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Business Roundup | RediMedi Clinic expands to Cashmere

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RediMedi Clinic owners Karl and Marian Lambert extend the reach of their direct primary health care model to the Upper Valley with the opening of a new office at 207 Woodring St. in Cashmere.

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RediMedi Clinic expands to Cashmere

CASHMERE — RediMedi Clinic’s Karl Lambert has opened an office at 207 Woodring St., the first expansion of the direct primary health care model he and his staff have been offering in East Wenatchee since 2014.

The new Cashmere location checks off several boxes in Lambert’s long-term business plan, including opening satellite offices to reach more patients.

The biggest premise is how do we keep taking back primary care from insurance companies’ hands and making it more affordable and accessible and truly keep pushing the holistic, integrative model we’ve been doing here for 10 years and keep growing,” he said.

RediMedi’s membership-based primary care model takes insurance companies out of the picture. Patients pay a flat monthly fee, between $50 and $90, depending on age, and get access to medical providers who, in RediMedi’s case, are focused on holistic, integrative health care.

We look at the whole person and figure out the root cause of what may be going on,” Lambert said. “We treat not just with medicine, but look at things like treating high blood pressure with magnesium or looking at nutrition.”

Lambert introduced the direct primary care model in 2014, folding it into the holistic, integrative health care services the clinic has been offering since 2006.

The Cashmere location is strategic, Lambert said, designed to expand his customer base. He’s working with several Cashmere companies, including Crunch Pak and Blue Star Growers.

The second office also will provide reach further up the valley.

RediMedi’s Cashmere office is about 1,400 square feet, with four exam rooms. It’s roughly the same size as the East Wenatchee location at 230 Grant Road.

Lambert is in the process of adding staff, but said he is taking the time to find the right people.

The plan is to have four medical providers between the two offices, plus front desk and ancillary staff.

The office officially opened Sept. 4 and for now is operating by scheduled appointments only at (509) 436-9029.

 

New rules, grant boost business retirement options

WENATCHEE — Retiring business owners interested in selling their companies to long-time employees, either through a cooperative or employee stock ownership plan, will have a smoother path in the future.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently awarded grants to the Washington State Grange and Northwest Cooperative Development Center to help establish the “Legacy Project” that will identify business advisers in Wenatchee and Moses Lake who can help create educational workshops about the cooperative business model.

The ultimate goal is to save jobs by keeping businesses in operation that otherwise might not survive because a buyer can’t be found before the owner retires.

Baby boomers, nearing retirement age, own nearly half of the nation’s privately held businesses, according to statistics from the Small Business Development Center. NWCDC and the Washington State Grange want to make sure co-ops and employees stock ownership plans are considered during for succession planning. The grants, which also cover other communities in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, closely follow the Aug. 16 passage of the Main Street Employee Ownership Act which is designed to make it easier for small businesses transitioning to employee ownership to access to Small Business Administration funding.

In the past that process has been difficult.

The NWCDC, an Olympia-based nonprofit, is working with the Wenatchee-based North Central Washington Economic Development District in identifying professionals interested in being involved in setting up curriculum, workshops and creating a network focused on the cooperative models.

The idea is to build a network of trained advisors who can help expand the options for succession planning. We don’t have a lot of folks with expertise with worker cooperative structures,” said NCW EDD executive director Karen Francis-McWhite. “This creates an opportunity to have a resource so people don’t have to go to Olympia. The goal is to broaden the tools available.”

Jim Fletcher of Wenatchee’s Small Business Development Center, which is partially funded by the Small Business Administration, said he welcomes new resources for working with businesses interested in transitioning to worker ownership.

The role of the SBDC advisers will be to help on the loan packaging.

Francis-McWhite said a presentation on the Legacy Project is on the agenda for the October meeting of the NCW EDD. That meeting is at 9 a.m. Oct. 10 at Chelan City Hall.

For more information, call 682-6907.

 

Compounding drugs at Wenatchee Clinic Pharmacy

WENATCHEE — A local pharmacy helps Wenatchee Valley residents daily by making prescription drugs.

The Wenatchee Clinic Pharmacy started up around 70 years ago and has been compounding drugs ever since. An independent organization, the Wenatchee Clinic Pharmacy is located inside the Wenatchee Valley Medical Center.

Retired pharmacist Donald Murray and his son, Dale Murray, a pharmacist, co-own the pharmacy, 820 N. Chelan Ave. Ryan and Melissa, third-generation Murrays, also work as pharmacy staff members.

Many compounds made in the pharmacy are for children with severe medical conditions.

There are about 56,000 community-based pharmacies in the U.S., according to the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists (IACP). An estimated 1 to 3 percent of all prescriptions dispensed in the U.S. are compounded for individual patients, IACP reported.

As far as overall prescriptions and patients, we have hundreds of patients a day,” Murray said. The pharmacy sometimes gives out 700 prescriptions per day. “The compounding portion of it is a very small percentage. We might do half a dozen or 10-15 compounds per day, sometimes less.”

Compounded prescriptions at the Wenatchee Clinic Pharmacy may come in the oral medication form of tablets, capsules, liquids and lozenges. Creams, ointments, powders, solutions and trans-dermal patches are included in topical prescriptions. There are also nasal rinses, ear drops and powders, and suppositories. Liquids and capsules are the majority of prescriptions made in the pharmacy, according to Murray.

There are fewer and fewer pharmacies offering drug compounding services these days, Murray said.

Many patients are in need of higher-dosage medications that are not commercially available or need their prescriptions converted to liquid form, which is also not commercially available, he said.

The most important thing is getting it right, making sure it’s the right drug for the right patient and the right dosage,” pharmacy owner Dale Murray said.

 

E. Wenatchee bans medical marijuana cooperatives

EAST WENATCHEE — Medical marijuana growers can no longer enter into cooperatives in East Wenatchee. The city had issued a moratorium while deciding on a permanent fix. In late August, City Council approved an ordinance prohibiting medical marijuana cooperatives. Wenatchee implemented a similar ban in 2016.

The Planning Commission met several times and decided to do, basically, what Wenatchee did,” Community Development Director Lori Barnett said. “You can do your home-grown medical marijuana, but we want it completely indoors.” Voters in 1998 approved an initiative to allow medical marijuana use in the state. In 2012, they approved an initiative authorizing recreational marijuana.

Cooperatives allow multiple medical marijuana patients to join together to grow marijuana for personal use. State law allows participants to grow up to 60 plants.

According to the new East Wenatchee ordinance, medical marijuana growers can only have up to 15 plants total, even if multiple patients or designated providers live on the same property.

In addition to only growing medical marijuana inside, growers must control odors. Barnett said the city has never allowed people to grow recreational marijuana outdoors.

The new ordinance also says medical marijuana can only be grown in the primary home of the patient or designated provider, or in a permanent accessory structure at least 5 feet away from other structures on the property. Accessory structures don’t include cargo containers or recreational vehicles.

 

Ecology fines construction company owner $5,000

ROCK ISLAND — The state Department of Ecology issued $151,025 in fines of $1,000 or more from April through June.

The most recent local case was in Rock Island, involving Dave Bremmer of Bremmer Construction. Ecology said he was fined $5,000 in June for burning prohibited materials, including railroad ties, outside during a burn ban.

According to Ecology, penalties are issued for serious violations or when the offender remains non-compliant after assistance or warnings. The money goes to the state’s general fund or to the dedicated pollution prevention fund.

 

Chelan County PUD cuts debt ahead of schedule

WENATCHEE — Chelan County PUD commissioners learned Aug. 20 that the utility had reduced what had been a $1 billion debt in 2010 by nearly half and is a year ahead of schedule on getting the debt ratio (total debt to total assets) below 35 percent. The debt is forecast at $513.5 million by the end of the year.

The announcement was made by Kelly Boyd, chief financial/risk officer, and Heather Irelan, treasury senior analyst.

It’s taken discipline and commitment across the district to reach this goal,” Boyd said. “Our customer-owners asked us to reduce debt and strengthen our finances. With your leadership, and the focus of all employees, we have.”

The debt ratio in 2010 was 70 percent, leading to questions from Chelan County residents and from rating agencies “expressing concern that a AA-rated utility would have such a high debt leverage,” she said.

The debt stemmed from a combination of things, including the economic downturn. Short on cash because of reduced power sales, most of the capital projects had to be bonded, she said.

At one point the PUD’s debt was the only topic in town,” said board President Dennis Bolz, who was first elected in 2006. He said he used to get five to 15 emails a week about the debt.

Commissioner Ann Congdon, who has served on the commission since 2005, recalls a similar experience.

We heard loud and clear from customers that getting out of debt was our No. 1 priority,” she said. “Reducing debt and strengthening our finances became the No. 1 goal.”

To change course, PUD staff and the commission set financial planning goals and established targets. In the years that followed, new surplus power sales contracts were negotiated and new contracts were signed with Alcoa and Puget Sound Energy. In addition, debt was refinanced and cash reserves were used to pay down debt at the earliest call date, Boyd said.

By 2014, the debt ratio was at 60 percent. The next goal was to get it below 35 percent by 2019.

We are happy to announce that as of July 2018, we have achieved that goal, with a debt ratio of 34.8 percent,” Boyd said. “That might get even lower by year-end. We have one more minor principal payment to make. This has been eight years of hard work to achieve this goal.”

The rating agencies also have responded, giving the utility an AA+ rating.

 

Link Transit driver wins state ‘Roadeo’

WENATCHEE — Link Transit bus driver Jason Sandberg took top honors Aug. 19 in the 35-foot division of the Washington State Coach Operators Roadeo in Kennewick.

He was one of nine drivers from across the state to compete in his division. He has driven for Link for the past 10 years.

Other competitors from Link Transit were Steve Burger in the 40-foot division and Jose Torres in the body-on-chassis division.

Sandberg scored 631 point out of a possible 700 to win his event, which required driving the bus through a timed coned obstacle course with a variety of turns, backing maneuvers and stopping challenges. The smoothness of the ride added points, while points were deducted if the vehicle hits a cone or went over the allotted time.

The top finish allows him to compete next May in the International Bus Roadeo in Louisville, Kentucky.

 

Walmart completes Wenatchee remodel

WENATCHEE — The scavenger hunt for products that kept Wenatchee Walmart shoppers hopping this summer during the store’s remodel project came to an end with the store’s grand reopening Aug. 25.

The remodeled store includes state-of-the-art electronics department with interactive displays; expanded pharmacy, including wellness consultation room and two new windows; redesigned home department with larger counters and more selection; expanded and reconfigured apparel and hardware departments; and new signs, paint and flooring throughout the store.

We’re excited about the store’s fresh new look. As soon as our customers walk in, they will immediately notice how bright and organized the store is,” said store Manager Fernanda Baveda.

 

Parking garage in the works for Wenatchee

WENATCHEE — The last few years have seen development along the waterfront, including Pybus Public Market and the upcoming Hilton Garden Inn.

Now, it’s time for more parking. A three-story garage is in the works, with construction expected to begin in the spring and be completed by the end of next year.

City Council on Aug. 23 approved a memorandum of understanding with Prime Properties LLC for the site across from Pybus between Worx Gym and Biosports.

Economic Development Director Steve King said Wenatchee has about $3 million from the state Local Revitalization Financing Program to put toward public parking.

The parking garage would provide 150 new spaces, including 114 public stalls available 24/7 and 36 for nights and weekends, King said. The city would have a 30-year lease for the top two stories and then decide whether to extend it for another 20 years.

We hired DCI Engineering out of Spokane, who’s done thousands of parking garages on the West Coast,” King told the council. “We learned about parking garages — how they work, how to design them — and, typically, a 30-year lifespan is about what you get in a parking garage before there’s a major investment needed to rehab the garage.”

King estimates maintenance would cost about $10,000 per year, so fees might be charged for parking to help cover that.

King said the city will have input on design.

Mayor Frank Kuntz said he’s also expecting parking to be added under the pedestrian bridge, with money coming from the sewer and general funds.

We think there’s maybe 40 stalls available there,” he said.

 

Central Washington Hospital to close rehab center

WENATCHEE — A need for additional nursing staff in other parts of Central Washington Hospital will lead to the closure of the hospital’s transitional care center.

The 22-bed transitional care center is used to help older patients recovering from surgery or injury prepare to either return home or enter a nursing home, said Andrew Canning, a hospital spokesman.

The hospital has close to 50 open nursing and nursing assistant positions it needs to fill in other areas of the hospital. The closure will help fill 35 of those positions.

The hospital will contract with private nursing centers to replace those beds.

The hospital evaluated the rehabilitation centers in the Wenatchee Valley and determined it could contract with other private companies, he said. It does not expect any problems finding space for those patients with other nursing home companies.

It comes down to there are people providing the service in the community and they do a great job,” Canning said. “So we are going to let them continue to do a great job and we’re going to shift our resources.”

The hospital started transferring patients to other nursing homes on Aug. 31 and was expected to complete the move by Nov. 1, he said. No layoffs were expected.

 

Sears Hometown Store closed Sept. 30

EAST WENATCHEE — Just five years after it arrived, the Sears Hometown Store at the Wenatchee Valley Mall closed Sept. 30.

Mall General Manager Stephannie Kuntz was not sure what will replace it, as the mall’s corporate office handles all permanent leasing.

Linda Phillips had managed the store since it opened in November 2013. Local sales had been “pretty good,” Phillips said. However, she said, the company started looking for a local owner for the store in February but was unsuccessful.

They advertised it and there was just no bite,” she said. The closest one now will be the Sears Hometown Store in Ellensburg.

A larger Sears store at the Wenatchee Valley Mall closed in August 2013 in the space that now houses Sportsman’s Warehouse. The store at the Vancouver Mall is slated for closure in November. 

 

Pangborn awaits word on fourth flight’s fate

EAST WENATCHEE — The number of passengers flying into and out of Pangborn Memorial Airport increased this summer thanks to the fourth flight Alaska Airlines added as a test case.

Whether it’s enough to convince the airline to permanently add a fourth flight remains to be seen.

Stay tuned,” said Airport Manager Trent Moyers. “Getting the flight back again will be a topic of conversation when I meet with Alaska Airlines route planners in October. If they can determine that operating a fourth flight is profitable, there is a good chance the airline will be back next year.”

The fourth flight, which was added in the afternoon, operated from May 20 to Aug. 25.

We were running at just south of 70 percent full,” Moyers said.

Before the fourth flight was added, the other three flights — that depart at 6 a.m., 12:05 p.m. and 7 p.m., with arrivals at 11:26 a.m., 6 p.m. and midnight — were running between 80 and 85 percent full.

A consistent high volume indicates demand might support another flight. Alaska operates 76-passenger Q400 planes between Pangborn near East Wenatchee and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

In 2017, 119,012 passengers got on and off flights at Pangborn. This year’s numbers are running about 7 percent more than that, with increases of 13 percent in June (about 1,000 more passengers) and 20 percent in July (about 2,300 passengers).

Alaska last tested the fourth flight from Aug. 1 to Sept. 7, 2015, Moyers said.

Although it wasn’t promoted very much, the load factor during the month of August 2015 was 64.3 percent,” he said. The three flights at that time were running at 72 percent full.

Moyers said the fourth flight seemed to be popular.

The timing of the flights seemed to reduce layover times for connecting flights in and out of SeaTac,” he said. His hope is the flight will return next year.

Other statistics from this summer’s activity at Pangborn show an increase in revenues from car rentals, parking and fuel.

 

CBS documentary looks at Wenatchee’s cryptocurrency

WENATCHEE — The Wenatchee Valley’s cryptocurrency industry is the focus of a CBS News documentary that aired in August.

The 20-minute piece, “Mining Bitcoin: Inside a cryptocurrency mining epicenter, and the fight for a small town’s future,” includes interviews with a mix of the large and small Bitcoin miners.

That includes GigaWatt CEO David Carlson and Malachi Salcido of Salcido Enterprises. It also includes interviews with Chelan County PUD General Manager Steve Wright who provides some context on what the demand for power means. See the report at youtu.be/S00MWI3YeP4.

 

Groundbreaking at old Cashmere Mill site

CASHMERE — Construction of two 16,750-square-foot industrial buildings at the old Cashmere Mill site off of Sunset Highway kicked off with a groundbreaking ceremony Sept. 5.

The buildings are expected to be completed in the spring. The Port Commission awarded a contract of just under $6 million to Halme Construction in July.

Port Business Development Director Craig Larsen said three tenants have committed to lease space, but they have not been publicly identified.

We have three very strong prospects, and we’re talking to other ones that have expressed interest in the property,” he said.

Port officials say the $6.6 million redevelopment project will allow local businesses to expand and help the port recruit new businesses. The Chelan County Commission agreed to allocate $500,000 to the project, and the port is putting up the rest of the money.

The industrial buildings will be high-ceiling, multi-tenant spaces. Possible uses are production, warehousing, laboratory or office space.

 

New West Cashmere Bridge design almost finalized

CASHMERE — Design is nearly complete on the new West Cashmere Bridge.

The new bridge will span the Wenatchee River near the current location on Goodwin Road and cross over Highway 2/97 to Hay Canyon Road. It will be wider and longer than the current structure.

Construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2020 and last about two years.

When construction on the new bridge gets underway, it will be one of the largest projects Chelan County has ever undertaken,” said Eric Pierson, public works director and county engineer. “The overwhelming support from our community partners has played a significant role in garnering interest for the project at both the state and federal levels, and in keeping the project on track.”

Federal and state grants, county funding and a contribution from Crunch Pak are helping pay for the approximately $23.5 million project. Public Works spokeswoman Jill FitzSimmons said the county was going to apply for another federal grant this summer, but a $1.6 million award from the Chelan-Douglas Transportation Council made up the difference.

Built in 1929, the bridge originally connected orchardists on the north bank of the Wenatchee River to Cashmere on the south bank.

The county has determined it is obsolete, structurally deficient and must be replaced. Height and weight restrictions mean most freight haulers, school and transit buses, and some emergency vehicles cannot use it.

Chelan County is still looking for a new owner for the bridge’s two 117-foot Warren deck truss spans, which are up for grabs until January. The rest of the bridge will be demolished.

 

Ports debate who should pick up Pangborn tab; taxing district possible

EAST WENATCHEE — Find a way to pay your share.

That’s the message Port of Chelan County commissioners delivered Aug. 28 to their counterparts at the Port of Douglas County about funding needed to operate and improve Pangborn Memorial Airport. The two ports co-own the airport.

Port of Douglas officials say they can afford about $170,000 a year.

So what do we do then?” Chelan Port Commissioner Rory Turner said. “From the 30,000-foot level, there has to be equal participation in the responsibility of both of us. We have to do something. How do we solve this?”

The ports are currently operating under a 2003 agreement in which they agreed to pay airport operating and capital budget shortfalls in a 70/30 split, with the Port of Chelan paying the greater share.

The proposed 2019 capital budget alone shows the ports will need to cover about $1.8 million which includes about $700,000 to design and build a new airplane fueling station and a remodel of the terminal to make way for the anticipated second airline to provide a flight to San Francisco.

For the past five years, the Port of Douglas’ contributions were capped at 17 percent of the port’s property tax receipts. That agreement, signed in 2012, followed a financial analysis that showed the 30 percent contribution to the airport’s budget shortfall was unsustainable, according to port records.

The plan at that time was to come up with a different funding model, but the agreement expired at the end of last year without any resolution, resulting in the return to the 70/30 split.

The Port of Chelan paid the extra portion during that five-year interim agreement. Those commissioners are insisting the Port of Douglas returns to paying its full share — until a long-term solution can be found.

The Port of Chelan, Turner said, is taking political heat because it is paying more than a fair share of the costs for an airport in Douglas County.

We hear about it from our constituents,” he said.

The long-term solution likely is creating a taxing district that covers the entire region served by the airport.

We’ve talked about working on a bigger transportation district,” Port of Douglas Commissioner Alan Loebsack said. “If we had started that a year and a half ago, we would be that far down the road. That’s probably what we should have done.”

Turner agreed.

I would support a regional solution, but we have a lot of steps before we get there,” he said. “We can’t continue to kick the can down the road. We need a short-term solution. We think the solution has to come from the Port of Douglas County.”

If the Port of Douglas County doesn’t have the means to pay its share, Turner said, “they need to look for other partners in Douglas County.”

We are asking for them to take responsibility, to be part of the solution. They need to do that dialog,” Turner said.

The alternative would be stretching Port of Chelan finances thin or cutting vital projects from the airport budget that eventually will result in additional revenue, service and economic development.

The bottom line is at the end of the day, we have a great resource in the airport. We have a runway. We have interest from the airlines. We have momentum. This is not the time to take our eye off the prize,” Turner said.

Port of Douglas Commissioner Mark Spurgeon said he was hearing two basic options:

  • What services and projects can the Port of Douglas eliminate from its budget to fund Pangborn Memorial Airport?
  • If that doesn’t work, the Port of Chelan is asking the Port of Douglas to go out and find more money.

Yes, pretty much,” said Port of Chelan Commissioner JC Baldwin. “Unless you can come up with a more creative solution.”

A hearing on the airport’s budget is set for Oct. 1 and the budget needs to be approved by the fourth Tuesday in October.

 

Grant PUD approves new cryptocurrency rates

EPHRATA — Grant County PUD will on April 1 begin rolling out new, higher rates for cryptocurrency miners with high power usage.

After almost a year of analysis, outreach and public comment, commissioners unanimously approved the new schedule Aug. 28.

This is the best way to ensure our ratepayers are not impacted by this unregulated, high-risk business,” Commissioner Tom Flint said at the meeting.

Cryptocurrency is a digital currency that uses encryption to regulate money generation and verify transfers, outside of a central bank. Bitcoin is the most common example. Cryptocurrency mining involves operating specialized computer equipment.

Under the new rate schedule, customers would see increases of 15 percent next year, 35 percent in 2020 and 50 percent in 2021.

Any new cryptocurrency mining customers would fall under the rate that’s in effect when they begin operations. The PUD will evaluate the rate class each year and adjust it based on anticipated changes in total megawatts needed.

The impact would vary depending on how a customer’s energy use compares to the average load of their customer class.