Town council approves 50 acre timber harvest
November 5, 2020
On Monday, the Cathlamet Town Council approved the harvest of 50 acres of timberland that is projected to net $300,000. The town forester will monitor market values and whether a buyer would guarantee the current timber prices for the duration of the project before harvesting begins in mid December.
Other items discussed include the 2021 preliminary budget which is open to public comment for two more meetings, the final opportunity being in December. According to Clerk-Treasure Sarah Clark, the public can comment on several aspects including the proposed 1% property tax increase.
The town council passed a contended motion to provide increased insurance coverage to include employees’ dependents; they passed a motion to combine licensing services with the state Department of Revenue which will be provided free to the town; a motion was passed to renew a contract with the Chamber of Commerce which entails a one time $750 annual increase on top of the regular $1500 per year for the chamber’s economic development services. After some debate and a failed motion to table the resolution, Pocket Park, located adjacent to town hall, was voted to be formally recognized as a town park.
Town Forester Bill Olsen attended Monday night’s meeting to present his recommendations at the request of the council before a decision to harvest 50 acres of town timberland was made.
“I want to acknowledge that the market conditions are very favorable. I’m proposing a Dec. 15 start date which gives us time to put the job out there to the public for bidding on,” Olsen said.
Not only is the price for timber in the town’s favor but the diameter of the trees are also near perfect. According to Olsen, the timber is between 25 and 27 inches wide which is prime for keeping saw mill costs low. As the width of the trees increase the cost to process them increases.
“Our patch is prime and I don’t want to see it go past its prime...once those 26 inchers get to 28 in. they will start declining in price,” Olsen stated.
Clark explained that the projected amount of revenue from the timber harvest would increase the town’s reserve fund to $490,000 which would go towards capital expenditures, improvements, and emergencies. The $300,000 from the harvest is already projected in the 2021 preliminary budget.
By the start date, if timber prices fall or if there is no guaranteed price by a bidder for the duration of the project, Olsen concluded not harvesting.
Clerk Treasurer Sarah Clark presented a proposal to update the town’s employee insurance package to include employee’s dependents. The town uses the Washington County Insurance Fund (WCIF) to get pricing policies and proposals as a part of a statewide member program. Clark’s latest estimate for the proposed insurance package is $44k per year for the all qualifying employees working over 80 hours. This would be more affordable than adding dependents under the town’s current plan.
The pocket park adjacent to town hall which has historically been used for temporary and overnight parking has been formally recognized as a town park so parking and other rules can be enforced.
“It is on the books as an asset of the Town of Cathlamet, it should be included in our park plan for what it is,” Councilmember Bill Wainwright said.
Councilmember Laurel Waller felt that the park was more similar to the Butler lot than an actual park since it isn’t being used for recreational activities. Wainwright’s concern is that the lot will be taken advantage of if it isn't under the jurisdiction of the town’s park regulations.
Without a completed parks plan, which is still underway, the definition of a park versus a parking lot is still unclear.