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

County commission OK's increase in hours for fair

Board also OK's medical billing clerk, adjusts ferry rates


Rick Nelson

Wahkiakum County commissioners are adjusting ferry fares to reduce fares for vehicles with trailers and add frequent traveler tickets for pedestrians, bicycles and motorcycles.

Following discussion at their Feb. 26 meeting, Wahkiakum County commissioners on Tuesday agreed to boost funding for the manager of the Wahkiakum County Fair.

In other business, commissioners approved a new position for the Department of Health and Human Services; they approved adjustments to county ferry fares, and they heard a variety of reports.

Members of the Wahkiakum County Fair Board last week asked that the board restore or increase the funding for the fair manager's work hours. County officials explained that the number of hours was reduced in preliminary budget work because employee wages had been increased and the amount of hours was decreased to match the funding that had been inititially listed.

The number of funded hours budget for 2019 were inadequate for the manager to handle all the work for which she's needed, fair board members said.

Fair personnel are scheduling a variety of events for raising funds, and the manager is needed for them, said fair treasurer Becky Thacker. Also, people expect the manager to take care of maintenance and repairs, she said.

Commissioners were favorable to increasing funding for hours to a certain extent.

"We did discuss this at length," said Commissioner Gene Strong. "What if we brought her up to last year? Two months have already passed. Would that be an acceptable level?"

The fair board members suggested an increase over 800 hours for the year, but commissioners weren't ready for that.

"We want to hold it to 800 hours and evaluate later on," said Commissioner Dan Cothren. "For some of these projects, delegate and have a group take over responsibility. If we're going to have these events, people will have to step up to the plate."

That will be difficult, said fair board member Lore Twiet.

"Some board members aren't active," she said.

Thacker suggested the county fund a handyman for maintenance and repair, for the fairgrounds are a county property.

"Now, anything that goes on, the first person to be called out is the manager," Thacker said.

"That request should come from the fair board," Cothren said. "If we're going to have these things, folks will have to step up a bit. We work on a shoe string budget.

Commissioner Mike Backman moved that the board increase funding to cover 800 hours. Strong suggested adding 50 extra hours and evaluating the fund raising results.

"I'm comfortable with 800," Backman said, and Cothren agreed.

The board voted 3-0 to make the increase.

In other business, the board approved a request from Health and Human Services to create a new position of medical billing specialist and begin the hiring process.

Department spokesperson Tristan Wozniak said the position will be needed as service programs transition from state funding to contracting with for-profit managed care organizations who contract with the state and subcontract with service providers such as the county's mental health program. The clerk would have knowledge and expertise to monitor billing and efficiently process claims for payments under the new system which will take effect in 2020.

The position will be funded at $75,338, using existing funds.

Commissioners also voted to adjust ferry rates, lowering the cost for vehicles with trailers and creating reduced price frequent traveler rates for motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians. Public Works Director Chuck Beyer said the rates would be forwarded to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT ) for approval. If WSDOT approves, the rates will come back to the county for formal adoption.

In other action, commissioners authorized public works staff to call for bids for a contractor to install insulation in fair offices in the T Building. Strong said the work should cost between $3,000 and $4,000, according to estimates he'd received.

Dian Cooper, executive director of the Cowlitz Family Health Center, which operates a clinic in Cathlamet, reported that the center saw an increase in service provided to patients in 2018.

Overall, the center's providers saw 25,814 patients in 2018, a 1 percent increase over 2017. The Cathlamet clinic saw 1,235 patients in 2018 in 5,083 office visits.

Most Cathlamet patients, 50 percent, are on Medicaid, she said; 24 percent have Medicare, 23 percent have private insurance, and 3 percent were uninsured. Overall, most of the clinics' patients, 67 percent, are on Medicaid and 14 percent are uninsured.


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