Finance director takes new job in Federal Way

Ellensburg city council member and mayor pro tem David Miller presents city finance department director Adé Ariwoola, right, with an award from the Government Finance Officers Association for excellence in financial reporting Monday night at city hall. Ariwoola and his department have won multiple awards for budget presentations and financial reporting since he started eight years ago. He’ll depart for a new job in Federal Way in April. (Brian Myrick / Daily Record)

When the city of Ellensburg hired Adé Ariwoola to lead its finance department about 7 1/2 years ago, the country was still in the midst of its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

By that point, Ariwoola had been working in government accounting for about 20 years, but he was still a little worried about his new job.

“People that know me know that I don’t shy away from major fights,” he said. “It was a good challenge and I’m glad we were able to survive.”

Ariwoola attended his last city council meeting as Ellensburg’s finance director Monday, and will take a similar job in Federal Way starting April 1. He lives in Port Orchard with his wife, who’s a bookkeeper for a fire district in Kitsap County. He spends the week in an apartment in Ellensburg and goes home on the weekends.

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State DOT, HopeSource need more time for commuter bus; City of Yakima may withdraw commuter support

The nonprofit HopeSource and the state transportation department will plead for more time to explore all the options before the city of Yakima closes down the Yakima-Ellensburg Commuter bus line.

HopeSource estimates the system has the money to hold out for several more months.

Yakima owns the commuter line’s buses, which have been on the road for at least 15 years, and HopeSource manages the system.

In the past year, maintenance costs on the aging buses have ballooned, from about $48,000 in 2012 to about $126,000 in 2013, according to HopeSource, with costs still rising this year.

The city of Yakima delayed a vote to withdraw from the service to Tuesday.

Looking at budget projections, Bob Richey, the transportation director for HopeSource, said it would be next to impossible to run the buses though the life of the grant.

Read more at the Daily Record’s website.

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Taxing questions: Most of Ellensburg residents’ property taxes fund education

For 2014, an Ellensburg homeowner with a $200,000 home will pay about $2,430 in property taxes, with more than half of that going to state and local education funding. The graph at right gives a rough breakdown of the average Ellensburg homeowner’s property tax bill. All tax rates are estimates and the numbers used have been rounded.Each tax levy rate here for a local government service is an amount collected for every $1,000 worth of total assessed valuation of private property within the city of Ellensburg. Specific tracts of private land in Kittitas County are covered by oftentimes overlapping tax districts. This includes the Kittitas County government, city governments (for those within city limits), and local fire protection, school, hospital and cemetery districts. The state government levy for schools is collected from all private property. Tax levies to be collected in 2014 are based on 2013 property valuations.

When property owners mail in their tax bills in the coming weeks, most of the money will go to state and local education funding. The rest will fund city, county and other public agencies.

The bill might grow, depending on what voters decide in the coming months.

Homeowners in the city of Ellensburg pay about $4.70 per $1,000 of the assessed values of their homes on public operation levies and bond projects. The local, voter-appproved projects add up to about $938 per year in a $200,000 home.

That’s on top of the roughly $7.46 per $1,000 they pay in regular state, county and city property taxes, or about $1,491 per year.

Of that $12.15 total per $1,000 of a home’s value, about $8.87 goes to state and local education funding. The rate is an estimate, and the numbers used in this story are rounded.

A proposed bond from Kittitas County Fire District 2, better known as Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue, would raise $6.7 million toward a new station, to be paid off, with interest, over 20 years. The district hopes to build the new headquarters station on land it owns on Mountain View Avenue. Continue reading

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Murder suspect held on $1M bail, authorities believe death was gang-related

A Kittitas County judge ordered $1 million bail Friday for Mattawa’s Michael Angel Barajas, who is charged in the death of an Ellensburg man in what investigators say was a gang-related stabbing in July.

Superior Court Judge Frances Chmelewski assigned bail for Barajas, 21, who pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the death of 23-year-old Hector Mejia Villa.

Central Washington University police officers found Villa, who was suffering from multiple stab wounds, late on July 20 in a campus parking lot at the corner of 14th Avenue and D Street. He died in the hospital the next morning.

A probable cause statement from CWU police, who led the investigation, said officers with the Ellensburg Police Department caught up with and interviewed a witness later that month.

The witness said Barajas and several others allegedly were at the witness’ apartment near the parking lot that night.

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Group urges no on fire bond, wants middle school issues addressed first

(Written with Lauren  Takores)

A new political action committee is urging residents to vote against Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue’s bond for a new fire station until issues surrounding Morgan Middle School are resolved.

Voters will decide in April whether to approve a $6.7 million bond for a new fire station on Mountain View Avenue.

Middle School First, a political committee formed by local attorney Theresa Petrey, asks residents to vote against the fire bond and other bonds until funding for a new or remodeled middle school is approved. Another school bond vote may come in 2015.

“It’s really hard to say ‘no’ to a firefighter,” Petrey said. “Until the middle school issue is resolved, everyone should step in line and wait.”

She and Debbie Strand, Middle School First treasurer, were involved with school district issues as members of the Cost Transparency Committee, an independent group that studied financial and communication issues surrounding the failed middle school bond in 2013.

Right now, the only official members of Middle School First are Petrey and Strand. The group is not affiliated or connected with the Ellensburg School District.

“I’ve had a lot of people say this is a good idea,” Petrey said, adding people have said they are concerned about backlash if they publicly support the effort.

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Arrest made in stabbing at CWU; Mattawa man held in Grant County on separate charge

Officers arrested a man Friday in connection with the fatal stabbing last summer of Ellensburg resident Hector Mejia Villa.

Law enforcement officers in Grant County arrested Michael Angel Barajas, 21, of Mattawa on Friday on a warrant for second-degree murder. He’s being held in Grant County on a separate warrant for second-degree assault there.

Central Washington University Police found Villa, 23, in a campus parking lot July 20 suffering from stab wounds, and he died in the hospital the next morning.

Villa was not a university student or employee.

Chris Herion and Candace Hooper, deputy prosecutors in the Kittitas County Prosecutor’s Office, said the county will talk with Grant County officials today about bringing Barajas to Kittitas County.

CWU police Chief Mike Luvera declined to comment specifically on the arrest.

“I’m pleased at this point and we have some work to do,” he said.

CWU Public Affairs Director Linda Schactler forwarded requests for information onto the prosecutor’s office, and complimented the combined efforts of the different law enforcement organizations in the county in the seven-month investigation.

CWU police led the effort, with assistance from the Ellensburg Police Department and Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office.

Personnel from the county search and rescue team, and dive-trained sheriff’s deputies, helped search the area around the parking lot at D Street and 14th Avenue late July.

Villa left behind two young children, a son and daughter.

Family and friends raised $10,000 to bring his body to Mexico, where his parents live, for a burial in August.

Read the story at the Daily Record’s website.

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Mayor can’t apply for city manager, state law says he must be off Council a year

Ellensburg Mayor and City Council member Rich Elliott will not apply for the city’s vacant city manager position, citing a state law prohibiting current Council members from throwing their hats in for the job.

“No person elected to membership on the council shall be eligible for appointment as city manager until one year has elapsed following the expiration of the term for which he or she was elected,” state law reads.

Elliott, also the deputy chief for Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue, earlier said he would excuse himself from Council meetings until his application was rejected or the city found a new manager to keep the hiring process fair.

Elliott withdrew his request to excuse himself from meetings Tuesday, and participated in the Council’s discussion.

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