The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

By Rick Nelson
Wah. Co. Eagle 

County adding funds to bus, ferry programs


October 11, 2012

Wahkiakum County commissioners addressed a variety of topics in a quick meeting Tuesday.

The board approved steps that will increase funding for county services.

First, the board approved an amended contract with Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to add $93,750 to the Wahkiakum on the Move bus transportation program.

Project manager Chris Holmes said the funds were federal dollars that hadn't been obligated when the county and state signed the original contract. Total federal support for the program will be $187,500, Holmes said, and the program's 2013 budget will be based on this amount.

Overall, ridership continues to increase in the program, Holmes said, especially in the number of Lower Columbia College students. In 2013, program managers hope to purchase a new bus to replace an aging vehicle, and they hope to expand service in the Westend to make the overall schedule consistent.

Holmes said WSDOT staff find funds for the county bus system as part of a widespread consolidated grant. They want to support the program because it links transportation systems in Cowlitz and Pacific counties.

"The state has really treated us well in finding funding for us," he said.

If the federal funding were to disappear, the county program would probably be reduced by half, Holmes said, including a reduction in the three or four daily trips to Longview to just two.

Overall, the program anticipates $187,500 from both state and federal agencies and a $55,942 county appropriation for a total of $430,942 for a two-year period.

Second, the board agreed to hold a public hearing on an amendment to the Six-Year and Annual Road Construction Programs to accommodate an increase in ferry construction funds.

"WSDOT has notified the County that $123,649 from the federal fiscal years 2003-2006 DOT Appropriations Act will be reallocated to our ferry project." Public Works Director Pete Ringen told the board of commissioners.

The deadline for amendments to the contract is October 19, Ringen said, so the public hearing was scheduled for 11 a.m. next Tuesday in the commissioners' meeting room.

"The addition of these new federal funds to the project will reduce the amount of local funds needed by the same amount," Ringen said.

Commissioners also approved Ringen's recommendation that the county hire an engineering firm to oversee a construction project that calls for installation of guardrails and safety improvements on various county roads.

Ringen said county personnel will likely be busy with road work during the construction period, and the clerical staff is shorthanded at the moment. Project management calls for inspection of work and completion of reports to the federal funding agency to obtain grant funds.

Rosburg resident Art Hyland asked Ringen if he had any comment "on the hoops you have to go through" for project certification. "This whole thing is about paperwork," Hyland said.

Ringen agreed.

"It is a real frustration for my career," Ringen said. "It has gotten worse and worse."

Skamokawa resident Mike Linn commented that the paperwork is required because people are "so concerned about someone getting away with a nickel more than they should; they call it graft."

"There are also liability concerns for the project," commented Commissioner Lisa Marsyla.

The engineering consultant's service will cost $44,691; of that, Marsyla noted, $15,403 will be for construction inspection; the rest will be for paperwork.


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