The Wahkiakum County board of commissioners on Tuesday followed up on issues affecting the county assessor's office and heard a report on the health of the Cathlamet Family Health Center.
The board signed a letter to the Board of Equalization supporting that board's intention to work on equalizing property assessments on Puget Island.
"This concurrence is based on the volume of appeals filed with the BOE by Puget Island land owners and differences found by the BOE between sale prices and the 2010 valuations certified by the office of the assessor," the letter said.
"At our commission meeting on February 22, you presented a plan to equalize the 2011 valuations for Puget Island properties during your mandated 28-day period beginning on July 15, 2011," the letter continues. "We approve of your strategy to establish property classifications, vary sales data, establish classification values and calculate equalize assessments for each property on the island."
Bill Coons, who won election as assessor last fall and took office in January, informed the board that he planned to contract with a temporary clerk to help the office clear up errors on tax statements that were just mailed to taxpayers.
Coons said Tuesday there had been errors made in data typed into the office's new computer program, and he had just learned of the errors. He had tried to stop the statements from being mailed, but a miscommunication prevented that.
"People are coming in every day," he said. "We're not moving forward. We're moving backward. This is an emergency, and we need to deal with it."
Coons is running ads and trying to contact tax payers to have them check their statements for errors.
Coons said he would use the professional fees line in his budget, which has $22,000 in it, to cover the expense.
Commissioners Lisa Marsyla and Dan Cothren, however, were unhappy with the plan.
They commented that they had just learned of it, and that they felt the person should be an employee, not a contracted worker, and they are the only ones who can authorize the addition of employees to the county pay roll.
They sought an analysis from Prosecuting Attorney Dan Bigelow, who said he had discussed the matter with Coons.
Bigelow said the person could be hired either as a contractor or an employee.
Marsyla said she wanted to make sure the person met the standards for a contractor as outlined by the Internal Revenue Service so that the county didn't assume any employment liability.
"It should be adequately controlled," Bigelow said. "I'm writing the contract."
In other business Tuesday, Dian Cooper, executive director of the Cowlitz Family Health Center, and Julie Nye, manager of the center's clinic in Cathlamet, outlined changes in clinic staffing but denied rumors that the clinic is closing.
Cooper said the clinic's lead physician, Dr. Del Gardner, has submitted his resignation and that administrators are looking for a replacement. They said Dr. Gardner plans to relocate.
Cooper commented that the clinic is facing funding cuts in state and federal programs, but, "We're not in the position of cutting back our clinic hours or closing clinics."
She also reported that the center had lost $240,000 on the Cathlamet clinic last year, but that was expected. The revenue picture is already looking better for 2011, she said.