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

Commissioners, officials debate salaries, space needs


August 29, 2019

Procedure versus practicality: That was the debate Tuesday when Assessor Bill Coons met with the Wahkiakum County board of commissioners to discuss a request to promote two employees.

With a senior analyst departed to a new job, Coons said he wants to realign his staff. He'll assume some duties of the departed employee, and he wants to promote chief deputy/residential appraiser to chief deputy/commercial appraiser to take over some other duties. He also wants to promote his chief deputy/clerk to an administrative position to reflect additional responsibilities needed for the realignment.

The money for the salaries is already budgeted, Coons said, and with the proposed configuration, the final salary level would be $6,121.86 lower than it was initially. The overall lower salary level for the department would carry over to the 2020 budget, he said.

"I have a void in my department; I need to make a move," Coons said.

Commissioners agreed to the promotion of the appraiser; however, they put off action on the request for the clerk's promotion so that an existing salary committee could evaluate it and other clerical positions in the courthouse.

"My two cents: Okay for the appraiser, but not the clerk," said commission Chair Dan Cothren. "I don't want to open a can of worms."

Cothren said he wanted the matter discussed before the salary committee with other department heads so that all employees are treated fairly, with adjustments coming in the 2020 budgeting process.

Commissioner Gene Strong agreed.

"I think we started a process and we should allow it to work through each department. Do them all, not individually, to create an appearance of fairness.

Noting that Coons could accomplish the proposal at a salary savings, Commissioner Mike Backman supported Coons's requests.

"He has found savings in his own department," Backman said. "He should get that bonus."

Cothren invited other department heads to comment.

"None of this has been discussed in the salary group," said Sheriff Mark Howie.

"I think you'd find good support in the group," Howie said to Coons.

Coons pointed out that the Superior Court Clerk's office is generating high revenue with its divorce-by-mail program.

"At the end of the year, you'll have $600,000 in surplus revenue, and you'll put it in reserves.," Coons said. "Don't do that; give it to the employees in September."

In the end, Strong moved to approve the promotion of the appraiser, and the motion passed.

In other business, officials agreed on a process to create more storage space for the sheriff's office.

Sheriff Howie last week made a plea for new storage space to accommodate storage of firearms seized in domestic violence cases.

On Tuesday, officials heard a suggestion to buy a large gun safe and store it in the county road shop on Elochoman Valley Road.

Also, Building Insepctor/Permit Coordinator David Hicks suggested installing a large container on top of an existing storage container adjacent to the courthouse parking lot. The new container could be a secure and convenient location for a gun safe and firearm storage, he said.

County Engineer Paul Lacy objected to using the road shop as a permanent location for a gun safe, noting that space is tight there for administrators. However, he said he could change his mind if the shop were a temporary location while the new container was installed.

Commissioners authorized the officials to evaluate both suggestions for further consideration.

Health and Human Services Director Chris Bischoff brought up another space issue--the Hope Center.

The county acquired the facility for nothing when the United Church of Christ congregation disbanded and wanted to pass the building on to a program that would serve the public.

Currently, the facility's usage is about 10 percent Mental Health use and 90 percent community group use, Bischoff said, with Mental Health footing the bills.

"Something has to move on that," he said.

An idea to consider is converting the old sanctuary into offices and moving the Mental Health program completely into the building, he said. The community programs would still be able to use the other space.

"I'm just throwing that out there as an option," he said.

Hicks estimated that installing a ceiling and building walls for the offices could easily cost $100,000.

"Let's look at everything before we make these decisions," Backman said.


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