Commissioners limiting meeting room access to combat covid spread
November 19, 2020
Wahkiakum County commissioners on Tuesday acted on a variety of business, including agreeing to reduce in-person access to their meetings.
The board supported Commissioner Gene Strong's suggestion to limit visitors to just the people speaking on agenda items as a measure to combat the spread of the covid-19 virus.
On Tuesday, commissioners also approved a software update for the courts' jury management system; they made an appointment to the fair board and supported applications for a liquor license and a marijuana retail license, and they discussed other issues including the local effort to bring internet broadband to the county.
Strong recommended limiting access to commission meetings based on information he learned in meetings with the Washington State Association of Counties at the Washington governor's office.
"The way that things are going with covid, I really feel we should limit meeting access to the persons who are speaking on an agenda item," he said. "The commission needs to set an example, and we need to be wise with what we're doing."
While Wahkiakum County is on the fringe of the covid-19 pandemic, the county has three new cases reported Monday and Tuesday, bringing the county's total to 15 cases.
Commissioners Mike Backman and Dan Cothren agreed with Strong's suggestion.
"I agree with Gene," Cothren said. "At our last meeting, people were a little lax. People speaking on agenda items are okay, but bystanders, let's hold off on that a little while."
Strong said he was speaking only of county commission meetings; courthouse department heads would need to make their own decisions about public access.
At this point, the governor mandates don't address local government, said Chris Bischoff, director of Wahkiakum County Health and Human Services.
"Two or three weeks down the road, that could change," he added. "I think we're going to see another surge after Thanksgiving. I think this is a Halloween surge."
In other business:
--Commissioners approved a $19,000 software update for the county clerk's jury management system.
The update is going to be required, said Clerk Kay Holland, and is a pot of CARES Act funding that should reimburse the expense. Commissioners agreed that it would be good to make the upgrade and seek the reimbursement.
--Strong reported that the local coalition of entities working to bring internet broadband service to the county want to meet with state and federal representatives to lobby for funding assistance. The coalition has been offered a loan, but Strong commented that the cost to customers would be unbearable.
--The board appointed Miranda Schaub to the county fair board, supported liquor license application for Skamokawa Farmstead Creamery and Rhyner Enterprises, LLC; they supported by a 2-1 vote, with Cothren opposing, a renewal of a retail marijuana license for Evergreen State Enterprises in Grays River, and they supported a vote for Austin Burhkhalter to the regional USDA Farm Service Agency Committee.
--Commissioners also approved a data sharing agreement with Workforce SW for services planned for Cathlamet and they approved an interlocal agreement with the Town of Cathlamet for sharing of liquor taxes; the county should receive about $150 per year under the agreement.