When You’re Not Looking

Often people stop me in my activities around town and ask, “What’s going on at the City?”

People want to hear, “We’re building a community center” or maybe “We’re building a parking garage” or even better, “We’ve completely figured out how to stop rude tourists from pooping all over town.” Right? You want to know the project you want is getting done and anything less is rather boring.

Who wants to know about processing your sewer water? 

Well that’s what I’m here to do today - be a little uninspiring and yet, make you proud to be a Leavenworthian and tell you about what the City is taking care of when you’re not looking. 

So here’s the list of the mundane, yet critical work your local government is doing for you right now:


Every single day of the year the City is sending clean, clear water to your door. It comes from two sources: our water plant on the Icicle River or from our wells on the Wenatchee River ground water. We are lucky to have these two, well balanced sources and the water rights along with them. In a long term effort, the water team has been working to:

  • Get back unjustly lost water rights from the Wenatchee River

  • Utilize more of our current water rights from the Icicle River

  • Expand our water rights on the Icicle

  • Update our water plant (which is small and very old)

  • Update/replace miles and miles of OLD pipe/transmission lines

  • Update residential water meters and reading system to help make up for our current 20% loss of water

All of these projects are time consuming, collaborative work that have been in process for many years and will continue for many to come. This critical work is ensuring you continue to have safe and tasty water for generations to come.


As with our water treatment, our sewer system is processing your waste water every single day, all year long through the ebbs and flows of numbers of people in town flushing, washing, eating and generally sending fluctuating quantities of waste water down the pipes. Our waste treatment plant has won many awards and accolades for its high level of processing, releasing clean water back into the Wenatchee River. And we do all this with NO smell or notice from a plant that is right in town!

We are currently working to upgrade our plant to extract phosphorous from our waste water during warm months. This requirement is to protect the river ecosystem. The City Council approved our Wastewater, Sewer and Facility Plan in 2017 to begin this project. Construction will be complete by 2020.


Coming out of the winter season, we’ve been able to see the snow plowing our City Crews take care of. With a small team, they make sure all the main arterials, side streets, alleys, sidewalks and other walkways are clear of snow all season long. Sometimes it takes days after a big storm to get everything clear!

Through the rest of the year our crews also focus on general maintenance as well as planning. They do project planning because we do small street repair projects every year! In 2010 the voters approved a sales tax to a Transportation Benefit District that allows us to activate grant money and annually upgrade and repair our small streets (check out my blog article Repairing the Road). We also do one big upgrade project every 5 to 8 years. Our current Pine Street project is more like a 10 year project, that one is not just big, it’s HUGE. Check out our Six Year Plan and other streets info on the City website!

Waste Collection

We just got out of the residential garbage business! The City signed a contract with Waste Management to begin residential garbage and recycling (voluntary) collection February 2019.

Because of our unique downtown, commercial garbage pick up is also unique. Sometimes it is required multiple times daily, sometimes just a few times each week. The City Sanitary Crews are committed to a high level of service to our downtown businesses.

In order to reduce landfill trash and to protect our community within the Apple Maggot Quarantine we offer free commercial cardboard recycling, free single stream recycling and free yard waste pick up! (Leavenworth sits on the boarder of the quarantine area, so it is a management challenge for us.)

  • Commercial cardboard is picked up along with the garbage

  • Single stream recycling drop off is at our recycling center on 14th Street

  • Yard Waste pick ups are in the Spring and Fall.

Check out our City website for more information on all these programs!

Financial Management

Finance is something that everyone cares about and no one wants to deal with, right? We are so lucky to have a very strong finance team at the City. They have built up our investments and savings, carefully managed our debt ratio, and thoughtfully budgeted between our diverse funds. We have an impressive Standard and Poor AA financial rating, which means it costs us less to do big projects!

As a small city we have very unique income, all thanks to our tourist economy. Most cities have their main income source from property taxes. Our money comes from a big mix, no one thing much more than another.

  • We utilize our sales taxes much more than most cities

  • We ensure each department pays for itself (water fees for water use, etc.)

  • We maximize grants for every project possible

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We are audited biannually by the Washington State Auditor’s office and have had reports of non-significance for many years. Check out more info and our audit reports on the City website!


Development in Leavenworth is a diverse endeavor. On the one hand, we have a very healthy economy that is attracting large commercial investment. On the other hand, we have a small residential population of almost 2,000 people. Juxtaposition these two elements and you get a sense that Leavenworth is unbalanced in development focus, but that is not the case.

Comprehensive Land Use Planning is a mouthful, but it means exactly what it sounds like. We look comprehensively at all built elements of our city, integrate our community’s culture and future goals, and come up with a plan for rules governing how we build on our land. Our Comp Plan was written in the 1990’s with the community and is updated about every 7 years. We just went through our community update in 2017.

Our City Code is the specific rules today that help drive us toward those Comp Plan goals. It is a living document, changing a little each year as we find elements that need more clarity, consistency, less redundancy, better focus on our goals, etc. Many of you have likely done projects where you’ve run into struggles or frustrations because the intent doesn’t seem to mach the rule. It is a work in progress. And the most important parts of our Development Teams’ process are:

  • Follow the code and ensure fairness

  • Bring code issues to the Council/community for improvements

  • Keep our goals in mind! We derive our decisions from that community, goal setting process of building our Comp Plan.


There are four parks and a boat launch in our City. Our parks crews keep these parks in amazing shape, particularly considering they are all rather large and highly used. From bathroom maintenance to watering and trimming the grass, we are so lucky to have such a detail oriented team keeping our parks at this high standard. Soccer, biking, Lion’s breakfast, community gatherings, we can do it all in these wonderful community spaces.

In the past couple years our Parks Crews have brought some automation to our parks. Utilizing technology to make sure the bathrooms get locked on time and the grass is not over watered has been a time, money and water saving project!

In addition to the ongoing maintenance, the Parks Crew does project panning. We have done big improvements every year for the past few:

  • pump track

  • skate park

  • waterfront playground

  • enchantment lighting and field drainage

On our future projects lists are Lion’s Park shelter refurbish, Front Street lawn improvement, Waterfront trail exercise stations, and more!


The most important part of our city is you! All the work of our local government is to keep life healthy and safe. The fun part is us. When we are engaged in the processes of governing ourselves, we have a little more understanding, a little more empathy for a neighbor, and a lot more cohesive goals for building our future together.

Thank you to all my friends and neighbors who come out to council meetings, ask tough questions, volunteer, raise children, recreate and shop in town. All of these things build us up. And I am so lucky to be a part of this amazing community!