Methow Valley News, February 7, 2018

Winthrop Town Council scans the horizon, sees challenges

Informal workshop addresses issues, ideas, possibilities

By Don Nelson

The Winthrop Town Council is intent on finishing some things even as it looks forward to starting some new things.

At a workshop last week, council members said they would like to see more progress on some of the town’s biggest projects, such as the Susie Stephens Trail and the Riverwalk. The council covered a wide range of topics in the informal meeting.

Mayor Sally Ranzau, elected to the position in November, said that an advisory committee of downtown business and property owners has been working on ideas for the Riverwalk and that “they are progessing nicely … they are working together and it’s nice to see.” In the past, some property owners who would be affected by the Riverwalk had complained that they were not adequately included in the town’s planning process.

One project that is underway, Ranzau said, is that the town’s antiquated website is being updated and will be mobile-friendly. “It is a high priority and is being addressed,” she said.

As for the town’s “Winthrop In Motion” project to improve downtown mobility, Ranzau said, the town will soon post an online survey so residents can respond to proposals for improvements. A public meeting is also scheduled to review the proposals (see box).

Ranzau also noted that the Washington State Department of Transportation has installed a wooden railing in front of Three Fingered Jack’s at the four-way stop, to make the pedestrian ramp at the corner safer. The town has been seeking a solution to the unsafe conditions at that corner since last summer.

On other topics:

• The mayor reported that she and Twisp Mayor Soo Ing-Moody had been joined in a conference call by the Okanogan County commissioners to discuss the future of the North Cascades Smokejumper Base with Congressman Dan Newhouse. The base needs substantial funding to take care of necessary improvements and upgrades. Ranzau said she was encouraged by the discussion.

• Ranzau announced that the town’s longtime public works director, Rick Karro, will retire at the end of April. He has worked for the town since 1989. Ranzau said the town will begin looking for his replacement.

• The council spent some time parceling out assignments to represent the town on various committees and groups. Council member Bill McAdow said he would like to represent Winthrop at meetings of the Methow Watershed Council. Kirsten Vanderhalf said she would attend meetings of the Okanogan Council of Governments and TranGO, the countywide transit system. Council member Ben Nelson takes part in the Methow Valley Trails Collaborative. Council member William Kilby is chairman of the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee.

• Ranzau said the Winthrop Rink “is doing a great job” and “has been fantastic for the community.”

• The mayor said a proposed three-year operating agreement offered by the Winthrop Barn Association, which handles day-to-day operations at the Barn, needs more review and discussion. The previous 25-year agreement has expired.

• The town is still undecided on what to do with the old Public Works Department property on Bluff Street. A new public works building is now operational on Horizon Flats.

• Vanderhalf said she would like to see Town Hall fully staffed “so services are consistent in all processes and departments.”

In the audience were board members of the Friends of the Winthrop Library, a nonprofit formed to support library improvements including a new, larger building. The group’s chair, Shannon Polson, said the organization is working on assessing community needs before moving into planning and fundraising stages.

“We’re working on ideas,” Polson said. “It’s a vision that continues to develop. The current building is not adequate. It was meant to be temporary.”

Polson added that the library needs improved Internet connections to help in “cultivating and developing community literacy.”