County board, residents frustrated over sand
Commissioners set date to vote on future of Johnson House
July 25, 2019
Wahkiakum County commissioners and residents of Cape Horn shared frustrations Tuesday over lack of information about US Army Corps of Engineer beach nourishment plans.
Commissioners also received an evaluation of costs of maintaining a vacant house on county property, agreeing to vote on its future at their August 6 meeting, and going over other varied business.
County officials and staff succeeded this year in an effort to set up a 10-year program to enable the Corps to deposit dredged sand on eroding beaches on Cape Horn and Puget Island, where erosion is threatening to claim structures and plantings.
A pipeline dredge has been working below Skamokawa, but despite emails and phone calls, neither residents nor county officials have been able to learn when the dredge might be in their areas.
"I'm getting nothing," said Cape Horn resident Trish Shroyer. " That's what so frustrating: Everything is read, and they can't tell me something.
"I want a response. It's crap. Somebody needs to be responsible and respond."
"You're going through the same things I'm getting," commented commission Chair Dan Cothren. "They're still talking [dredging in] the fall.
"It's a political deal you're dealing with. It's a run-aound."
A Corps research vessel has been sounding up and down the river to determine what areas need dredging.
"They know the sand is out there," said Cape Horn resident Richard Erickson.
Cothren said he has been calling Corps contacts but hasn't had responses.
"Tell me now," he said. "Don't keep me hanging. If you can't do it, let me know, and we'll move on."
In other business, Building Inspector David Hicks presented a cost study of maintaining a house on county-owned property on River Street. The 100-year-old building, known as the Johnson House, was formerly used by the county's mental health program, but that program has moved to new quarters.
County offiicials have suggested two courses of action--either maintaining the house as a rental for county employees or disposing of it. Commissioners had asked Hicks to prepare a cost analysis, and presented that analysis Tuesday.
The house needs a new roof, updated heating system, exterior painting, upgraded windows, insulation and removal of trees around the lot's perimeter. Those upgrades could cost from $58,000 to $81,000. Yearly maintenance could run $2,000 without any major projects. Fair market rent would be $1,100 per month, he said.
Further calculations lead to the conclusion that it would take 7.2 years to break even if no major repairs were needed.
"It's still a 100-year-old house with no foundation, and the upkeep costs will continue to increase," he said.
Commissioner Gene Strong suggested putting the house up for auction--the house only, not the property.
Commissioner Mike Backman, participating in the meeting via telephone, suggested looking into more possible uses for the house and possible grant funding to help with improvements.
"I'm in favor of Gene's proposal," said Cothren. "Get rid of it."
Commissioners agreed they would decide a course of action at their next meeting on Aug. 6.