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

Legislators discuss local concerns with officials and citizens

 

December 7, 2017

Rick Nelson

State Rep. Brian Blake, left, and Sen. Dean Takko visited the county board of commissioners on Tuesday to discuss local issues and concerns.

For 90 minutes Tuesday, Wahkiakum County officials and residents discussed issues with District 19 members of the state legislators.

Topics included management of fish and game, limits on property taxes, encumbered county trust timberland, beach nourishment, funding of state mandates, consolidation of health care services, funding for 911 emergency dispatching and others.

The meeting was sponsored by the Washington State Association of Counties as a means of making sure legislators hear local concerns and issues.

Legislators in attendance were Senator Dean Takko and Representative Brian Blake.

Commissioner Dan Cothren started the conversation by presenting a letter to the legislators urging them to put pressure on the state Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to shorten hunting seasons on deer and elk.

Disease has reduced the deer and elk populations, Cothren said; elk have been devastated by hoof rot disease. Nevertheless, hunters are after the animals from September into January.

"It's so out of hand here," he said. "It's pathetic.

"We're at the point right now where enough is enough."

He recommended there be no hunting of cow elk, there be not either sex deer season, and an overall shortening of hunting seasons. Two citizens supported his comments.

Commissioner Mike Backman raised similar concerns with management of salmon and steelhead fisheries.

"It's the same frustration," Backman said. The department keeps hiring more people, but nothing gets done."

He suggested that to improve the number of returning salmon, recreational fishers should have restrictions similar to those laid on the commercial industry.

"Make it about fish," he said. "Once it hurts everybody, there will be a solution. Now they're not worried about escapement; it's about appeasing a small group."

Speakers laid blame on the governor and the fish and wildlife commission.

Salmon buyer Robert Sudar has been active for years in harvest issues, and for the fish and wildlife commission, "Politics is more important than science in decision making," he said. "We have to make them follow the science on these issues."

Takko and Blake sympathized with the comments.

Blake urged the county board to be vocal with the sate commission.

"Send letters to the fish and wildlife commission," Blake said. "Your commission has a lot of power.""

He added that new members of the fish and wildlife commission should be more open to local input on management issues.

"There's an urban-rural divide," Takko said. "It's frustrating; it really is."

The statutory limit on raising property taxes more than 1 percent hurts local government funding, officials said.

Sheriff Mark Howie commented that his budgets, which include jail, dispatching and law enforcement, take up 70 percent of the Current Expense Fund budget.

"Our costs go up 2.5 percent every year, and we can only go up 1 percent," he said. "The gap just keeps getting bigger. When that initiative was passed, there were unattended consequences."

"I think everybody who looked at it knew what would happen," Takko replied.

Voters play a role, he added, for in one election, they voted to cut taxes and they also voted to increase teacher pay statewide.

"What do you want us to do," Blake asked. "Do you want authority to raise taxes more than 1 percent?"

"We'd like it that you fund your mandates," Backman replied.

"We're getting mixed messages," Blake said. "Some officials say they want the authority but they add they'll never use it."

The conversation covered a variety of other issues, with legislators outlining what's being done on those issues, or as in the case of federally managed beach nourishment, urging local people to contact the federal representatives.

Commissioners thanked Blake and Takko for attending, and they thanked them for the efforts they've made in Olympia.

"You guys have done a lot for us," Cothren said. "You're great."

 

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