County commission covers milfoil, summer lunches, freezer, wifi
November 5, 2020
Wahkiakum County commissioners heard about the summer lunch program and approved purchases using funds from CARES Act funding at their meeting on Tuesday.
Commissioners approved an interlocal cooperative agreement with the Cowlitz County Noxious Weed Control Board and Wahkiakum County for training and mentoring of the Wahkiakum County Noxious Weed Coordinator in an amount up to $4,800.
They also approved notice of hearings for annual construction at 10 a.m. on December 1, a hearing for six year transportation improvement at 10:05 a.m. and 14-year ferry program at 10:10 a.m.
Public Works Director Chuck Beyer gave an update on the application to deal with aquatic weeds. The county received a permit from Department of Ecology, and because it is so late in the year, they are going to focus on treating milfoil in Welcome Slough and the Elochoman Slough Marina.
The weed board hopes to tackle other areas in the county next year when they can get back in the water, Beyer added.
Wahkiakum Health and Human Services Director Chris Bischoff introduced Suzanne Holmes, who organized the summer lunch program, which was supported with some of the CARES funding, thanks to the commissioners.
Holmes spoke at length about all the volunteers and entities that made the summer lunch program successful during a pandemic this year.
“The success of this program rests with the commitment of the partners,” Holmes said.
They prepared and distributed over 5,300 lunches, she said. St. Vincent de Paul and St. Catherine churches were responsible for providing almost 3,500 pounds of food in GAP bags as well as 450 emergency food boxes, which were distributed to families all over the county.
She said that the Wahkiakum Community Garden and the school garden provided hundreds of pounds of fresh produce as well. Cathlamet Market Fresh gave the program a 10 percent discount, and was helpful in many other ways, even slicing one of their best hams for lunch meat when there wasn't anything else available. Wahkiakum on the Move helped with deliveries. Wahkiakum School District provided a facility, and staff that kept the area sanitized, and provided support in a myriad of ways. Helping Hands provided an army for deliveries.
She spoke specifically of volunteers Pearl Blackburn, Meadow Meeder, and Erin Hill, and youth who volunteered like Madeira Wynn and Novella Hokkanen.
Bischoff applauded the volunteers.
“If anybody has gone hungry since May in this county, it’s because they didn’t ask and we didn’t notice,” he said. “Resources are out there. We’ll get it to you however we have to get it to you. Big thanks to Suzanne and her crew for an incredible effort. The fact that they were able to do it for less than $35,000 allowed us to do multiple things at the school to let us get the school reopened.
"We are the biggest school in Washington to open, and Superintendent Brent Freeman and staff are 10 weeks in to that now, without a single case of covid-19 coming out of that.”
Later, commissioners approved the purchase of a special freezer to store vaccines and four laptop computers and a no touch thermometer for the sheriff’s department using CARES funds.
The freezer, which will be used to store future vaccines for covid-19, cost $24,596.83 delivered. The computers and the no touch thermometer came to nearly $9,000.
Commissioners also considered enhancements for the commissioners’ meeting room to improve access for people who want to attend meetings virtually, but decided they wanted more information before they moved forward.
Emergency Management Coordinator Beau Renfro said he had been asked to mention a project being proposed by the Town of Cathlamet to provide wi-fi coverage for the public from the school down Columbia Street and Main Street.
“Access to internet to be able to get a job or keep a job might mean the difference,” Commissioner Mike Backman said, explaining the proposed project, and the county’s possible participation. “We’re not paying for the internet. We’d be paying for the infrastructure. The other entities will be paying for the actual internet usage.”
“Where is the benefit to the county?” Commissioner Gene Strong asked.
“It will help with tourism; it will help with economic development,” Backman responded.
Commissioner Dan Cothren voiced concerns that it might compete with private enterprise.
They will ask Prosecuting Attorney Dan Bigelow to consider the matter before they return to the issue.