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

Commissioners discuss vaccines, 2021 budgets


September 10, 2020

Wahkiakum County commissioners discussed vaccines and looked ahead to budget preparation for 2021 when they met Tuesday.

Dian Cooper, executive director of the Cowlitz Health Center, which operates a clinic in Cathlamet, said clinics will start receiving flu vaccine in October, and she urged everyone to be vaccinated in order to cut down the spread of disease during the covid-19 pandemic.

Commission Chair Dan Cothren asked about covid-19 vaccines, saying he has been hearing that agencies won't be ready to administer the vaccine once its available.

There will be a national strategy for rolling out the covid-19 vaccine, Cooper said, and the center's clinics would follow that strategy.

Chris Bischoff, director of Wahkiakum County Health and Human Services, added detail that he had heard in a statewide health officers call Tuesday morning.

In the beginning, only a few million doses will be available nation wide, and Washington will probably receive a few thousand of those. Those will go first to front line medical workers, emergency medical responders and nursing home staff and residents.

"The state Department of Health is putting out a list," Bischoff said. "We're trying to strategize distribution according to that list.

"They're ready."

When the vaccine will be ready, and how much it will cost, are yet unknown, Cooper and Bischoff said.

Commissioners and department heads began 2021 budget preparation with discussion of department needs and the commissioners' mantra of "Hold the line."

Revenue and cash on hand for 2020 are down $668,000, said Treasurer Tammy Peterson.

One good spot has been timber excise tax collected on the harvest of timber from private land, but the spring coronavirus quarantine delayed collection, impacting payments to school districts and the county, she said.

Revenue from timber harvest on state managed county trust lands has been estimated at $1.3 million for $800,000 for 2021.

That could change, said commission Chair Dan Cothren, for there's a high demand for wood. He's been talking with timber managers from the Department of Natural Resources to see some unscheduled harvest such as clearing for road construction could be undertaken this year to boost 2020 revenue.

Next year is scheduled to have a low level of harvest, Cothren said, but subsequent harvests should be much better because there will be more timber of harvestable age.

From there, discussion moved to individual departments, with the department heads saying they had few needs and could come close to meeting the hold-the-line goal.

Assessor Bill Coons said his new expenditure would be $1,500 for a computer estimating program, with the expense covered by unused funds in travel for training.

Auditor Nicci Bergseng said she will have two retirements to fill.

Sheriff Mark Howie said his department's budget will have to deal with increases in the vehicle replacement fund, and Chief Civil Deputy Joannie Kuhlmeyer added that the department will need to hire a corrections officer on a long temporary position contract while another officer is called up for military deployment.

Court Clerk Kay Holland and Judge Heidi Heywood said there will be vacancies in the superior court and district court staffs.

"We have heard hold the line, and we'll do that as much as possible," Heywood said.

Building and Planning Supervisor David Hicks expects no major expenditures. Public Works Director Chuck Beyer said he would like to fill an empty engineering tech position, and, "It would be nice to have another equipment operator (for the road department)."

"If there's a shortfall," Cothren said, "we'll have to tap into your budget."

Cothren referred to a practice used in recent years in which the commission diverts County Road Fund tax revenue to the County Current Expense Fund to cover shortfalls.


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