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

Commissioners address staffing, event insurance


March 22, 2018

Wahkiakum Commissioners covered issues ranging from department staffing to insurance for events at the fairgrounds when they met Tuesday.

They approved four of five staffing requests from Health and Human Services Department (H&HS)Director Chris Bischoff.

They tabled a decision to increase the salary and hours for the Wahkiakum Community Center outreach coordinator. Bischoff said the wage increase for the part-time position would go from $11.50 per hour now to $14.72 by the end of the year, and hours would increase from the current 60 per month to 89.5.

The low wage makes it difficult to recruit and retain employees, he said, and the increased hours would allow the center to increase its offerings to the community.

The difference in wages, he said, would be covered by state mental health funding, not county funds.

However, commissioners had concerns.

Would the increase in hours make the job a union position, asked Commissioner Blair Brady. And the wage increase was huge, he said, on paper, $7,305.83 annually.

Commission Chair Mike Backman suggested tabling the issue so the board could analyze the numbers.

Commissioner Dan Cothren agreed with tabling to study the proposal.

"We talked about this in budget time," he added, "and I felt it was a need. I strongly support that position."

Other moves which the commissioners approved included 1. creating two new managerial positions with existing employees to reduce the load on the department's deputy director; 2. raising the H&HS office manager pay class from 7 to 8 in recognition of increasing responsibilities; 3. authorizing creation of a part-time environmental health specialist position to handle weekend and off hour inspections, 4. establishing a pool of part-time community support specialists for crisis services.

Current mental health funding would cover the expense of all the positions and adjustments, Bischoff said.

Brady, who negotiates the labor contract with the county employee's union, emphasized that employees need to understand that if the funding for their position disappears, the job disappears. There should be memorandums of understanding with the union to that regard, he said.

In other business, commissioners revisited discussion of the need for liability insurance for events taking place at the fairgrounds and voted

to authorize normal and traditional events to continue pending discussions with the county's insurance carrier.

Backman raised the issue a few weeks ago with concern that the county could have liability for injuries sustained by participants in risky activities such as a proposed bull riding show. Extra liability insurance might be required for those events. That led to concern that traditional events such as 4-H horsemanship contests would need the extra coverage which the programs couldn't afford.

"I wanted to make sure the county is protected," he said. "No one knew if the event was covered."

He suggested asking the county's insurance carriers to visit and make a presentation explaining the liability issues.

Brady, who is on the board of directors of the county's insurance pool, doubted the visit is necessary.

"I've talked about it with our insurance carrier," he said. "If it's put on by the fair, it's covered. If you bring in an outside company, it needs proof of insurance."

"When you add other events, that's another issue," Cothren said. "I don't see a need to have them come down. If you give them a question, they'll give an answer."

Puget Island resident Olaf Thomason reported that when the Longview-Rainier bridge was closed Tuesday because of a bomb scare, detouring traffic backed up SR 409 at the ferry landing and caused congestion at the intersection. Someone from the sheriff's office should have been there to direct traffic and inform motorists of wait times, he said.

Sheriff Mark Howie said his department wasn't informed of the bridge closure or the local traffic congestion.

"Sometimes we're unaware of a traffic problem," he said. "Let us know."

Cothren reported that the county's consultants working on documentation for a beach nourishment program for Puget Island and Cape Horn are making progress.

Also, the last property owner has signed the required easement needed to complete the Pancake Point disposal area.

The Corps, Cothren said, may limit how far upriver sand is deposited at Cape Horn, according to new information. Not all property may get sand, he said.

In response to a question from a Sunny Sands resident, Public Works Director Chuck Beyer said the Corps is going to limit deposition at the lower end of that disposal area. The agency feels sand will erode into the ferry channel and create a costly maintenance issue.


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