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

Commission covers guns, dredging, timber, other topics

Recount confirms Strong wins commissioner race


December 13, 2018

It was almost a typical meeting of the Wahkiakum County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.

The board covered its usual variety of subjects----dredging, staffing, budgeting, bids, reports, and so on, but there was one difference.

Commissioner Blair Brady, who has represented the Westend for three terms, acknowledged he had lost the election to retired Sheriff Gene Strong.

Because the race had finished Nov. 27 with a two--vote difference in Strong's favor, it went to a recount by hand conducted last Wednesday. Election officials came out with the same result, 1,189 for Strong and 1,187 for Brady.

Strong and other officials winning elections will take their oaths of office at 10 a.m. Dec. 27 in the county courtroom.

"I have two meetings left," Brady commented at Tuesday's meeting. "I want to say that it has been fun. I wish him [Strong] well.

"Thank you for your support over the last 12 years. I will remain active lobbying in Olympia for county issues."

In other topics on Tuesday, members of the audience raised two issues.

First, Cape Horn resident Robert Gawith asked whether or not there was a possibility of beach nourishment in that area this year.

"No," replied Commissioner Dan Cothren. "The [dredging] window was closed until June."

Regulations prohibit dredging activity while certain fish, especially downstream bound juveniles, are migrating.

Cothren and Public Works Director Chuck Beyer added that the county has submitted materials required for permitting its proposed beach nourishment program, and they're responding to agency requests for further information. They expect their permits will be ready for projects next year.

Second, county resident Craig Brown commented on news from last week's meeting that commissioners have asked the prosecuting attorney's office to research a possible ordinance exempting the county from enforcement of laws stemming from Initiative 1639, which was approved statewide in the November general election.

The initiative requires a variety of measures designed to increase firearm safety and training in their use.

Brown urged the board to go slowly in adopting any ordinance opposed to state law, for that could draw the county into expensive legal actions. The county should let others litigate the measure's merit.

"The courts do have a say in the challenge to its constitutionality," he said.

"All we have committed to do is to look at it and see what other counties will do," Brady replied.

Commissioner Cothren repeated his feeling that the ordinance is unconstitutional and violates Second Amendment rights.

The initiative's measures are being challenged in court, he said, with support from the National Rifle Association. "I want everybody to know, I am the NRA," he added. "I'm a life long member."

Commissioners approved a request from Health and Human Services (H&HS) Director Chris Bischoff to hire a part--time staff member with responsibility for managing grants and helping support the Community Center in Cathlamet.

The department has funded a part--time coordinator for the center, but funding for that position will expire next year without being replaced.

The new position would technically be charged with focusing on the chronic disease aspect of public health services, and the staff person would have office hours in the center.

Bischoff said the department has several staff positions to fill, and as that is accomplished, staff members will be free to conduct other activities at the center.

"We want the community center to be a resource bank," he said. "The community center needs to be staffed by volunteers. Staffing isn't the responsibility of the county; we'll support that, but there's no funding for that."

When asked if there were a long range plan for the center, Bischoff said there is none, but once vacant staff positions are filled, he wants to get people together to develop long term plans for both the Community Center in Cathlamet and at Johnson Park in Rosburg.

In other business, commissioners awarded a bid to install security cameras and panic alarm systems at county facilities for improved security.

Commissioners also adopted updated annual and six--year road construction programs and an updated 14--year ferry management program.

Clerk of the Board Beth Johnson asked commissioners if they wanted to act on three remaining issues for final preparation of the 2019 budgets----a H&HS staffing request, salary increases for two Public Works staff, and funding for increased hours for the county fair manager.

"My suggestion is approve the budget as it now is and act on those requests in the future," Brady said.

Kay Walters, a member of the county fair board, urged the board to increase the fair manager's hours now so that she would be able to do advance work on fund raising projects.

"Right now, we don't want to complicate the budget any more," Brady said. "It can be done later."

County officials will likely have final budget documents ready for action at next week's meeting.

Cothren reported developments on issues relating to management of county trust timber. He had attended a meeting of the state Board of Natural Resources on Dec. 4 and also met with Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) staff. Among the outcomes, DNR will support proposed legislation that would appropriate $6 million over two years in compensation for Wahkiakum, Pacific and Skamania county trust timber blocked from harvest for endangered species protection, and they'll also support legislation that would provide $28 million for purchase of land to add to the counties' trust timberland.

"At what point do we get out of this shell game and push the DNR to perform its fiduciary responsibility [as trustee of the county timberlands]," Brady asked. "We're going to end up in court at some point."

Brady suggested asking District 19 legislators to request an attorney general's opinion regarding the state's responsibility to manage timberland in a manner that benefits the counties.

Cothren didn't like that idea.

"I don't think you'd get the opinion you want," he said. "I think he [Attorney General Bob Ferguson} is a tree hugger."


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