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

Council drops proposed administrative assistant after seeing budget


October 19, 2017

The Cathlamet town council got their first look at their 2018 budget, came to agreement on the controversial town administrative assistant proposal and acted on other business at their monthly meeting on Monday.

At the request of Council Member Ryan Smith, Clerk/Treasurer Kerrie McNally prepared two preliminary budgets for consideration; one included $80,000 for the administrative assistant, and one didn't.

Mayor Dale Jacobson has advocated for the position, saying it is needed to take part of the administrative load off of him.

There was opposition, however. Former Mayor Bob Rendler commented that the town has a small population; utility rates are rising, and there are no new revenues.

"So it doesn't make good sense to take money from the other departments," he said.

Council Members Dick Swart and Ryan Smith also opposed the proposal, saying they didn't think the position was necessary.

Council Member Sue Cameron, who had provided research and analysis about the position for the council, drew back from her earlier support after seeing the impact on the proposed budget.

"I'm willing to support a budget without the position," she said, "but I want to request a line of $40,000 for strategic planning."

She continued that she sees a need for the local government to go through the strategic planning process to develop new ideas for growth, employment, transportation improvements and better interlocal government cooperation.

With discussion, that idea drew support, and a motion came to approve the version of the preliminary budget without the administrative position for the first of three readings.

Smith said he liked the concept but thought the $40,000 figure was too high.

"I just picked a number out of the air," Cameron said, "so change it as you want."

"I don't think we have a cohesive sense of where we're going. That would allow us to get on the same path and know where we're going."

Jacobson supported Cameron's proposal and asked that it be included in an updated budget proposal.

"We have to do something," he said. "I can't spend as many hours as I am spending on town business and still keep up with working for my company."

The concept also drew support from the audience.

County Commissioner Mike Backman was present and offered to convene a discussion group of representatives from different local governmental entities.

Paige Lake, retiring executive director of the Wahkiakum Chamber of Commerce, wanted to make sure the chamber is included in the planning process. "A really good plan" sits on a shelf in her office, she added.

"The whole county needs to look at something else other than fishing and cutting down trees for a living," said Council Member Bernadette Goodroe. "Let's face it, there are some real problems between the town, county and port."

"I agree with you," Rendler told Goodroe. "The fighting has been going on for years. Everyone is worried about someone stepping on their toes."

"I think we all agree we need that," Jacobson said. "We're stale."

Council members then voted to approve the motion for the first reading. The council will hold a budget workshop before their November meeting to go over updates.

One of those updates will be more consideration of increases in utility rates, which could range 1-2 percent.


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