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

Budget, road repair approved


December 10, 2015

by Rick Nelson

Wahkiakum County commissioners worked through a variety of business Tuesday ranging from adopting their 2016 budgets to approving emergency road repair.

No one from the public attended the board's budget hearing, held on Monday in accord with state law. According to meeting minutes, Auditor Diane Tischer and Sheriff Mark Howie asked the board to increase the 5 percent raise they'd budgeted for department heads, the first raise for them in nearly 10 years.

There were a few other adjustments totaling $2,399.

Commissioners adjourned the special meeting and took up the budget again in their regular meeting Tuesday. They quickly passed a motion to adopt the budget with the few adjustments but without the extra raise which the officials had requested.

In the public comment period, Puget Island and Little Cape Horn residents asked for a progress report on efforts to get the US Army Corps of Engineers to permit disposal of dredged sand on their eroding shorelines.

Commissioner Dan Cothren responded that consultants from Coast and Harbor Engineering were doing the scoping needed to start the local application process.

However, Cothren said, Corps officials have failed to respond for two weeks to his repeated phone calls to request updates on Corps progress. This has destroyed his trust in the process, he said.

"I'm tired of this," he said to the residents. "You folks are losing land, and they're sitting up there and they don't have the decency to return my phone calls.

"Right now, I've no trust. They're probably working on stuff, but we don't know it."

Two items needing attention are a memorandum of understanding between the county and the Corps for the project and a right-of-entry form to take to residents for them to allow dredging crews to work on their shorelines. Both are held up in legal reviews, commissioners said.

Commissioners fear further delays could set the project back to 2017.

Cothren said he would try to set up a meeting with Corps officials and representatives of Congresswoman Jamie Herrera Beutler and Senator Maria Cantwell.

Commissioners also suggested the residents write to the federal representatives to request their intervention, and at Commissioner Mike Backman's suggested, a letter writing workshop was scheduled next Wednesday at 9:30 a.m.

The board voted to approve a proposed interlocal agreement to set up a three-county economic development district.

Under the agreement, Wahkiakum will join Lewis and Cowlitz counties in the organization, which will channel state economic development funds to local entities.

Commissioners discussed the process and candidates for filling a spot on the state Board of Natural Resources allocated to a commissioner from a county which has state-managed trust timber.

The current representative, Clallam County Commissioner Jim McEntire, wasn't re-elected, and commissioners from the timber counties need to fill the position.

There are two candidates, commissioners said.

One is Cowlitz County Commissioner Dennis Weber; the second is Clallam County Commissioner Bill Peach.

In his statement of interest, Weber listed a variety positions he has held which include natural resource responsibilities.

In his statement, Peach noted he was a forest engineer and retired after 27 years as Clallam regional manager for a major timber company.

Although Wahkiakum commissioners will formally vote next week, they voiced appreciation for Peach's forestry career.

"I think he'd do an excellent job," commented Cothren, who is chair of the timber counties committee. "We have to have someone with the knowledge to challenge some of the stuff that comes out at the board meetings."

The Cathlamet clinic of the Cowlitz Family Health Center has had a good financial year, Center Executive Director Dian Cooper told the board of commissioners.

The clinic should have "net positive income" for 2015, she said; other Health Center clinics haven't done as well. Overall, the center is facing a financial challenge because of a re-appropriation of funding, she said.

Meanwhile, center staff are aggressively recruiting and trying to find a service provider for the Cathlamet clinic.

With the county's public works director and the county engineer out of the area at a meeting, road crew Foreman Dean Seaberg notified the board that a slide was developing on the western end of Loop Road.

At Seaberg's suggestion, the board authorized him to place warning signs, fill a ditch so that it could bear traffic, narrow the road to one-lane traffic, and close the road to local residents only.

Seaberg also suggested the county be ready to open Chamberlain Road, a private logging road, to emergency traffic, in case the road slides out and flooding cuts off the eastern end. Cothren said he would take care of that.


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