Council okays street dining; debates wastewater covid testing
February 4, 2021
On Monday, the Cathlamet Town Council voted to approve The Spar restaurant’s right-of-way permit which enables the owner to begin construction of a temporary outdoor dining space in two adjoined parking spots on Main St.
On Wednesday, Clerk/Treasurer Sarah Clark reported approval had come from Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), so construction could start this week.
The final reading of an amended fire code ordinance was passed which now allows River Mile 38 Brewing Co. to obtain necessary permits to construct a 2,400 square foot facility at the marina. Ordinance 642-21 now states that automatic sprinkler systems in any new construction are required in commercial buildings that exceed 2,500 sq. ft. whereas the previous limit was 1,500 sq. ft.
Hotel Cathlamet owner and Council Member Laurel Waller had requested a review of her sewer rate due to a decrease in occupancy. In order to support business during covid-19 the town lowered rates for hotels to the base rate for a single family resident, temporarily.
“I think this is appropriate and a necessity to keep the hotel viable,” Council Member Robert Stowe concluded.
For several weeks in a row, the town has been testing its wastewater for covid-19, and at the last council meeting, Public Works Superintendent David McNally was requested to consult with county health officials about whether to continue.
“We weren’t getting enough useful information out of the testing to justify the cost of it. Both officials agreed that it was in our best interest that we pause testing,” McNally said.
Health and Human Services Director Chris Bischoff confirmed McNally’s statement.
“We’ve established some valuable data, but there is really no need for more, Bischoff added.” I personally don’t see value in continuing it at this point.”
Prior to Monday’s meeting, the county was splitting the testing cost with the town, roughly $340 per test, but their position on testing wastewater has led to discontinuing financial support. Despite recommendation from the public works superintendent, who oversees the testing operation, and county health officials, Council Members Waller and Stowe objected to the discontinuation.
“If you don’t have the data, you can’t make decisions that you could possibly make when it’s time, “Waller explained. “If we stop now, we won’t have a trend line, we have a little sample. I personally think this is a big deal.”
Without full consensus from the council to halt testing, the town must continue and now cover the full cost. McNally explained that testing has been happening every week. Clerk-Treasurer Sarah Clark was weary of weekly testing at the full rate due to limited funds in the town’s sewer fund.