Friday, January 30, 2009

Unbuildable Lots Update: Lake Isabella North

Last, but not least, we want to update the owners of Lake Isabella North on the results from the soil tests this fall. By and large we found very favorable conditions for on-site septic systems in the plat with one exception. That exception is the far northwest corner. In this area of the plat heavy soils and a seasonably high water table were found. While not wide-spread in the plat, the discovery of these geotechnical conditions does prevent us from moving forward with water the next step (water testing).

Presently the Village is working on two proposals to submit to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to address the geotechnical problems. One proposal is included in the feasibility study mentioned yesterday for Lake Isabella South and Lake Isabella Golf Estates II. We have requested that the proposal from Rowe include a decentralized wastewater system design for Lake Isabella North.

The other proposal being worked on is a lot swapping plan. This plan would reserve lots owned by the Village which have suitable conditions that could be swapped with lot owners who have poor geotechnical conditions. This option has several advantages. First, it would obviously be the most cost effective. This option would also allow lots to be kept by the Village as a natural green zone, thereby reducing the overall density of the plat.

Once the matter of wastewater treatment and disposal has been addressed, the Village can proceed with the next requirement in requesting the restrictions be lifted, drinking water. A series of well tests exactly like those being conducted this coming spring in Lake Isabella Airpark and Canterbury Estates will need to be conducted in Lake Isabella North.

For more information on the progress on all of the plats, the Village will be providing an update i our next newsletter.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Unbuildable Lots Update: Lake Isabella South & Lake Isabella Golf Estates II

Last February when the Village began to examine the best avenue to proceed regarding the larger issue of the unbuildable lots, we requested feedback from those directly impacted by the restrictions. The strongest feedback received was from the property owners in Lake Isabella Golf Estates II and Lake Isabella South. Combined, nearly 75% of the owners in these two plats replied by stating that this is an important issue to them and wanted the Village to continue to work on resolving the matter. Nearly that same percent endorsed the current course of action of working together with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Central Michigan District Health Department.

Working together, this past September the Village, DEQ, and CMDHD conducted a series of soil samples to test whether or not suitable conditions existed for on-site septic systems. A major factor on whether or not on-site systems can be utilized is not only the soil, groundwater, and drinking water source (geotechnical) conditions, but also the size of the lots as platted.

It is the combination of these two factors (geotechnical information on soils, water table, and potable water & available space) which must be accounted for as proceed to work on amending the restrictions. The existence of geotechnical problems alone is not a death sentence to development as given ample space the technology exists to solve these problems. Given the average size of a platted lot in the Village of 75' x 150' ample space per lot is not our situation.

In order for the restrictions to be lifted, each individual lot must have some mechanism which would permit development. What we found this September were conditions that varied greatly across this area of the Village. Maps of these tests can be viewed on our website at... http://www.lakeisabellami.org/unbuildable_lots.htm

From the tests conducted in September a geotechnical situation is present which will prevent on-site septic systems to be utilized on all lots in these two plats. As such, in order for the restrictions to be lifted, some mechanism must be put in place which is environmentally suitable which would permit development.

To satisfy that requirement, the Village is presently working with our professional consulting firm (Rowe Professional Services), to develop a feasibility study which would address the geotechnical problems with decentralized wastewater systems. These systems, also known as cluster systems, work like a conventional on-site septic system but on a much larger scale. In a very basic nutshell, they collect either the grey water, or a slurry of liquid and solid waste, from homes and move the effluent to a community collection and treatment site.

These systems are becoming more and more common across the United States. The EPA estimates that over 1/3 of all new housing development uses some manner of decentralized wastewater treatment, and not a conventional sewer system. In the late 1990s a paradigm shift occured with the EPA and DEQ regarding the long term use of decentralized systems. Prior to that they were viewed at best as a bridge between traditional septic systems and conventional sewers. Today they are seen as a legtimate and long-term solution to wastewater management.

With that in mind we feel this new study is warranted. The previous four studies done all recommended that a conventional sewer system be built, and the wastewater be treated and dumped into the Chippewa River. The financial requirements of the previous plans have been a major factor in the lack of action or progress. Not to mention the depletion of our ground water drinking source by treating and discharging to a surface water body.

With the advances made in decentralized technology over the past decade, they have become more and more common. As this has happened they have become much more cost effective in the construction and operation when compaired to a conventional sewer system. In addition, becuase of their construction and design features, they do a superior job at protecting the evironment from leaks. This is a major concern for the Village as in no manner will an option be presented or considered which would pollute our surface or sub-surface water resources.

Ultimately, it will be the property owners of these two plats which determine the end result and if any type of wastewater collection and treatment system is built. We view our job and role in this situation as a facilitator of discussion and options. With four studies done dating back to the mid 1970s that directed the community towards a conventional sewer system, it is our position that an alternative solution be considered with decentralized systems.

The next step for the Village is to receive the proposal to conduct the study from Rowe. We expect this proposal no later than the March meeting. In discussing this aspect of the greater project of the unbuildable lots with Rowe, we have expressed our desire to see a final copy of this report this summer. In addition to the study, we have also requested that in Rowe's proposal the submittal of the report to an independent third party which specializes in decentralized systems to comment on prior to final submission and acceptance by the Village of Lake Isabella.

For more information on decentralized systems, please visit any of the following links:

http://www.epa.gov/owm/septic/pubs/onsite_handbook.pdf

http://www.rmi.org/images/PDFs/Water/W04-21_ValuWstWtr.pdf

http://www.ces.purdue.edu/extmedia/ID/ID-265.pdf

http://www.scdhec.gov/environment/ocrm/plan_tech/docs/septic_rtc_exec.pdf

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Unbuildable Lots Update - Lake Isabella Airpark & Canterbury Estates

In early December, the Village mailed the following update to all owners in the Lake Isabella Airpark and Canterbury Estates plats.

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Dear Property Owner:

As you may know, this past September the Village of Lake Isabella, Rowe Incorporated, the Central Michigan District Health Department, and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality conducted a series of soil tests to review the plat-wide restriction which limit the number of on-site well and septic systems in the five plats at Lake Isabella which contain this restriction.

The Village would like to sincerely thank those of you who allowed us to enter your property to obtain soil samples. We were granted permission to test numerous locations in these two plats, and ultimately sampled soils at 16 locations. The results of these samples, along with the results from the other three plats with similar restrictions were drafted by Rowe Incorporated and submitted to the Village in mid-November.

The final report, which is available on our website (www.lakeisabellami.org) in its entirety, details the following regarding Lake Isabella Airpark & Canterbury Estates:

Observed Conditions (Page 2)
All of the sixteen borings revealed soils conducive to the construction of septic fields based on the criteria set forth in the rules for Subdivisions of Land when solely looking at the soil characteristics. The sandy soils extended well below the six foot depth, and no signs of mottling, or detrimental seasonal high groundwater elevations were observed.


Recommendations (Pages 3-4)
Since the field observations in September, 2008 revealed no undesirable soil characteristics within these two plats, Rowe Incorporated would recommend the next step of testing be completed to determine whether the restrictions should be lifted, or amended to allow the construction of septic fields and further development. Per the rules contained within the Subdivisions of Land document, section R 560.406 states that a potable water supply should be confirmed. This testing could be completed by obtaining samples from existing residential wells within the two plats, then sending the samples to a laboratory to be analyzed for potable water quality. If in fact, the samples all were determined to be suitable for human consumption, and there is an isolation layer between the absorption field and the aquifer, it would be our recommendation that the Village pursue having the restrictions lifted, or amended to allow additional septic field construction and further development. In addition to the above, each lot owner would still be required to have their septic field and potable well construction permitted by the Central Michigan District Health Department.


These tests confirmed the long held belief that the soils in these two plats are suitable for additional on-site septic systems. With a positive report regarding the soil conditions, the Village would like to move forward with the final required area of testing. Per the statewide regulations of subdivisions explained in the previous paragraph, the Village must show that there is a safe drinking water source. In order to confirm that a safe drinking water source exists, the Village will need to obtain samples from external spigots of a representative number of wells in the Lake Isabella Airpark and Canterbury Estates area for testing. All samples must be collected on the same day to insure uniform conditions for laboratory testing. To test for safe drinking water conditions, the laboratory will test for bacteria, nitrates, and arsenic.

It is our belief that an aquifer suitable for drinking water does exist below the surface of these two plats. From reviewing well log information, we believe this aquifer is located at a depth of about 80 to 100 feet. Obtaining current water samples to verify this belief, coupled with the favorable results from the soil tests, will allow the Village to submit sufficient information to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to request the restrictions be removed.

For parcels in these two plats that have wells, a representative from the Village will be contacting you after the start of the New Year to discuss obtaining a water sample. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the soil test results, or water sample request please call the Village Hall.

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An Open Letter to Our Congressional Delegation on the Stimulus Package

January 27, 2009

The Honorable Carl Levin
269 Russell Office Building
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-1388

The Honorable Debbie Stabenow
133 Hart Senate Office Building
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 228-0325

The Honorable David Camp
341 Cannon Building
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-9679


Dear Congressional Delegation:

I would like to thank you in advance for your consideration on this matter, and the work you respectively do for mid-Michigan. I am writing you today to express my deep and sincere concerns over the proposed stimulus package that is currently under debate by Congress. This proposed stimulus package has been seen by many in the local government field as a long awaited infusion of desperately needed funds. The state of local government finance in Michigan has been on a long and sharp decline over the past decade and these new funds could go a very long way in helping us build excellent communities with a defining sense of place, which in turn only makes Michigan as a whole stronger.

This is a fact that I am certain you are all too familiar with. When the new President began to speak in terms of massive funding for public infrastructure my colleagues and I began to collectively sigh in relief. For years local government professionals such as me have been forced to cast aside numerous projects which build stronger communities in Michigan due to our economic condition. The concept that the new President embraced prior to taking office seemed to be a move in the right direction. A move that would help improve communities across Michigan. Sadly, the beast that is Washington is close to wasting over 825 billion dollars in a manner that will do little to anything to help communities or their local government.

The bottom-line is that local governments are ready and willing to implement an economic stimulus program with speed and efficiency. We can do so in virtually any policy area that is a priority to the Congress and the new Administration, including the environment, housing, public safety, transportation, education, and basic infrastructure. We perform these functions everyday. The same simply cannot be said with any certainty with respect to our State government. As Lansing finds itself heading towards another billion dollar budget battle, it is critical for the health and recovery of our state that any money from the Federal government be utilized in the quickest and fullest extent possible.

The proposed stimulus package has two critical flaws which will deeply dilute the impact that it could have. These two factors which will reduce the effectiveness and efficiency of implementation and the impact on the greater economy must be remedied in the legislative process. They are simply the following: (1) non-supplanting rules and (2) passing funds through the states.

Non-supplanting rules served a rational purpose in their original construction. They were applied to programs where the federal government had an explicit objective to expand services in a particular policy area. For example, the COPS program was intended to put more police officers on the street. By prohibiting supplanting, the federal government sought to avoid funding services that would have otherwise been provided without federal support.

That is not the local government environment today. Given the dramatic decline in local tax revenues, local governments are forced to reduce services and employment levels. In Michigan alone, we have lost over 2,000 public safety professionals in the past decade. The Michigan Municipal League and National League of Cities have done countless research on this very problem. The facts are clear; a majority of local governments in Michigan are less able to meet service demands based on the current funding formula than they were just a few years ago.

This is an extraordinary situation that goes well beyond local government, which is exactly why many feel an immediate economic stimulus package is needed, especially for Michigan. Federal assistance is critical to mitigate the decline in current service levels and repair the needed infrastructure to market Michigan in the new economy. Non-supplanting requirements in a stimulus package would render the assistance virtually unusable, especially in areas where it is needed the most.

The second issue is passing stimulus aid through states. To the maximum extent possible, I strongly urge the Congress to use mechanisms that directly fund local governments and avoid the non-value added step of passing the funds through the states. Direct funding will get the funds on the streets quicker and more efficiently.
The context of this point is best viewed via a memo dated January 21st by Kirk Steudle, the director of the Michigan Department of Transportation. While the proposed stimulus bill requires 45% of transportation funds to go to local agencies, MDOT plans to use the existing structure of Act 51 to distribute the funds. The formula for Act 51 allows only 25% of funding to be sent to local agencies. This is a unquestioned attempt at the State of Michigan to high-jack $175,000,000 away from local agencies with needy projects that are "shovel ready" to cushion the blow on the state budget due to our economic downturn.

For another example, please consider the community where I live and work, Lake Isabella. We are small community of about 1,500 just outside of Mount Pleasant. I presently have nearly $10,000,000 worth of "shovel ready" projects that would grow our local economy, reduce energy costs for my residents, protect the environment, enhance recreation opportunities, increase property values, and ultimately improve the overall quality of life enjoyed by my community. None of these projects are pork or wasteful. You will not find a “mob museum” coming to Lake Isabella, but rather new roads, natural gas, high speed data services, decentralized wastewater systems, recreation paths, and LED streetlights.

With quick funding from the Federal government, I could have all of my projects completed in 2009. The impact from just Lake Isabella alone would be noticeable in mid-Michigan, and I assure you that we are not alone. With zero doubt, I can assure you that if the proposed stimulus package is adopted “as-is” without reconsideration of the two points above, Lake Isabella and most communities in mid-Michigan will not see one dime of funding via the traditional channels.

Sincerely,

Tim Wolff
Village Manager

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Unbuildable Lots Update & 1999 Village Minutes

Two items to note today. First, yesterday we uploaded all of the minutes of the Planning Commission, Village Council, and Zoning Board of Appeals from 1999 on our website. That leaves only 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003 as the only years which need to be uploaded. Our goal is to have all of them online by the end of February. When this is completed we may just be the first municipality to have ALL of its minutes online... granted it helps that we only have 10 years worth of minutes.

The second item is an update on the unbuildable lots. We are going to provide updates this week based on the work done late last year in the following order:

Wednesday, January 28th - Lake Isabella Airpark & Canterbury Estates
Thursday, January 29th - Lake Isabella South & Lake Isabella Golf Estates II
Friday, January 30th - Lake Isabella North

We are breaking the updates up into these individual reports as it is the best representation of the work. While there are five individual plats with restrictions which has resulted in lots being "unbuildable," the issues are not uniform across the five plats. As such, we have been able to connect Lake Isabella Airpark and Canterbury Estates together and Lake Isabella South and Lake Isabella Golf Estates II as to the nature of their unique challenges and the resulting work needed to resolve the matter.

Friday, January 23, 2009

What's Your Take on Fences?

...He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence...

From the poem "Mending Wall" by Robert Frost...


Last Tuesday, the Planning Commission held a public hearing on a proposed update to the Village's zoning code. The proposed ordinance is a comprehensive update and overhaul of the regulation of fences in the community. This past summer the Planning Commission formed a sub-committee to review the matter. The proposed ordinance is the work of that group.

At the public hearing on the 13th no comments were offered on the proposed ordinance. With that in mind the Planning Commission has asked for additional input prior to making a recommendation to the Village Council. Your input can be submitted either in person at the Village Hall, via phone, or e-mail (office@lakeisabellami.org). Or, even better... if you're free on Tuesday night, February 1oth, stop on by the Planning Commission and participate in person!

The proposed draft represents a major substantive change in the regulation of fences by the Village of Lake Isabella. To make a comparison of the proposed changes with the current regulations would be done in vain. The proposed draft should be viewed not as an amendment to the current regulations, but a full replacement of them. In summary, the new regulations establish the following:

... A section has been added which details the purpose of the regulations.

... The definitions have been greatly expanded to reflect the different items regulated in the draft. This includes several pictures and illustrations for examples of fences.

... The General Regulations have been expanded. This includes prohibiting fences within 3 feet of property lines unless a professional survey is submitted and written consent from adjoining owners is granted.

... The placement and construction of fences is regulated in section 1222.07. This section prohibits chain-link fences in residential districts, regulates pet enclosures, and garden fences. A list of prohibited materials is also included.

A copy of the proposed draft can be viewed at the following link: http://www.lakeisabellami.org/Proposed%20Ord%202009-01.pdf

A copy of the current fence regulations can be viewed at the following link: http://www.lakeisabellami.org/Code-1222.pdf

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Natural Gas Update

To begin with, I want to apologize for the delay in posting an update on the gas project. Some of you may know that my wife and I celebrated the birth of our first child in December. With that change in my home life, I took 3 weeks off from work to help mom and baby settle in.

Tim

------------------------------

Words has been passed to us that the last sections of gas main on the east side of Queens Way will be pressure tested and gassed by Thursday, January 22. As such, if you live on any of the streets to the east of Queens Way please feel free to contact DTE at your pleasure to schedule your conversion.

The gas mains along Duquesa and Barcelona are also completed and gassed. Weather permitting the last areas of main should be completed in the next 2 to 3 weeks. As of yesterday, DTE reported that 120 of the 260 hook-ups were completed. The map below shows a rough estimate of where the project is. In total there is only about 25% of the 2" and 3" mains let to be installed. If you have questions or concerns, please contact our office or DTE directly.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Some History on one of Lake Isabella's "Founding Fathers"

I came across this article via searching Google. I thought it was worth sharing...

Tim

--------------------------------------------

Mr. Potato Head A dirt-poor farmer turned spud scraps into gold.
By Paul Lukas
November 1, 2003

(FORTUNE Small Business) – Pity the humble potato, whose long reign as America's staple starch is jeopardized by the low-carb craze. Not only are French fry sales down--by 5% since last year, according to the U.S. Potato Board--but now an inventor claims to have developed a low-carb processed-potato substitute made from cauliflower. The indignity!

All that would no doubt be a puzzlement to F. Nephi Grigg, who once called potatoes the "most healthful of all foods." That may be a bit much, but Grigg's hyperbole is understandable, for he built an empire around his own contribution to the potato pantheon: Ore-Ida Tater Tots.

Grigg's story is as classic as his signature product. A high school dropout, he was given to Yogi Berra-like pronouncements such as "You'll never go broke by taking a profit" and "Bite off more than you can chew, then chew it." But he had an energetic, charismatic drive honed during the Depression, when he and his brother Golden Grigg eked out a living in their native Idaho by growing and selling potatoes and corn.

By 1951, with America surging into postwar prosperity, the brothers Grigg determined that the future of produce lay in frozen food. So when a bankrupt flash-freezing plant in eastern Oregon was auctioned off for $500,000, they pounced, mortgaging their homes to raise the down payment. They called their operation Ore-Ida--a nod to their factory's location near the Oregon-Idaho border--and started shipping frozen corn out west.

The following year the Griggs began producing French fries, a process that entailed shaving the potatoes into rectangular blocks before slicing them. The shavings were later sold for a pittance as livestock feed, which piqued Nephi's Depression-born sense of thrift. Couldn't something more profitable be done with the scraps? By 1953 he had the answer: The shavings were ground, mixed with spices, extruded, and fried. The result was Tater Tots, and the world--or at least suburban kitchens and school cafeterias--would never be the same.

Nephi introduced his new product by bringing 15 pounds of Tater Tots to the National Potato Convention in Miami later that year. There he bribed the convention's chef to serve up the nuggets. They were an instant sensation, providing Nephi with a de facto focus group test and a splashy product launch all in one. Thanks in large part to Tater Tots, Ore-Ida gained 25% of the frozen-potato market during the 1950s. With demand outstripping capacity, the company went public in 1961 and built more factories, bringing sales to $31 million in 1964. But the rapid growth masked problems in Ore-Ida's corporate culture, including nepotism (upper management leaned heavily toward Grigg relatives) and potential conflicts of interest (several principals, including the Grigg brothers, grew potatoes and sold them to the company). Sensing they'd gotten in over their heads, the Griggs sold Ore-Ida to Heinz in 1965 for $30 million. The move marked Heinz's entry into frozen food and Ore-Ida's ascension from regional upstart to national powerhouse: It currently commands 46% of the frozen-potato market.

As for Nephi Grigg, he died in 1994 at the age of 80, but not before self-publishing Breefs by Neef, a bizarre manifesto detailing his thoughts on everything from marriage and religion to hair tonic and golf--and, of course, potatoes, which he described as being "worth more than gold." Roll over, cauliflower, and tell Dr. Atkins the news.

http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fsb/fsb_archive/2003/11/01/358297/index.htm

Friday, January 9, 2009

Hitting Rock Bottom

It appears the State of Michigan has hit rock bottom, but continues to dig downward. In Lansing today the "three wise men" who determine the state's budget forecast agreed on two key numbers. These three officials, the State Treasurer, head of the House Fiscal Agency, and the head of the Senate Fiscal Agency released their numbers for the rest of FY 09 and FY 10.

For the balance of the state's 2009 Fiscal Year, a budget deficit of 200 million dollars is being projected. This comes after 134 million dollars were cut from the budget earlier this year. For the 2010 Fiscal Year, that budget shortfall jumps to 1.4 billion dollars.

Playing a large influence in these numbers is the continued downturn in the state's economy. The report projects the state will continue to bleed jobs over the coming fiscal year. The projected loss of 345,000 jobs statewide since the end of 2007 impacts everyone.

In alerting member communities of the estimated numbers, the Michigan Municipal League noted; "These figures present continuing evidence of the state’s structural budget problems, just over one year after a business tax restructuring and income tax increase. "

Others involved stress that it is not just a structural problem with the budget, but rather a systematical failure of the governmental model used in Michigan. Both the Citizen's Research Council of Michigan and the Michigan Suburbs Alliance have done extensive research on this matter and have issued reports detailing the breakdown in the entire system.

The report from the Michigan Alliance of Suburbs can be viewed at the following link: http://www.michigansuburbsalliance.org/downloads/municipal_finance/System_Failure_Executive_Summary.pdf

The report from the Citizen's Research Council of Michigan can be viewed at the following link: http://www.crcmich.org/PUBLICAT/2000s/2008/memo1086.pdf

To make matters all the more interesting is the tsunami coming with the 2010 election. On November 2, 2010, Michigan voters head to the polls to elect a new Governor, Secretary of State and Attorney General. The entire State Legislature (House and Senate) is also up for election with many members term limited out of office. The electorate will also be asked to decide whether to call a new constitutional convention for the State of Michigan. The ballot proposal will be on the statewide ballot not by the action of the current Legislature or as a result of any petition drive; rather the state’s constitution requires that this question be placed before state voters every 16 years.

The following is taken from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce's website about the Michigan Constitution...

Every constitutional convention reflects the issues of the times. The 1908 constitution provided for such progressive reforms as municipal home rule, line item veto, initiative and referendum and women and child labor restrictions, but it retained the “long ballot” and most features of the 1850 constitution including the requirement that every 16 years the question to call a constitutional convention be placed on the ballot.

In 1926, 1942, 1948 and 1958, the Con-Con question was on the statewide ballot. In 1948 and 1958, voters cast more yes votes than no votes, but did not obtain a majority of those voting in the election. In 1960, the League of Women Voters, the Michigan Jaycees and a group headed by auto executive George Romney, called Citizens for Michigan, launched a petition drive to amend the requirements for calling a new constitutional convention. Their “Gateway Amendment” would no longer require a majority voting in the election, but merely a majority voting on the question.

Their proposal provided that delegates to a constitutional convention be elected from each State House and Senate district rather than three from each Senate district whose district lines had not been redistricted since 1925. The proposal also provided that the question to call a new constitutional convention be placed on the April 1961 ballot and every 16 years thereafter.
In November 1960, while Michigan voters were electing John F. Kennedy president, the “Gateway Amendment” was approved.


Five months later, Michigan voters narrowly approved the call for a new constitutional convention. The question lost in 79 counties but the vote margin in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties, where it carried, were enough to give the question a 23,000 vote margin.

In the summer of 1961, delegates were nominated and elected in partisan elections and the convention convened in Lansing in October 1961.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Snow Rage!

While we have had a beast of a winter so far this year, things could always be worse. A case in point is the story below regarding Spokane, WA. To say things are getting deep there is an understatement. Since mid-December they have about 78 inches of snow. So far for the entire season starting in November we are just a hair above 64 inches.

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Spokane, Wash., residents cope with record snow

By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS


SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - More than 6 feet of snow in the past three weeks has left Spokane residents frustrated. Tempers are so frayed that a man was arrested for shooting at a snow plow operator.

This unusually harsh winter has disrupted schools, traffic, garbage pickup and mail service in the city of 200,000. Roofs are collapsing, streets are clogged with ice and slush and locals are starting to refer to this as Sno-maggedon.

Even visitors are impressed."This is the most snow I've ever seen," Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt said when her team played at Gonzaga University on Dec. 30. "It's beautiful."

Spokane has received more than 78 inches of snow - about the height of Michael Jordan - since mid-December. That's far above its average of less than 50 inches for an entire winter. Normally about 16 inches would have fallen at this point. The local record for an entire winter is 93.5 inches set in 1949-50. That is likely to be shattered soon.

As many as 200 members of the Washington National Guard were being dispatched to the Spokane area to help with snow removal Wednesday, particularly on school rooftops, Laura Lockard, a spokeswoman for Gov. Chris Gregoire, said Tuesday.

Snow rage is getting to some. One man was arrested by Spokane police after gunshots were fired Monday morning at a private snow plow operator who was clearing a parking lot. Police said the motorist apparently got upset when the plow operator honked his horn.

"It's safe to say that fuses are short, people are frustrated and we are having an increase in neighborhood disputes regarding snow-related issues," said Jennifer DeRuwe, a police spokeswoman.

Hot lines at Spokane Mental Health are getting twice the number of calls from people seeking help, said Staci Cornwell of the agency. Some are from elderly people who need help picking up medications, or with shoveling. Other callers are just agitated. "In our community, people are getting upset, angry, stressed out because of all this snow," Cornwell said. "There's a pending fear of what else is to come."

Jeff Hastings, a mental health counselor, said people's emotional reserves are becoming drained.
"Then people get angry and irritable and depressed and feel anxiety," Hastings said. "They feel overwhelmed."

Treacherous roads are a major complaint. Many are covered with ice, heavily rutted and reduced to one lane by piles of plowed snow. Mayor Mary Verner said the city is spending an estimated $150,000 a day to operate plows around the clock.

Downtown, snow has been piled in the middle of streets in hills that are taller than adults and give the impression of driving in giant slots. Driving conditions are so bad that most of the region's malls closed early the weekend before Christmas because employees and customers could not reach them. Employers continued to have problems on Tuesday, especially big box stores with flat roofs. Several checked by The Associated Press were closed on Tuesday.
The winter break for schoolchildren started two days early, on Dec. 17, because of snow, and school had been scheduled to resume on Monday before Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich - pointing to a "once in a lifetime winter" - took the unprecedented step of recommending schools remain closed because children could not travel safely.

To the relief of parents, classes did resume on Tuesday, creating gridlock on the streets as school buses, private vehicles and walkers competed for space on roads because sidewalks remain buried.

Weight on roofs is a major problem. The National Weather Service has estimated that the existing snow is placing a load of about 25 pounds per square foot roof on roofs designed to hold 30 to 40 pounds. Rain forecast to follow the snow this week will add significant new weight, the agency said. That has created a brisk market for day laborers willing to go up on roofs and shovel snow off for at least $15 per hour.

Rising temperatures were already melting snow and creating rivers of water Tuesday afternoon, promising some relief. "I'm sick of it and ready for it to melt," said Joe Olney, 19, a store clerk.
But two women who work at the Chocolate Apothecary in downtown Spokane have found a coping mechanism. "We are surrounded by chocolate," said owner Susan Davis. "It's all good in here."

Monday, January 5, 2009

Recycling & Weather Update

Just a quick reminder to everyone that our collection dates have moved for curbside recycling. All the details and a copy of the entire year's schedule can be found on our website at: http://www.lakeisabellami.org/recycling.htm

In summary, the collection dates have moved from Tuesday/Wednesday to Thursday/Friday.

------------

We finished out the month of December with nearly 62 inches of snow so far this season. Over the past quarter century, we have already surpassed the snow totals for seven years. Over this time period our average total winter snow fall has been 71 inches. The five previous winters greatly impacted that number. For the five winters prior to this one, we averaged 99.5 inches of snow. For the 20 years prior to that, we only saw an average of 63.5 inches.

It also appears that the ice on the lake is fairly strong. This weekend several ice fisherman were on the lake along with multiple snow-machines. While the ice is getting stronger with each cold day, please be cautious at all times when on the ice.