Wahkiakum County officials are still evaluating their choice of design for a new county ferry.
The problem revolves around how much work they want to do and how much they want to spend to match the new ferry with the new ramp built two years ago at the Puget Island landing.
In other business Tuesday, commissioners dealt with a variety of issues relating to county Health and Human Services Department (H&HS). With the imminent hiring of a new full-time director of H&HS, they voted to terminate the consulting contract with interim Director Sherri McDonald, and they heard Dian Cooper, executive director of the Cowlitz Family Health Center, discuss that group's summer doldrums.
In regard to the new ferry, commissioners said they would continue discussions at their September 18 meeting with a goal of making a decision on one of two ferry designs and how big of a truck combination they can handle.
At the start of 2009, commissioners authorized Elliott Bay Design Group to design the new ferry. In the meantime, another firm, David Evans and Associates, designed a new ramp which has been constructed. Subsequently David Evans engineers calculated that the ramp would be too steep at low water to accommodate chip trucks.
After discussions with county officials, Elliott Bay engineers began revising their design to have a vessel that floats higher in the water.
According to information from Public Works Director Pete Ringen, the redesigned vessel would cost about $450,000 more than the orginal design.
However, the project is on a timeline, and going back to the original design would cause a delay.
Also, the vessel as originally designed probably won't handle the large trucks that commissioners envisioned.
"It's anecdotal, but the sense from David Evans and Associates is that it wouldn't be as good as it is now," Ringen said.
In a memo last Friday to Ringen, David Evans recommended the county go with the new 2012 hull design because it would accommodate a wider variety of vehicles than the original design.
"With this design, the sag angle at the apron is reduced due to the greater amount of freeboard/smaller amount of draft, which is an advantage for all vehicles and especially problem vehicles such as motorhomes with long rear overhangs, passenger vehicles with low clearance, and cars or trucks pulling trailers," the memo said.
"It is our recommendation that the new ferry boat hull design provide the same amount of deck height/freeboard as the existing Wahkiakum ferry, at least at the bow and stern in order to work with the ramp and apron that was recently construction. Otherwise, vehicles are going to encounter a steeper apron and deeper angle between apron and ferry deck, resulting in more dragging of low clearance vehicles."
Commissioners expressed varied concerns in their discussion.
Commissioner Lisa Marsyla said she wanted to understand the costs and ramifications of the construction. The extra funds needed for the 2012 hull design would take money away from other county road projects, and it would take years for federal and state sources to rebuild the reserve.
Commissioner Dan Cothren echoed that concern, saying the county needed to have adequate funds to respond in the case of severe storm damage.
Commissioner Blair Brady said he wanted to determine who was accountable for lack of compatible designs for the new ferry and ramp. He said he had asked Prosecuting Attorney Dan Bigelow to review documents and make a recommendation.
Ringen commented that the problem was that there were two firms designing different products and "we didn't have control over each organization to make sure they were working in sync.
"They said there might be an issue and they think they can handle it in some easy fashion," Ringen said, "and then a couple years later, the issue resurfaces and it's still not resolved."
Brady said he would recant earlier opposition to going with the new, more costly design.
"I will support going with the redesign that will carry semi trucks," he said.
Ringen said a decision could wait two more weeks. Brady said he would seek more information and a comment from the prosecuting attorney. Cothren asked that a representative of the ferry skippers weigh in.
"I think we're all very supportive of the ferry," Marsyla said. "It's just how we do this the most effective way for all the county."