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

Commissioners gather input for union talks

Board also plans hoof rot action, advances on dredging issues


September 14, 2017

Wahkiakum County commissioners on Tuesday dealt with a variety of issues ranging from wage negotiations to elk hoof rot and, of course, dredging.

Commissioners and department heads held a workshop to discuss issues and goals for coming negotiations with the county’s union employees. The major points included:

Sheriff Mark Howie said he would want adjustments in officers salaries. He presented data showing deputies make 34 percent less than the statewide average, and corrections officers make 43 percent less than the average. The undersheriff and chief civil deputy salaries are also well below the state average, he said.

Treasurer Tammy Peterson, Assessor Bill Coons and other department heads suggested revising the county’s decades old salary schedule. The steps no longer represent the differences and qualifications they’re intended to represent, they said. Also, some positions now require higher education than when the schedule was written, and some positions, such as the GIS mapping position, didn’t exist.

Sheriff’s Department Chief Civil Deputy Joannie Kuhlmeyer suggested negotiators look at longevity: Employees do reach the top of the salary schedule after a certain number of years and see little advance despite their long service.

Commissioner Blair Brady warned that revenue will be tight for the county next year.

“It will be a challenge,” he said. “I don’t want to say layoffs, but we’re at that point.

Commissioner Dan Cothren was more positive.

“I’m not going to go bleak,” he said. “We’re thinking out of the box.”

The timber market is hot, he said, and he plans to meet with Department of Natural Resources staff, who manage harvest of the county timber trust, to talk about adjusting harvest to take advantage of the market.

Meanwhile, union employees will vote soon on a proposal to change their representation.

In other business, commissioners agreed, that if legally feasible, they, as the county board of health, would ask Dr. Boone Mora of Skamokawa, to test elk hoof rot specimens to see if the animals are suffering from infection by leptosira bacteria.

In a draft letter, commissioners said they, as board of health appreciate his concern for public risk of infection from leptosirosis.

“Therefore the Wahkiakum Board of Health authorizes you to ship properly contained elk specimens taken legally to accredited laboratories of your choice to undergo tests of your choice,” the draft letter says.

A retired public health officer, Mora differs from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife about the cause of the hoofrot.

“Dr. Mora has a number of hunters who are willing to take samples to him,” Brady said. “The board of health authorization would eliminate legal ramifications against it.

“If a sample came positive, it would give ammunition for us to push further,” he said.

However, before proceeding, commissioners agreed they need to check with Prosecuting Attorney Dan Bigelow to see if the procedure would be legal. The legislature this year set controls on transfer of elk with hoof rot and authorized Washington State University’s school of veterinary medicine to study the disease.

Commissioner Cothren reported that county officials would meet next Monday with the US Army Corps of Engineers to set parameters and estimate costs for the Section 408 study of potential impacts from the county’s proposed beach nourishment projects.

“It’s a payment on top of a payment,” Cothren said. “The costs are huge. It’s hard for a small county.”

In response to a question from the audience, Cothren added that commissioners hope that once the county’s beach nourishment projects have their permits, they can be incorporated with the dredging program managed by a coalition of upriver ports.

Those big ports are working on an updated dredging management plan, and Brady said the Corps of Engineers is seeking comments on the environmental impact statement for the project.

A scoping meeting to explain the project and gather public input will be held October 19, 4 p.m., in the Puget Island Norse Hall.

More information about the project may be be found online at


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