Culverts and budgets: County commission covers budget concerns, watershed issues
March 14, 2019
Wahkiakum County commissioners hosted two workshops Tuesday, with one aimed at clearing up confusion over hiring by Health and Human Services (H&HS) and the other a round table addressing watershed issues.
Commissioners and staff of the H&HS and the auditors office addressed confusion over budget status and hiring by H&HS.
H&HS Director Chris Bischoff has asked the commission to approve hiring new personnel and adjusting salaries for positions not in his department budgets. Funding has been available from grants and contracts and from shifting budget funds for positions that aren't filled.
However, Payroll Clerk Kim Tracy explained that positions and salaries aren't listed in department budgets as they should be for audit review.
Bischoff agreed the budgets need to be accurate but expressed frustration at the lack of a clear process for making the quick moves needed to hire staff in a very competitive job market.
The group discussed ways to improve communication, and commissioners said they would contact union personnel to see how the union approval process could be expedited.
Members of various agencies attended the second workshop to report on existing and needed programs for watershed development.
Wearing two hats Puget Island resident Tony Aegerter reported that the US Army Corps of Engineers would make a walking inspection of Island dikes in April, the first time for the close up inspection in six years. Also, Aegerter reported the Wahkiakum Conservation District is working on erosion control and vegetation management projects in the Elochoman and Skamokawa Creek watershed.
Commissioners said the county's noxious weed control board is almost reconstituted, and they commented about the need to eradicate milfoil in Island sloughs.
David Howe, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife regional habitat program manager, commented that the department has a statewide permit for vegetation control that might aid the effort.
The group discussed issues regarding maintenance and replacement of tidegates and culverts, especially in the Deep River area.
"The real issue with tidegates and culverts in the Deep River area," said Commissioner Dan Cothren, "is that we'd like to do a project, but Fish and Wildlife comes back (in permit design review) with bridges (instead of culverts). That's expensive and very tough to do."
Howe commented that the department may be able to share some of the project costs, depending on priority.
Jeff Malone from Columbia Land Trust reported the agency will be restoring wetlands along the lower Elochoman and is looking at drainage issues and solutions for Nelson Creek in the area around Risk Road.
Poul Toftemark from the Grays River Habitat Enhancement District said the district had undertaken a LIDAR survey of the lower river and would compare it to a previous survey to study channel changes. The group is also concerned about a possible channel change in the Grays near the mouth of Fossil Creek.