City Seeks Significant Project Funding
Op/Ed submitted by Mayor Mike Cooney. Photo by Loni Rahm
Beginning January 14th, our legislators from the 12th District will return to Olympia to represent the City of Chelan in the 2019 Regular Legislative Session. As the legislature tackles the biennial transportation, operating, and capital budgets, the City of Chelan is fortunate to have three skilled advocates for the City’s needs representing us in Olympia. Past champions for the City Representative Mike Steele (R- Chelan) and Senator Brad Hawkins (R- East Wenatchee) will return to the legislature aided by freshman Representative Keith Goehner (R- Dryden), whose local government experience will be an asset to the district. With the strong leadership and capability of our local legislators, the residents of Chelan can be sure that our community interests will be represented effectively and efficiently this Legislative Session.
As the Legislature addresses key statewide issues such as mental health and education, the City of Chelan requests that the state also advances local interests that improve the health, safety, and well-being of our community. One of the City’s main priorities is the preservation of the iconic Chelan Butte, a site of significant recreational and scenic importance to the community. The City seeks $2 million in capital funding toward the purchase of this land, which encompasses nearly 900 acres of open space and is currently at risk of development. Popular amongst hikers, mountain bikers and paragliders, the Butte attracts outdoor recreationalists from both within and beyond Chelan, making it an essential feature of Washington’s outdoor economy. While most of the land would remain available for recreational use, the City also plans to reserve 40 acres of the Butte for affordable housing, addressing the needs of many local workers. While the Governor did not allot funding for the preservation of the Butte in his budget proposal, the City is hopeful that the legislature will support Chelan in its efforts to conserve this important viewshed.
In addition to the Butte request, we are also supporting proposals that will assist rural residential communities, such as ours, with the creation of affordable housing. While homelessness is not a major issue, the City’s unique tourism-based economy has made it difficult for local workers to live in Chelan year-round. To encourage multifamily development, such as apartments, we will be asking our Legislators to support legislation allowing small cities like ours to qualify for the existing multifamily property tax exemption.
The City is also committed to ensuring pedestrian safety. Aided by funding from the 2018 Legislature, we are currently converting the Woodin Avenue Bridge from a two-way to a one-way thoroughfare to ease state route traffic. While these changes will greatly improve congestion, the project aggravates existing traffic challenges, including pedestrian safety concerns; currently, only seven of the City’s crosswalks along state highways are at signaled intersections. To improve visibility, the City asks for $700,000 to implement Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons at pedestrian crosswalks along state highways.
Finally, the City of Chelan is seeking funding for improvements of Lakeside Park. Featuring shoreline access and an easily-accessible swimming beach, Lakeside Park is utilized by tourists and locals alike. To accommodate the heavy usage of the park, the City asks for state assistance in improving the park’s facilities. These improvements include the renovation of restrooms, relocation of the dock, reconfiguration of swim areas, replenishment of beach sand, parking development, and sidewalk expansion. These renovations would ensure greater safety for park patrons as well as greater access to park facilities, allowing Lakeside Park to remain a popular destination for locals and visitors.
We are fortunate to have the representation of legislators that work to do what is right for our community. I appreciate the continued support of the 12th Legislative District delegation and wish them well during the upcoming Legislative Session.
Mayor Mike Cooney