Down two gas stations, Inchelium District tribal members must choose between Rainbow Beach Resort, 10 miles west, or Tribal Trails Noisy Waters, 27 miles north and nearly a dollar cheaper.
INCHELIUM – You’d better hope you have at least a couple gallons of gas in the tank if you live in Inchelium.
If you’re just visiting, even more.
Residents of the 410-person town have to drive 10-miles west to Rainbow Beach Resort, where gas prices are $3.11 a gallon for tribal members, 20 cents more for non-members. Two only two gas stations in town, The Short Stop and Green’s Service Station closed in May and June, respectively.
“I hated to leave the community stuck with nothin’,” Green’s owner Duane “Buddy” Crinklaw said. “We knew this was coming.”
Nyomi Swan, a bartender at the Twin Lakes Tavern near Rainbow Beach, was filling up enough gas to get out to Tribal Trails Noisy Waters, 27 miles north, where prices were as low as $2.21 a gallon.
“It sucks,” she said of the current gas situation. “I don’t like coming up here anyways because it’s too much. Tomorrow morning I’m going to drive out to Kettle Falls to get gas.”
Clem Nicholas, who lives in Barnaby Creek 15 minutes north of Inchelium—and 10 more from Rainbow Beach—was visiting a friend in town and didn’t want to chance it on the way home.
“I need gas, so I’m only going to get so much,” he said. “They’re pretty high up here. It is kind of rough with there being no gas down town.
“I’ve never run out (of gas) yet, and I don’t want to start now [laughing].”
Darlae Finley, who had her niece Taya with her, filled her tank at Rainbow, but regretted it after finding out the prices at Tribal Trails.
“I’ve been keepin’ my tank full,” she said, laughing.
To top it off, Rainbow Beach is only open until 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, a schedule adopted on Aug. 31, according to its Facebook page. Friday through Sunday, it stays open until 7.
“It sucks,” Kara Finley commented on the Tribune’s Facebook inquiry for comments. “Rainbow even shortened their hours so u need to plan in advance.”
Jeannette Finley followed with, “I think they should open early and stay open longer, since they are the only gas station for miles.”
The Inchelium District, part of four that compose the Colville Indian Reservation, held a tribal-member only vote earlier this year, selecting five projects to execute using a $1 million fund from a 2012 settlement with the federal government deemed the “Qwam Qwampt” fund. A purchase of Green’s Service Station made the cut, only to be rejected by the Colville Business Council because it lacked a business plan.
Crinklaw, with the assistance of community members, got a business plan together this month. The Council accepted it, and will consider adopting it into the budget for fiscal year 2016, according to Crinklaw, which begins on Oct. 1.
For the first time in the history of the town, it could have a card-lock system gas pump, which would allow for 24-hour access, Crinklaw said.
“Everything’s wired right out here to do the card-lock,” he said, “but I ran out of money. All we need is the controller to run the dispensers. I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re gonna end up spending $25,000 to $30,000 to finish it with the new stuff you have to do to keep people from ripping off the cards.”
But some tribal members in the community are upset that the fund has to be used for something they believe the Tribe should purchase, even though the Tribes’ business wing, the Colville Tribal Federal Corporation, operates Rainbow Beach Resort and Tribal Trails Noisy Waters (Kettle Falls).
“(I don’t like that) we have to spend our (Qwam Qwampt) money to put a gas station here,” Dayna Seymour commented on the Tribune’s Facebook. “The other districts didn’t have to. CFED should be putting pumps at our store so we can get gas here and at the tribal discount.”
Georgia Simpson was also searching for answers from the corporation.
“I am thinking that the CFEDS should come over here and explain what their plans are,” she said. “And make sure they are almost out of gas, not enough to go back up Twin Lakes and almost not enough to go to Tribal Trails. Then see if it’s fund to try to get gas.”
One solution offered by Chante Westerman would be for the town to allow golf carts and side by side ATVs for use on roads.
A COMMUNITY NEED
Aside from gasoline, Crinklaw said the community has a major need for vehicle service. He believes the community saw that when it voted to purchase the service station.
“(They need) little stuff just to keep their cars on the road,” he said. “Most people work their tails off just to get by. They don’t have brand new cars with warranties and new tires…. They can’t afford that stuff.”
Crinklaw, who has operated the facility for more than 40 years—including leasing the service portion off and on—recalled a time when Mac Seymour drove the senior van, a service of the tribal government, to his business.
Tribal elder Josie Boyd was seeking an oil change, but a more immediate concern became evident when the van pulled in.
“I just happened to be outside and I saw these front tires go, ‘wompity, wompity, womp’,” he said. “And I thought, ‘What the heck is that!’”
“It’s been doin’ that,” Crinklaw recalled Seymour saying.
“So I said, ‘Hang on, let me get under there,’” Crinklaw recalled. “I jacked it up and gave the tire rod a kick and it just fell. I thought, ‘Oh boy. Halfway to Colville that would have fell off and wrecked.’”
Crinklaw purchased and installed the part, because the senior program didn’t have any money, he said.
Now that he is too ill to continue operating the business, and the tribal district is moving to purchase his business, Crinklaw feels grateful.
“I really enjoyed all these years with the people,” he said. “They’re not just customers, they’re friends and family. You couldn’t ask for a better place.
“And they’re damn willing to step up and help you if you need it too—you can bet on that.”