Bowling said it’s still too early to tell what this year’s fire season will bring. “Omak fire has responded to nine brush fires this spring,” he said, noting that’s “a little above average.”
Pateros school links gardening
Local students are spending their afternoons learning about Pateros School District’s fledgling garden, which could be finished by the end of the day Monday.
Some Douglas County residents are growing concerned about state land acquisitions in their neck of the woods.
The Town Council will host a public hearing next week to consider an appeal by a potential recreational marijuana retail business owner.
The state Liquor Control Board has set the week of April 21-25 for the lottery to select recreational marijuana retail applicants who may receive business licenses.
Okanogan County commissioners are planning a work session on the future Fair Advisory Board at 2:30 p.m. today.
Publication will print required Okanogan County legal notices
The Omak-Okanogan County Chronicle will continue for another year as Okanogan County’s official newspaper of record.
Embattled Graham begins negotiating hospital contact
Three Rivers Hospital has begun contract negotiations with J. Scott Graham to potentially take over as CEO this month.
Consolidating districts will be the topic of pending discussions
A committee comprising local health care representatives may finally meet for the first time this month, but at least one hospital official is still skeptical of the main topic, consolidating the three hospital districts.
Snow threatens, avalanches remain a possibility
At the end of the first week clearing snow from the North Cascades Highway and more snow forecast for this weekend, the state is still on track to reopen the road in mid-May.
Commissioners want more details on federal projects
A Bonneville Power Administration biologist got an earful Tuesday from Okanogan County commissioners and several residents about the agency’s land purchases for fish habitat restoration.
Boat launch will
The city will soon have another fishing access area with a nearby campsite and walking trails along the banks of the Columbia River.
Bridgeport State Park may stay open
The state Parks and Recreation Commission decided last week that it will seek a new 25-year lease to continue operating Bridgeport State Park.
Jury finds she obstructed law enforcement
A jury has found a Carlton woman not guilty of stealing another family’s dog, but she will be sentenced next week following a conviction on obstructing a law enforcement officer.
Coulee Medical’s top administrator tapped for Brewster
Three Rivers Hospital commissioners are standing behind their selection of embattled Coulee Medical Center Administrator J. Scott Graham as their new CEO.
County to expand Parks and Recreation duties
The Okanogan County Parks and Recreation Board will soon be repurposed to serve the entire county, and a new board in charge of overseeing the county fair will be created.
Animal control officer asks for new anti-cruelty provisions
The City Council is complete once again with the appointment of a new fifth member last week. Sergio Orozco was selected and sworn in during the March 26 meeting, Finance Director Karen Brown said.
The Town Council is slated to set a public hearing date tonight for a hopeful marijuana retailer who would like to set up shop in the town’s industrial zone.
Three Rivers Hospital commissioners offer job to Scott Graham; contract negotiations planned
Family dog, Shelbie, attacked by two wolves about 40 yards from the front door of their Poorman Creek home
Three finalists selected for Three Rivers Hospital's CEO position; board continues to keep most identities secret
The Pateros High School girls basketball team received a warm send off this morning for the state 1B tournament this weekend in Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena
Three Rivers Hospital officials narrow CEO applicant list to four semi-finalists
Van, logging truck collide; one dead south of Pateros
Newpaper challenges process as a likely violation of state law
Three Rivers Hospital officials to review culling of applicants in CEO search process
Timmi J. Schweigert killed in U.S. Highway 97 crash south of Pateros
Students treated to Crush sodas by secret admirers
Traffic is being detoured onto Conklin Hill and Columbia Avenue
Okanogan County Sheriff's Office hands off case after completing investigation of incident in Chelan County
Resident Michael Knox awaits a decision on whether his complaints about Mayor Marilynn Lynn have sufficient grounds for a recall election.
Three people are facing drug-related charges, a fourth is being held for allegedly for illegally entering the U.S.
Saskatchewan snowbird perishes in Oroville RV blaze
A Saskatchewan man died in an early Saturday morning RV fire that officials believe was caused by a space heater.
Conservation groups hope to work with utility
In an effort to open discussions with Okanogan County Public Utility District about the future of Enloe Dam, American Whitewater decided not to file an appeal of the dam’s federal 50-year, power-generation license.
City Council to consider whether to pay her legal costs
Upon finding out a local man has filed a request to recall the mayor, the City Council planned to meet Tuesday to consider whether the city should pay for her defense.
Rink could use refrigeration unit
If Winthrop Ice and Sports Rink gets a new refrigeration unit, its director predicts a boon for local recreation and businesses.
Voters to decide on tax levies and bonds in Feb. 11 special election