Local agencies discuss variety of issues, projects
Council member comments on recall
January 10, 2019
When representatives of local governmental and public service entities got together Tuesday, they covered a lot of ground ranging from economic development plans to the recall effort of members of the Cathlamet Town Council.
The representatives get together every three months in forums sponsored by the Cowlitz/Wahkiakum Council of Governments (COG).
While most speakers had positive news to share, Council Member Sue Cameron reported town government is under a lot of strain. The clerk/treasurer is ill and unable to work, so an interim replacement had to lead the budget preparation process, and now Cameron, the mayor, and two other council members are facing the recall effort.
A group of citizens feels the four should be recalled from office because their vote to purchase a vacant lot benefitted a friend and because the mayor is using town property for private gain. The county prosecuting attorney is preparing a ballot title to present in superior court for a hearing to determine if there are sufficient grounds to proceed with a recall election.
"It's a big waste of time and money for everybody," Cameron said. "It's all fake and all wrong. I wouldn't be here to tell you this if I didn't firmly believe it's all wrong.
"We're (the town government) struggling. It's a nasty little town right now. It's very sad. To me, it looks like the death of a small town."
Cameron and others are working with COG Executive Director Bill Fashing to organize a community event featuring an economic development consultant who specializes in small towns growth. The speaker, Becky McCray will visit on Feb. 8, tour the area, and meet with officials and citizens to brainstorm economic development ideas.
"She says, ‘if you've got problems, you've got to fix them because no one else will come in and do it,'" Fashing said.
In other forum highlights:
--Wahkiakum School District Superintendent Brent Freeman reported the district had just learned that it had missed approval of grant funding to help refurbish the high school. He also reported that the district is working with WSU Cooperative Extension on a food preparation life skills program and that the district plans to expand its small orchard and plant 40-60 blueberry plants.
--Wahkiakum PUD Commissioner Gene Healy said the agency would replace an aging transformer at the Grays River substation this summer, using a new intertie with Pacific PUD lines to maintain service.
--Chris Bischoff, executive director of Wahkiakum County Health and Human Services, told those present, including state Senator Dean Takko that the coming switch in mental health service funding from the state to insurance company contracts doesn't bode well for rural communities. The system will curtail the ability of local programs to direct services to their unique local needs.
--Dena Horton, district representative of US Sen. Maria Cantwell, said the US Army Corps of Engineers will hold meetings in communities along the lower Columbia River to discern what can be done to improve handling of permits in the area. Currently, the Seattle Corps office handles permits for land-based projects while the Portland office handles in-water permits, and applications languish as they go back and forth between the two offices for review. If the agency can't improve service, she said, representatives may propose legislation that would move all jurisdiction to the Portland office.
--Sen. Takko said he anticipates a focus on funding for education and mental health when the legislature convenes next week.
"The good news is that we have tons of money and no controversial issues," he quipped. "We have lots of major things going on."
Hot issues will include measures involving guns and reducing carbon emissions.
--Wahkiakum Port District 2 Commissioner Brian O'Connor reported that Manager Janet Bryan is retiring. The port is looking for applications to replace her and also plans to create two full-time positions to port staff.