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

Council ends moratorium for Columbia Ridge


March 23, 2017

The Cathlamet Town Council voted Monday to lift a moratorium on new development in the Columbia Ridge Estates subdivision, subject to street improvements by the homeowners association.

Among other business at the council's monthly meeting on Monday members also barely passed the first reading of a deferred compensation ordinance, planned a revision of its water bill adjustment policy, held a workshop on water and sewer rate analysis, and heard Council Member Andy Lea announce he won't run for re-election to the council this year.

Several years ago, the council placed a moratorium on new building permits for the Columbia Ridge development largely because streets, which are the responsibility of the homeowners' association, hadn't been constructed up to standards required by the town. Also, Cathlamet Fire Department officers said residents' parked vehicles were clogging streets so much that an ambulance or fire truck couldn't pass through, if necessary.

Now, department officers say enough improvements have been made in Phase 1 of the development that the moratorium could be lifted there, if the homeowners improved parking and marked streets to control parking.

On Monday, Longview resident Hal Palmer identified himself as president of the homeowners association and reported the association has agreed to do whatever fire department officers request. He suggested painting markings on streets instead of posting signs, and said the association would work with the town Public Works Department to fix a failing drain.

Palmer said the association had money and could pay for the projects.

Council members voted to authorize town attorney Heidi Heywood to draft a resolution for action at the April meeting.

Council members also agreed to form a work group with the association to address issues remaining for Phases 2 and 3 of the development.

"The Phase 2 folks have been working diligently to get something to happen," said Public Works Director Duncan Cruickshank.

In other business at the Monday council meeting, Mayor Dale Jacobson had to vote to break a tie on the first reading of an ordinance that would set up a deferred compensation program for town employees.

Clerk/Treasurer Kerrie McNally said the ordinance would help employees who accrue vacation time but aren't able to use it because of time demands by their jobs.

Council Member Lea spoke against the proposed ordinance. "Vacation time should be used and not carried over," he said.

Council Member Ryan Smith supported the ordinance. "The situation is that right now employees have vacation time but no time to take leave," he said.

Council Member Dick Swart, who has been ill, was absent. Smith and Sue Cameron voted in favor of the ordinance, which would need approval at another meeting to take effect, and Lea and Bernadette Goodroe voted against it, creating a tie.

"I'll vote for it for the first reading," Jacobson said.

The ordinance will return at the council's April meeting. It would need approval in second and third readings for final implementation.

Council members also agreed to consider a change to their one-time water bill adjustment policy. The policy allows a property owner or renter to request a reduction in a water bill if they have a leak that causes a substantial increase. Under the current policy, only one reduction is ever allowed for a parcel, for eternity, as Cruickshank pointed out.

Council Member Smith proposed consideration of a change to allow more than one adjustment after a period of years as an incentive for people to maintain their water lines.

"We pay to produce water that just seeps into the ground," he said. "This is an incentive for property owners to fix their lines."

The council asked attorney Heywood to prepare an amended policy for consideration at the April meeting.

The council had convened an hour earlier than the new, usual 6 p.m. starting time for a utility rate analysis workshop.

Presenter RosAnna Noval of the Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC) outlined the process the company has undertaken for the town to provide an analysis of utility rates.

Factors to consider for revenue requirements include operating costs, debt service, inflation and allocation for reserves. Factors to consider for rate design include customer class, usage, equity and subsidy issues, and planning for the future.

RCAC will analyze data from the town's utility accounts and prepare an report for another work session. The analysis process generally takes 3-6 months, Noval said.


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