County adopts road plans, 2014 budgets
Wahkiakum County commissioners formally passed their 2014 budgets on Tuesday after approving road construction plans, a 14-year plan for ferry service, and hearing a request from Assessor Bill Coons.
Adopting the annual and six-year road construction programs is required before the board can adopt budgets, and the board delayed action from last week to hold public hearings on the programs.
Public Works Director Pete Ringen said the annual program includes 12 projects with a total cost of $7 million. Most of that would be state and federal funds, with the county responsible for, if all projects were funded, $270,000.
Projects on the list include ferry construction, $6.3 million; ferry ramp modification, $416,000; finishing Loop Road stabilization, $20,000; realigning Ingalls Road/SR 4 intersection, $71,000; Elochoman Road realignment--engineering and right of way purchase, $37,000; Clear Creek fish passage, $10,000 for engineering; upper Elochoman Road culvert replacement, $4,000; West Deep River Road erosion repair, $30,000; Oneida Road culvert replacement, $28,000; Wirkkala Road culvert replacement, $3,000; small construction, $39,000, and major culvert replacements across the county, $70,000.
Some projects would carry over into 2015. The Elochoman Road/Clear Creek project would be planned in 2014 and constructed in 2015, if complete funding can be obtained. The estimated construction for the Clear Creek project is $830,000.
Also in the 2015 program is asphalting a portion of Columbia Street, and the remainder would be paved in 2016.
Construction of a new ferry, the Oscar B., is scheduled for 2014 with completion in 2015. In the meantime, Wahkiakum County will need to modify the Puget Island landing to accommodate the new vessel, and Clatsop County, Ore., will rebuild the Westport landing.
Timing is tricky, Ringen commented, for the two states allow in-water construction at different times to avoid impact on migrating fish.
Commission Chair commented that the state County Road Administration Board (CRAB), which awards funding for road projects around the state, has asked how the county plans to fund replacement of the new ferry.
Ringen said the 14-Year Ferry Plan includes annual payments to the Equipment Rental Revolving Fund, starting when the new ferry comes into service. Payments would start at $128,700 and increase to $160,799 in 2027.
The board also discussed a possible fare increase; Ringen said it has been three years since fares were increased, and regular ferry patrons have said they prefer smaller incremental increases over widely spaced large increases.
Assessor Bill Coons repeated an earlier request to promote a half-time appraiser to full-time status, but the board approved the budget without implementing the request.
Coons pointed out that in 2014 the office will have to revalue the whole county instead of one quarter of it as has been done under the traditional four-year cycle. The annual revaluation will keep property values closer to market values.
However, it will be a lot more work for the office, Coons said. Promoting the half-time appraiser to full-time will cost less than $5,000, he said.
Commissioners rejected the request for now. They commented that other departments had made similar requests, and they're diverting $200,000 of the County Road Levy to the Current Expense Fund because revenues won't cover expenses.
"How do I get what I need," Coons asked. "Do I transfer funds in my budget?" What do we do here?"
"You're still on hold," replied Commissioner Dan Cothren. "There are other issues out there. Come back later. We could still do an amendment to the budget."
In other business Tuesday, the board met in executive session to discuss acquisition of real estate. Upon reconvening in open session, the board took no action.
The board also rejected a claim for damages from a man who, with a passenger, was injured when his motorcycle reached the end of the Elochoman Valley Road and went onto an unpaved road. Prosecuting Attorney Dan Bigelow said he and the county's insurer agree that the county has no obligation to post warning signs at the end of paved county roads. The claimant's next course would be to file suit, he said.