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

Commissioners act on church donation, raises, timber issues


October 26, 2017

Wahkiakum County's commissioners accepted a donation of property, discussed trust timber management issues, and gave county employees a raise when they met Tuesday.

The board formally accepted the donation of the United Church of Christ buildings and property in Cathlamet. The congregation voted last spring to dissolve and offered the property to Wahkiakum Health and Human Services (H&HS) for house programs that would benefit county residents.

"The County of Wahkiakum declares its deep and sincere thanks to the congregation for the many charitable and community oriented services over the years of its operation, and for its generous donation of the property," says the resolution formally accepting the donation.

H&HS Deputy Director Chris Holmes has said the department plans to move mental health programs housed in the Johnson House into the church facilities and declare the house surplus to county needs.

Commissioner Mike Backman suggested the county consider keeping the house. H&HS offices in the Courthouse Annex could move to the house, and 9-1-1 dispatching could move into the annex.

"You can't move 9-1-1," said commission Chair Blair Brady. "Half of their time is monitoring the jail."

Commissioner Dan Cothren commented he wants to sell the Johnson House.

"I want to get the house out to the private sector," Cothren said. "I want to get it back on the tax rolls."

Backman also said some neighborhood residents have contacted him about concerns that the county might use the facility to house homeless people.

"We want to be good neighbors," Holmes said. "We don't want to put anybody in danger."

In other business, Cothren reported that next week's meeting of the state Board of Natural Resources (BNR) should have great importance for the county.

The board will consider and possibly adopt a proposed marbled murrelet habitat management plan for lands managed by the Department of Natural Resources.

The plan will establish protections for areas deemed to be murrelet habitat where there will be no or limited timber harvest. Of the county's 12,000 acres of state managed trust timberland, approximately 3,000 have been set aside as habitat. Depending on which alternative the BNR adopts, that number could increase or decrease.

Cothren has been leading the county's effort to set up compensation for the loss of revenue from the encumbered timberland.

On Friday, he'll attend a meeting with DNR officials to go over proposed legislation which would involve an exchange of land with the Common Schools Trust.

"We have to make sure the Common Skills get what they need," Cothren said. "They can go out and buy other real estate."

Commissioners agreed to co-sign a letter to the BNR drafted by the American Forest Resource Council emphasizing the state's fiduciary duty to manage county trust timberland for the county's maximum financial benefit.

The letter also comments that there hasn't been adequate opportunity to evaluate a new alternative developed by DNR staff.

"The DNR needs to know we're not going to give something away and not get something in return," Cothren commented.

Commissioners also voted to give all county employees, with some exceptions, a 3 percent pay raise effective November 1.

The exceptions are the commissioners themselves and the county's judges and prosecuting attorney, whose base salaries are set by the state.

"We've had extra revenue that allows us to help the employees," Brady commented.


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