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

Council acts on trees, tables moratorium


February 23, 2017

Members of the Cathlamet Town Council addressed issues ranging from sewer and water rates to park safety when they met Tuesday for their February meeting.

Laurel Waller, proprietor of the Hotel Cathlamet, asked the council to include add water rates in a study of sewer rates now underway by a consulting firm; the council took no action on the request.

Waller presented 11 pages of data and analysis of hotel occupancy and water use to back up her recommendation that the council establish a rate that is more reflective of actual water usage, which, she said, is tied into sewer usage.

She pointed out that under current rates, a single family home with one resident pays the same sewer rate as a home with 10 people in it, even though the latter's quantity of sewage would be much higher. Further, businesses with few employees and lower usage pay a high rate compared to residences.

Councilmembers thanked her for the information but took no action.

Councilmember Dick Swart commented that the council had considered a similar concept about eight years ago but took no action.

"At this point, I think it's time to . . . take a look at it again," Swart said.

"We, as a council, have to consider all the alternatives," said Mayor Dale Jacobson. "If we lower one rate, we have to raise another. We have to consider things like that."

"I'm not asking you to lower my rate, just to compute it in a way that's more fair," Waller said.

The council tabled a recommendation to lift a moratorium on issuing building permits for the Phase 1 portion of the Columbia Ridge Estates off Columbia Street.

The council instituted the moratorium in 2010, saying the development's homeowners' association hadn't completed road improvement requirements. This was a concern to officers of the Cathlamet Fire Department who said emergency response vehicles couldn't adequately navigate the streets in the development, thereby endangering public safety.

Subsequently, the association completed the required paving, and recently retired Fire Chief Fred Johnson recommended lifting the moratorium in the Phase 1 portion of the development. The moratorium would stay in effect for the Phase 2, which hasn't had the street improvements.

The council seemed poised to approve the recommendation until Councilmember Bernadette Goodroe asked Public Works Director Duncan Cruickshank if parking was an issue in the area under consideration. Cruickshank responded that parking seemed adequate, but there were some vehicles parked in the turning circle at the end of the street that might cause trouble for a fire engine trying to turn around.

That raised a public safety concern with Goodroe. She wanted to make sure emergency equipment could travel the streets as needed and that residents knew they shouldn't park in the circle.

Current town Fire Marshal Beau Renfro said he recognized the concern but he would support the recommendation of the former fire chief.

Councilmembers discussed ways to address the parking situation, and Swart suggested they table the matter to gather more information.

Rick Ely, a Clark County real estate agent, urged the council to lift the moratorium. Working with the homeowners' association would likely take a long time, he said, and the council had the recommendation of the former fire chief.

The council, however, agreed with Goodroe's concern for safety and tabled the matter with the intention of setting up a meeting with the homeowners' association to discuss the issues.

Councilmembers authorized the removal of large conifers in Erickson Park which were damaged in recent storms and now present dangers to people in the park.

Town forester Bill Olsen reported that recent storms had broken large limbs from the trees, and some limbs were hanging in branches with the potential to fall on people walking underneath.

He said he had cordoned off the area with warning tape, but park patrons were still walking under the threes.

Again, safety was a concern.

"Those trees should come out for the safety of the public," Goodroe said.

She moved to have the trees and dangerous limbs removed, and Sue Cameron seconded the motion.

Goodroe, Cameron and Swart voted for the motion, and Councilmember Ryan Smith voted against it.


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