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

County dealing with election and mental health funding changes


The Wahkiakum County Board of Commissioners tackled a variety of issues at their July 2 meeting.

Cape Horn resident Bob Gawith asked for an update on the beach nourishment project.

“It would be nice to have it right away, that would be great,” Commissioner Dan Cothren said. “I think that’s what we are all pushing for, but I think they are just waiting to see how much volume of sand is there. It’s to the point right now I don’t care where it’s at, but we need to show that we’re going to get some sand.”

“Fish and Wildlife is getting us their agreement for temporary access to use their public fishing site on Sunny Sands,” Chuck Beyer added. “That’s for sand on East Sunny Sands and Pancake Point. That’s been holding up that piece.”

Former Commissioner Blair Brady was in attendance. He told commissioners that he had been invited to the National Association of Counties Conference as a guest and asked the commissioners to contact him about any issues they might want him to address while there.

There was some hesitation about approving funding to Fire District 3 for roof repairs.

“I think we kind of jumped the gun,” Cothren said.

According to County Treasurer Tammy Peterson, the district has $73,900 in cash on hand and investments and had budgeted $20,000 in repair in maintenance in general fund and $5,000 for repair and maintenance in first aid fund.

“I was a little confused why they were making a request for funds when to me it looked like they had sufficient funding,” Peterson said.

Commissioner Gene Strong said he would talk to them.

The district is requesting $5,500 to $5,800, Strong said. He also noted that they had to pay out about $23,000 before the end of the year.

“I’m here to support whatever it’s going to take,” Cothren said, “but if you do one, you have to do the others. You have to be real careful. If you can manage it yourself, that’s great. But if you can’t, we’re here to help.”

Strong’s wife, Linda, is a fire commissioner for the district.

Commissioners approved a memorandum of understanding with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees union and with the Masters, Mates, and Pilots union for an increase in the county’s monthly contribution for employee’s medical benefits from $1,000 to $1,200.

They also approved a contract with ABM Industry Group, LLC for janitorial services in the amount of $50,078.76.

Auditor Nicci Bergseng and Kaelee Dearmore spoke to the commissioners about a grant agreement with the Secretary of State for voter outreach in the amount of $3,930.38, which commissioners approved.

Dearmore gave an update on three bills which will affect the Auditor’s Office. One, the presidential primary has been moved forward from May to March. Two, an early voter’s bill allows youths to preregister to vote when they turn 16. The third bill was in regards to same day voter registration, which allows people to register to vote up until 8 p.m. on Election Day.

“If you came in at 7:59 p.m. on Election Day,” Dearmore said, “we could register you to vote and supply you with a ballot right then and there. These are all basically unfunded mandates that put a lot of pressure on election offices in addition to the election software being implemented across the state in all 39 counties, but it also increases voter outreach quite a bit and makes it more accessible.”

Commissioners approved memorandums of understanding with Molina Healthcare of Washington and United Behavioral Health for Medicaid Behavioral Health Services.

“We have to change our business model on the behavioral health side as of January 2020,” Director of Wahkiakum Health and Human Services Chris Bischoff said. “We’ve been working through an administrative service organization called Great Rivers Behavioral Health. They are no longer able to carry all the Medicaid dollars that we use.

"Instead the state, in its infinite wisdom, has decided that insurance companies are better able to do that. So we are being forced to contract with three different insurance companies to provide basic behavioral health services in the county. I say that with grievance, but we’ve got to do it.”

The paperwork for the third insurance provider had not been completed as of last Tuesday.


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