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

Council hears proposal to revise SR 4 traffic pattern


August 24, 2017

Will SR 4 someday have a "dogbone" between the intersections at Main and Columbia streets?

The answer, of course, is if local entities can come up with the money.

Paul Lacey, Wahkiakum County engineer, brought the idea to the monthly meeting of the Cathlamet Town Council on Monday to ask if there is any support for the idea.

Council members listened to Lacey's proposal; they made no decision but will revisit the issue at their September meeting.

In other business, the council voted 3-2 to allocate up to $1,200 to Tsuga Gallery for advertising a September arts festival, and they voted 4-1 to approve a revised funding program for a new fire truck.

In more detail, Lacey suggested the highway project would have round-abouts at the two intersections and a raised median separating the single east and west bound lanes. The speed limit would likely drop from 55 to 35 miles per hour from the intersections at Columbia Ridge and Elochoman Valley roads.

Over the years, the highway has been a barrier to pedestrian and bicycles in the area, Lacey said. There is sometimes dangerous congestion with vehicles waiting for traffic to clear in order to make left turns.

"I'd like to get some federal money," Lacey said. "There's a $5 million threshold, so I see it as a city/county project."

The concept drew immediate support from Mayor Dale Jacobson.

"I've been pushing for what your proposing for three years," he said.

Lacey acknowledged that such a change in the traffic pattern would probably be unpopular.

Jacobson and Council Member Richard Swart, a former Astoria resident, commented that the round-about in Oregon at the Astoria-Warrenton bridge was initially unpopular but is now widely accepted.

Council members wanted more information about the funding.

Lacey said the town would be the lead agency. The targeted federal money would pay 85 percent of the project cost; local sources would be responsible for the other 15 percent. Lacey said he would seek other funding sources for the local portion.

"I think I can get other sources for the 15 percent local match," Lacey said.

"Before I'd agree to this, I'd need to see the money," said Council Member Bernadette Goodroe.

"That's what I want to know," Lacey said. "I need to have enough buy-in. I don't want to put in all the work and then have no one like it."

Sheriff Mark Howie was present and gave lukewarm support to the idea. He supports the idea of slowing traffic to 35 mph, but he thinks the round-abouts may not be practical for the amount of log truck traffic passing through the area.

"For safety purposes, something needs to be done," he said. "If a study showed it was responsible and practical, I would support it."

Discussion ended, and Jacobson said the topic would be on the council's September meeting agenda.

In other business, Dan Westlind of Tsuga Gallery asked the council to approve an allocation of tourism development funds to help pay for advertising of an arts festival the gallery is sponsoring September 15 and 16.

There will be an art walk in 10 locations in town, musical performances and an appearance by the state's poet laureate.

The town receives the funds from a tax imposed on tourist facilities such as hotels, and their use for advertising is limited to advertising outside the county.

"This was Tsuga Gallery's way of returning the support we've gotten from the community," Westlind said.

The town has budgeted some of its funds to support the Wahkiakum Chamber of Commerce, and Council Member Sue Cameron moved to allocate $1,200 of the remaining funds to Tsuga. The motion was seconded and passed with Cameron, Goodroe and Ryan Smith voting in favor and Swart and Andy Lea opposed.

After hearing a report from Goodroe and Assistant Fire Chief Beau Renfro, the council conditionally approved a funding plan for the council to purchase a demonstrator fire truck for $412,015.

In July, Fire Chief Vernon Barton proposed funding programs, with a maximum of 10 years, and an annual cost over $40,000. Council members were concerned the town couldn't easily generate that revenue; Barton and Goodroe said they'd meet with the vendor to explore more funding options.

After the meeting, the vendor agreed to a 15-year term with payments ranging from $31,000 to $32,000.

Another option would be a sales tax of 0.2 or 0.3 percent to raise the funds.

Goodroe recommended pursuing the 15-year option. In response to a question from Lea, she said she was confident the council could find the funds in its budgeting.

"We need to make a decision, or we'll lose this truck," she added. "The town and the county need it."

"Prior to the last administration, the city was setting aside $25,000 a year for fire trucks," Mayor Jacobson said. ‘We need it."

"In another eight years, we'll need another," Goodroe said. "We need to think about how we're going to pay for it."

The council approved the purchase agreement, subject to review and approval by town attorney Heidi Heywood. Council members Goodroe, Cameron, Smith and Lea voted for the purchase; Swart voted against.


Reader Comments


Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2019