Commissioners review junk ordinance issues
October 10, 2019
Discussion of an update to Wahkiakum County's solid waste nuisance ordinance continued at Tuesday's meeting of the county board of commissioners.
Last week, county officials discussed the ordinance and decided to amend it and increase its enforcement authority.
Health and Human Service Department Director Chris Bischoff said he would reconvene the ad hoc committee that created the initial draft several years ago to work on the update.
On Tuesday, citizen Don Kinny said he had read newspaper reporting of the discussion and that he wants to make sure it doesn't become too oppressive.
"Just keep it a violation," he commented. "Don't put people in jail."
He also asked how public input would be handled.
Bischoff said committee meetings would be open to the public, but only committee members would comment. Public comment would come when the update draft is presented and finally at a public hearing before the county commission before amending the county ordinance.
"There's no interest on my part to make it a criminal offense," Bischoff added. "It would be like a traffic ticket.
Commissioner Gene Strong said the offenses could be progressive.
"Our enforcement policy is voluntary at first," Bischoff said. Most cases resolve after the county notifies a land owner of a problem.
Commission Chair Dan Cothren feels increased enforcement power is necessary; a few people have found a way to evade the current authority.
"I value property rights, but when you infringe on the property rights of others, you've got to do something," he said. "It's just common sense."
Cothren added that if he chaired the committee meetings, there would be no public comment.
"You'd never get anything done," he said. "The committee will make its recommendation and then there would be a public meeting."
Kinny commented that by the time the original ordinance came to the public, terms were pretty well decided.
"It would be nice to have people in there to give input," he said.
"It was a well rounded group with people with different points of view," Cothren said. "They found common ground."
"We're incredibly successful in enforcing the ordinance," Bischoff said. "It's just a small group that needs stronger enforcement.
"The committee will come as close to what they can live with that the commissioners will accept."
Commissioner Mike Backman suggested the group also look at creating a mechanism to aid landowners who might not have extra money to take care of their issues.
Because of the county's budget development process, work on the ordinance probably won't get well underway until later this year.