Othello names new council member

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Charles H. Featherstone/Sun Tribune - Maria Quezada, 28, manager of the Columbia Bank‘s Othello branch, was appointed to the Othello City Council on Monday.

OTHELLO — The Othello City Council’s newest member is 28-year-old bank manager and mother of two, Maria Quezada.

Quezada was appointed to the council in unanimous vote at a regular meeting on Monday to fill the seat vacated by the death of Larry McCourtie in early November.

McCourtie was 78.

“This is the community I plan to be in, to raise my family in,” said Quezada, who graduated from Othello High School in 2008. “I want to continue to be involved and teach my children to be involved.”

Quezada is currently the branch manager of the Columbia Bank branch in Othello, and has worked as a banker in Othello since graduating from high school. She has also volunteered with the city’s chamber of commerce for the last six years, and spent a lot of time helping to organize city events as well.

“I’m raising a family here, so sports is a passion,” she told city council members.

“I want to give back to a community that has given so much to my family and myself,” she said.

Quezada was one of four applicants for the empty council seat, which included realtor and former USDA soil specialist Heleodoro Garza, chief clinical officer at Columbia Basin Hospital Dulcye Field, and retired executive chef Troy Camp. The council interviewed each applicant for about ten minutes before going into executive session to consider the matter.

“This is the most that I have ever seen,” Mayor Shawn Logan said of the number of applicants. “Usually, it’s only one. To have four is just terrific.”

The council also passed its $22.6 million budget for 2019. The budget includes $6 million in the general fund ($2.9 million for law enforcement), $10.8 million for water ($8.5 million for well and other water projects, much of the funding from loans and grants), $2.3 million for sewer, and $1.3 million for solid waste.

The city will also raise $1.7 million in property taxes from residents in 2019, an increase of $30,000 from the previous year, according to Spencer Williams, Othello’s finance manager.

Logan also told council members that the well being drilled to replace Well 3 — known as Well 3R — should be ready to add to the city’s water supply next May or June.

However, Well 3 will not be abandoned, Logan said. Despite being crooked — the reason for its replacement — the well will be used to test how a future aquifer storage and recovery system might work for the city.

Logan said the city will pump water our of Well 3R and pump it right back into the ground using Well 3, which is 75 feet away.

“The engineer tells us that will give us an adequate model to see how the injection system affects the city’s wells,” Logan said.

If the city can secure the funding, Othello officials hope to build a facility that will treat wastewater very close to pure, and then store that treated water underground, where it can be pumped out and reused.

Othello is currently seeking $1.5 million in funding for a small pilot treatment project.

The upcoming well test will give the city “a good indication of what we can accomplish with future injections,” according to Councilmember John Lallas.

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