ASOTIN — A new fire chief was sworn in Monday at the Asotin City Council meeting.
Shawn Balzer, who has served as a volunteer firefighter for 18 years, replaces Asotin County Fire Chief Noel Hardin, who resigned from the city of Asotin post earlier this month.
“We appreciate everything Fire District No. 1 and Chief Hardin have done for Asotin to get us to this point,” Mayor Vikki Bonfield said. “We have confidence that Chief Balzer will do an excellent job.”
Hardin said increasing call volumes and capital projects at the county’s fire district are requiring more of his time, so the fire district asked the city to be released from an administrative agreement. Hardin took over as Asotin’s chief in 2010 when Dave Weissenfels retired as a volunteer chief.
Balzer, who works as a full-time firefighter and emergency medical technician at the Clearwater Paper Fire Department, thanked the council for the opportunity, saying he is excited about the challenges of his new position and helping the department.
In other city business, Asotin County Planner Karst Riggers went over a proposed land swap agreement that would allow property purchased by Chris Segroves to be used for parking during the Asotin County Fair and Hells Canyon Rodeo.
According to the proposal, Segroves would exchange a portion of the land with Asotin County to secure the parking spots. In return, the property owner would have two residential lots at the end of Filmore Street that could be developed.
The city will determine whether State Route 129 can be used as an access point to the residential lots near the fairgrounds. Riggers said it’s not a done deal until the city signs off on the agreement.
Asotin officials also heard the first reading of the 2020 budget ordinance. Overall expenditures are listed at $3.1 million, with the general fund at about $560,000. The council will take action on the budget items at its next meeting.
Councilor Joe Appleton said he has concerns about the free food pantry set up outside City Hall. Offering free food could encourage squatters to stick around and attract vagrants from outside the community, Appleton said. In addition, the city could be held liable if someone gets sick from the food.
“A lot of this is going to people who don’t contribute to society,” he said. “Personally, I think it should be moved, before we live to regret it.”
Bonfield said the health department has indicated the food will be monitored, and the free food pantry is not a city of Asotin project. Deputy Clerk Tina Davidson is spearheading the effort on her own.
“I just want to go on record saying I don’t agree with Joe at all,” Councilor Jennifer Bly said. “I think it’s a great idea.”
Councilor Mervin Schneider said all citizens are valuable, whether rich or poor, and the pantry is needed in the community.
Councilor Lori Loseth said she appreciates Davidson’s efforts to help the less fortunate, and Asotin should continue to be a compassionate and caring community.
Sandaine may be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 848-2264. Follow her on Twitter @newsfromkerri.