Commissioner's support economic district, increase bus routes


January 25, 2018

Wahkiakum County commissioners voted Tuesday to support creation of the Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Economic Development District.

Five years in the making, the district would develop a regional economic development strategy and find funding to help implement the strategies.

Although he voted to support formation of the district, board Chair Mike Backman said he wanted to extend an invitation to Pacific County to join the district.

"We have a lot in common with their workforce," he said, especially the fishing industry, he said.

Bill Flashing, executive director of the Cowlitz/Wahkiakum Government Conference, which would facilitate the district, pointed out that Pacific County is in talks with Grays Harbor and Mason counties to form another economic development district.

However, Flashing said he could meet with Backman today (Thursday) when they're together again for another meeting and then contact Pacific County officials.

Former Wahkiakum County economic development director Richard Erickson offered some history about previous districts.

Wahkiakum was part of a previous district that included Pacific, Grays Harbor and Mason counties, he said, "and Wahkiakum County was the red headed step child."

"Money never flowed to Wahkiakum County," Erickson said. "Their economies didn't align with ours. This is an excellent move to form a district with Cowlitz."

Health officer visits

Dr. Jennifer Vines, the county's health officer, discussed a few issues with commissioners.

In response to a question from Commissioner Dan Cothren, Vines said this has been a bad year for influenza, but she had no exact data for cases in Wahkiakum County. She recommended people become vaccinated, if they haven't already done so.

"The flu shot is not perfect, there is still time to get it," she said.

The immunization is available for people as young as six months old. "Again, the flu shot is the best protection," she said.

"We're one of the few counties in the state that hasn't had a flu death," added Health and Human Services Director Chris Bischoff.

Vines and Bischoff also said they are looking at health issues for county residents to develop community programs for better health.

Backman recommended a focus on sugar.

"Sugar is addictive," he said. "It needs to be addresssed."

Bischoff responded that they're looking for funding for nutrition education.

"That's one of the big issues across the nation," Bischoff said. "We're critically underfunded in that area."

Bus routes increased

Commissioners approved a contract amendment with the Washington Department of Transportation that will allow the Wahkiakum on the Move bus service to increase its routes.

Additions include 1. two Saturday round trips between Cathlamet and Longview; 2. the addition of all day routing in the Skamokawa-Cathlamet-Puget Island area Monday through Friday, and 3. the addition of round trips between Naselle and Cathlamet so that there are two round trips each day Monday through Friday.

Elk research nominee

Commissioners also voted to send a letter to Washington State University's College of Veterinary Medicine nominating Dr. Boone Mora to lead a research effort on the cause and treatment of hoof rot disease in elk.

In their letter, commissioners said they're frustrated with WSU's slow pace in selecting a leader for the research into the disease which, they said, is decimating southwest Washington elk herds.

Mora, a retired public health official, has expert knowledge about leptospirosis, which he says is the cause of the hoof rot syndrome.

"I'm grateful for you doing this," Mora told the commissioners. "Believe me, there is no doubt about this.

"I would use their own work to prove it."


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