Othello changes zoning code, begins work on well

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OTHELLO — A request from Avista Energy to upgrade an Othello substation prompted the city council to unanimously revise the city’s zoning ordinance.

“We were contacted by Avista, they are looking to upgrade a facility, but there is no place (in Othello) zoned for something like a substation,” Anne Henning, the city’s community development director, told council members on Monday.

Henning recommended the council approve a change in the current I-1 industrial zone that would add “public facilities,” which includes electrical and utility substations. The code prior to Monday‘s meeting did not include “public facilities” as an approved use the light industrial zone. She added that “more extensive updates” of the city’s zoning codes are coming, but “it will take months” to complete, and Avista wants to get started on this project.

According to Ian Eccles, a district manager for Avista in Othello, the company is looking at building a new approximately 60 megawatt substation near the intersection of 7th Avenue Northeast and Lee on the north side of town.

The substation would replace the current Othello substation, Eccles said, and construction would begin sometime in the next two years.

“There’s no firm timeline,” Eccles said.

The council also unanimously approved a $1.7 million internal loan — from the city’s sewer fund to its water fund — in order to cover expenses as part of the project to redrill the city’s Well No. 3.

“We are in the final stages of approval for a USDA Rural Development loan, but work has already started, and this is a cash-flow timing issue,” said city finance officer Spencer Williams.

Williams said work on the well has already started and the loan from one city fund to the other, is needed to cover the gap.

The city decided to redrill the well after a pump failure last fall revealed the original borehole was crooked, and would keep burning out pumps.

The USDA loan will be used to repay the loan from the sewer fund. Washington law requires cities keep a strict accounting of loans between city funds.

City Administrator Wade Farris said drilling has already begun, and as of Monday night, the contractor had drilled down 250 feet and installed casing on much of that. The well is expected to go down roughly 1,200 feet.

“There are no issues so far,” Farris said.

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