Ephrata swears in new council member

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  • Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald Ephrata Mayor Bruce Reim honors outgoing City Council Member Stephanie Knitter for her eight years of service at a regular meeting of the city council on Wednesday.

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    Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald Justin Kooy repeats the oath of office to take his place on the Ephrata City Council on Wednesday. Kooy ran unopposed in November for the seat being vacated by Stephanie Knitter.

  • Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald Ephrata Mayor Bruce Reim honors outgoing City Council Member Stephanie Knitter for her eight years of service at a regular meeting of the city council on Wednesday.

  • 1

    Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald Justin Kooy repeats the oath of office to take his place on the Ephrata City Council on Wednesday. Kooy ran unopposed in November for the seat being vacated by Stephanie Knitter.

EPHRATA — The Ephrata City Council said goodbye to a longtime council member, Stephanie Knitter, and swore in her successor, Justin Kooy, at a regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday.

“It really has been a privilege to work for the city, to learn how it all works together,” Knitter said during a short ceremony to honor her terms on the city council.

“I like to think I contributed a little,” she said.

“Well, you have,” replied Mayor Bruce Reim.

Knitter, who currently teaches high school, said that she intends to continue to be actively involved with the community, and added that with the big trees in Ephrata beginning to die, they need to be replaced.

“We need to plant trees,” she said.

Reim, incumbent city council members Matt Moore and Mark Wanke were sworn in for new four-year terms as well.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do to represent the people of Ephrata,” Kooy said. “I plan on observing more than having big plans.”

Kooy, 30, is married with two small children and works for the family business, Kooy Irrigation. He grew up in Quincy, though he adds that he “moved around a bit”

In other business, the Ephrata City Council approved a series of increases to city fees on everything from parking infractions, building permits, water and sewer hookups, and planning and zoning permits.

According to City Administrator Wes Crago, the average rate increase is 2.8 percent — slightly less than the inflation ration — except for Splashzone, the city’s water park, which will see its fees rise about 10 percent.

“That’s to make up for the minimum wage increase, so that our wages can stay ahead of the minimum wage,” Crago said.

Following the approval of a statewide ballot initiative in 2016, the state minimum wage will reach $11.50 per hour beginning on Jan. 1, with another rise to $12 set for 2019, and a final rise to $13.50 per hour by the beginning of 2020. After that, the state minimum wage will be indexed to the inflation rate.

Council Member Moore wondered if the fee increase would drive people away from the water park, and thus drive down receipts.

“We don’t break even with Splashzone,” Crago said. “As we have increased fees, our user base has kept up or ahead. Attendance is affected primarily by weather, so we’re not near the point of losing patrons.”

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at countygvt@columbiabasinherald.com.

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