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Did business get special treatment?

Letter to the Editor


Last updated 1/6/2016 at 10:37am

A program by King 5 News recently raised the question of whether the Gebbers family business (in Brewster) received “special treatment” (by the state Dept. of Natural Resources) in receiving $1.9 million for use of their untrained employees and equipment to fight fire during the Carlton Complex fires. Our state auditor found that normally-expected information wasn’t included in this contract with DNR. Even in the heat of the moment, why would apparently untrained Gebbers’ employees be paid good wages for firefighting when even experienced citizen firefighters were told to stand down?

When the Board of County Commissioners discussed the King 5 program on 12/21/15, the BOCC stated that they thought Gebbers Farms had a cooperative agreement placing them on priority status for fighting fires. Is there really such an agreement? Do other companies have the same opportunity? Who proposed the contract we are hearing about, and who wrote it?

Gebbers are the world’s largest grower of cherries, apples, and pears. Does this mean they receive special treatment from our state government, or is there another explanation for such apparent privilege? Do the family’s corporations have undue influence at the county level regarding vacation and paving of roads and county land-use decisions? How could this affect citizens such as Chiliwist residents, who barely escaped with their lives during the Carlton Complex fires?

Last year in the Chronicle, (then-editor and publisher) Roger Harnack wrote in support of promoting governmental transparency. It seems that our local press could research and publish some accurate information on these important questions, especially as the 2016 commissioners’ elections approach.

As citizens of this county, we need to be more involved and become knowledgeable about how our county government makes decisions. Do our commissioners make decisions that are in our best interest? Or are decisions made in the best interest of Gebbers businesses, leading to the loss of our voices? Our democracy requires citizens to be informed and to participate. Let’s have commissioners who are transparent and responsive to our Okanogan citizens.

Gay Northrup



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