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

By Rick Nelson
Wah. Co. Eagle 

Council debates food bank location


January 24, 2013

The Cathlamet Town Council discussed but didn't act upon a proposal to lease a town-owned lot to the Helping Hands Food Bank.

In other action, the council awarded a bid for remodeling the old town hall and library; the council upheld a variance granted by the town board of adjustment; the council gave conditioned approval to a new ordinance regulating signs, and the council rejected an ordinance of and a resolution authorizing the mayor to contract for forestry consulting services.

For almost a year, Helping Hands Food Bank directors have been asking the town to lease land where the non-profit agency can put a modular building to house a food bank.

Helping Hands currently rents the River Rat Tavern building at the foot of Broadway Street, but the building is for sale, and food bank directors fear they could be forced to move without having a place to go.

Helping Hands has requested a lease on a town lot at the intersection of Beal and 2nd Streets near the town public works department office.

When Helping Hands directors brought the request to the council last year, it was suggested the food bank be located in Erickson Park. However, after hearing public input and discussing the proposal, the council voted not to site the building in the park.

When Helping Hands renewed the request last fall, the matter was referred to Public Works Director Duncan Cruikshank. After inventorying town properties, he suggested locating the food bank in a wooded area between the Family Health Center and the Elochoman Slough Marina on land owned by the town and Port District 1.

On Tuesday, Helping Hands directors objected to the marina site and renewed their request for the site at Beal and Second streets.

The marina site isn't well suited for building, said Craig Brown, project coordinator for Helping Hands.

He cited an engineer's report prepared in 2002 for Port District 1 stating that the water table is three feet below the surface in the area, and that makes it cost prohibitive to construct a suitable foundation.

Fred Johnson, a member of the food bank board of directors, presented a map showing property lines in the marina area and said the site would be on land owned by the port district.

"We'd like a fair hearing on why this property (at 2nd and Beal) shouldn't be considered," he said.

Cruikshank commented he liked the marina site because it shared the sacrifice of property between the town, port district and Wahkiakum County; the town didn't bear full responsibility.

Mayor George Wehrfritz stated that the 2nd and Beal lot is on the Birnie Creek waterfront and could appreciate in value once the sewer lagoons are removed. That will create "huge opportunities for development," he said.

Councilmember Wally Wright said he is concerned about public parking in the area. The fire hall is near the 2nd and Beal site, and if it were pressed into service as an emergency management center, users might need the parking. Johnson responded that the food bank is only open to the public one day, there should be little competition for parking.

Councilmember Bob Rendler and county Commissioner Mike Backman said a person owning land in Rosedale may be willing to lease land for almost nothing. Johnson and Brown said they hadn't heard of the offer but would investigate.

However, Brown said Helping Hands needs to secure a site soon in order to meet April deadlines for grant funding applications.

Johnson and Brown also emphasized that they were asking for a lease, not a donation of land. Councilmembers Rendler and Wright said they had thought the group was seeking a donation, not a lease.

After more discussion, the council agreed to table the matter to its next meeting so that Helping Hands could check on other sites.

In other business:

--The council accepted the bid of Pacific Tech Construction in the amount of $369,957 to remodel the town hall and library building.

The council had tabled the issue from its December meeting to look into funding, for it had expected the project to cost about $260,000. Clerk/Treasurer Tina Schubert reported the council could use the Current Expense Cumulative Reserve Fund to pay for construction.

Librarian Connie Christopher and several members of the library advisory board spoke in favor of achieving the remodel, which, they said, would be a valuable asset for the community.


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