Without enough time to plan the National Lentil Festival this year, the Pullman Chamber of Commerce may instead try to organize a smaller events in August to welcome Washington State University students back to campus.
Pullman Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Marie Dymkoski discussed this during the chamber’s Pullman State of the City address Tuesday.
With Whitman County still in Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s phased COVID-19 recovery plan, and with uncertainty about when restrictions will be lifted, Dymkoski said there is too little time to prepare for one of Pullman’s biggest annual events.
“We have not been able to really plan a Lentil Festival as we’ve had in the past, so even if everything got lifted tomorrow, we would not be ready,” she said. “I mean, it takes 10-11 months just to plan from one year to the next.”
Instead, she said, the city may partner with local restaurants, retailers and musicians to hold events in smaller settings to welcome back students.
COVID-19 was a running theme of the annual address, which included presentations from Pullman Mayor Glenn Johnson, City Administrator Mike Urban and Planning Director RJ Lott.
Johnson praised essential workers for continuing to provide public services through the pandemic. These include police, firefighters, sanitation workers and employees in public works and transit.
“All this time period all the essential services were there for you,” he said,
A few city employees contracted COVID-19, but most were able to isolate and recover, he said. One police officer, however, ended up in an intensive care unit and was out of work for three months.
Johnson commended Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories for running vaccination clinics and providing COVID-19 test results quickly.
Pullman was able to receive financial assistance in the form of federal CARES Act money and grants. Grants in particular allowed Pullman to hire two paramedics last year, and a recent FEMA grant allowed the city to hire three firefighters.
Throughout the pandemic, Johnson said, the city has collaborated with leaders from Whitman County, Washington State University, the chamber and Pullman Regional Hospital “to do the best we can for our communities.”
Johnson spoke about the accomplishments of the Pullman Parks and Recreation Department, which include maintaining the parks, operating a preschool program used by 48 families, and opening the new recreation center on Crestview Street.
He also said the Reaney Park pool will be open June 12 and the pool’s shower building will undergo renovations this year.
Johnson added that the Pullman Parks and Recreation Department learned two weeks ago it is the recipient of the Washington Recreation and Park Association Spotlight Award, which recognizes achievements by parks and recreation agencies.
Johnson gave a brief update on the Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport, which will offer a third Alaska Airlines flight to Seattle starting May 20. That flight will depart at 5:30 p.m.
After COVID-19 significantly reduced the number of passengers last year, planes at the airport are back to being 70 percent full, Johnson said.
Airport Director Tony Bean is continuing to talk to United Airlines to offer Denver flights at the airport and is working with the University of Idaho to persuade Alaska Airlines to provide flights to Boise.
In other news, Pullman is expecting to receive two electric buses in the coming weeks that are being mostly paid for with grants.
Solar panels installed on top of the recreation building will save the city $10,000 a year on its electricity bills.
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