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

Census counters to visit residences

Council selects water mail engineer, okays dock repair contract


The Cathlamet Town Council learned about census, approved a park maintenance bid and contracts for water line work and dock restoration, and discussed spending in the time of corona virus at their three-hour-long Monday meeting.

Speaking to council concerns that the town might be under counted, US Census representative Lorraine Ralston described census procedures.

People are counted at residential units, she said, with responders asking how many people were in the unit on April 1. That isn’t a deadline, she said; the census is tasked with counting everyone in the United States by December 31.

Some people received paper forms in March, she said; these were people living in areas with potentially poor communities of older people.

The census bureau is preparing another mass mailing effort to start the next round of response. People are asked to respond online or by telephone to the census bureau. Enumerators will go door to door to residences that haven’t responded, leaving a form and information at the front door. Enumerators will also visit areas such as mobile home parks and marinas with transitory housing, and they’ll survey the managers to nursing homes, assisted living centers and similar residential units whose occupants won’t be contacted individually.

The census bureau doesn’t send forms to post office boxes, Ralston said; instead they focus on residential units, which they’ve identified over the past few years. They’ve contacted county officials and mappers to find new construction and where residences may be found.

The arrival of the covid-19 virus and resulting social distancing constraints have slowed census work, Ralston said.

Census offices are closed, and enumerators who were going to hit the streets in April are waiting for an all-clear declaration before heading out.

“We’re trying to come up with alternate ways to contact peple,” she said. “We’ll contact every house of worship and ask them to convey a message to the members of their congregations.

“We’re looking to our partners to do mailings.”

So far, 43.4 percent of Wahkiakum County residences have responded to the census, a bit under the state rate of 45 percent but still “very respectable,” Ralston said. Response inside town limits is 40 percent.

During the 2010 census, the county had an 81.5 percent initial response rate; enumerators were sent to contact the remaining 18.5 percent of the population.

Currently, the only way to respond to the census is online or by calling the bureau’s toll free phone numbers.

Park maintenance proposal accepted

After considerable discussion, the council voted to accept a park maintenance proposal from Forrest Mora Landscaping.

Mora and Fred Hoven of Freddy’s Mowing and More were the two firms presenting proposals for service. Each didn’t bid on some of the identified tasks, and one detailed costs on hourly rates and the other on a monthly cost.

The difference in charges bothered Council Member Bill Wainwright, who said it was hard to compare costs based on different kinds of rates.

“I’m looking for aggregate costs,” he said.

Town Attorney Fred Johnson said the council could accept any or all parts of the proposals and look for other vendors to provide service for work not covered in the proposals.

After discussion, the council passed Wainwright’s motion to accept Mora’s proposal and seek other vendors as needed.

Engineer selected for water main

Again, after much discussion, the council voted to select the Gray and Osborne, Inc., firm to manage a planned water main extension project along Columbia Street.

Two firms responded to the town’s request for project management proposals, and the proposals were referred to a committee of town Public Works Director David McNally, Wahkiakum PUD Manager David Tramblie and Wahkiakum County Public Works Director Chuck Beyer for evaluation and a recommendation.

McNally reported that both he and Beyer recommend Gray and Osborne; Tramblie deferred, saying he respected both firms and adding that the second firm, Brown and Kyser, Inc., had only recently become involved in water projects.

That remark concerned Wainwright.

“I have really strong concerns about having somebody involved in a million dollar project without experience in water projects,” he said.

The council voted to authorize Mayor Dale Jacobson to negotiate a contract with Gray and Osborne for the project, which would involve installing water main along Columbia Street in conjunction with a scheduled road expansion project by Wahkiaum County.

Dock repair approved

After considerable discussion, the council approved a contract with Townsend Construction for repair of the town dock at the foot of Broadway Street.

Clerk/Treasurer Sarah Clark said Townsend was on the small works roster, a list of contractors who can be hired for minor projects without going through a formal call for bids.

Again, Wainwright had concerns about the $6,000 project: The scope of work was vague, and the contract allows partial payment before work is completed. And because of the vague scope of work, there could be expensive change orders.

Both Jacobson and Council Member Robert Stowe vouched for Townsend, saying they had seem him perform good work at reasonable cost, some, Jacobson said, dock repair in Ilwaco.

Johnson pointed out that the contract called for payment of materials when they were delivered to the work site, with the balance held until project completion.

“I get that, Fred,” Wainwright said. “I just don’t feel comfortable with the bid. That is atypical for this type of job . . . There are a lot of loopholes here.”

“We’re not talking about a major project here,” Stowe said. “This is an emergency repair and a minimum amount.”

Johnson reviewed the process for change orders and the process outlined in the state law that would apply to the project. They would have to be approved by the town before work could proceed.

“We should have a standard process on how to handle this . . . so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time,” Wainwright said.

Stowe agreed and moved to accept the contract with provisions that change orders would be approved. The motion was seconded and passed.

In other business:

--Wainwright urged the council to begin budget analysis to identify possible reductions in order to deal with an anticipated reduction of revenue coming from job losses and other economic fallout from the covid-19 pandemic.

“”We need to look at our budget, rein in our spending, really prioritize, and hunker down,” Wainwright said. “I don’t think it (recession) will be very pretty.”

Clerk/treasurer Clark commented that with 25 percent of the year gone, the town has spent only 7.5 percent of the budget, and office staff are ready to set up payment plans for customers in need.

Council Members Laurel Waller and David Olson suggested waiting till the end of June before starting to cut back.

Council members agreed the situation was concerning and should be monitored, but they took no furter action.

--The council did authorize Olson to apply for a grant to rennovate and upgrade the historic Pioneer Cemetery adjacent to Thomas Middle School. Wainwright and Olson had met with officials from the local cemetery district and the site could be deeded to the town for a park.

--Despite the uncertainties from the covid-19 pandemic, Clark said she’s planning for possible operation of the swimming pool. She has engaged a manager and is soliciting applications for life guards.


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