County commissioners address community center, other issues
July 8, 2021
[Editor's note: This story has a correction: The remodel of a courthouse vault will cost an estimated $4,950, not $49.050.]
Wahkiakum County commissioners heard a complaint about vaccination requirements and handled a variety of other business ranging from keeping the Community Center in Cathlamet open to marijuana programs when they met Tuesday.
Former community center coordinator Cecile Bamer expressed frustration with the Department of Health and Human Services (WHHS) and its policy on employee vaccination for covid-19.
"We're being bullied,"she said, adding that the vaccines are experimental. "There are too many questions and no safe place for citizens to ask them, so I left.
"It didn't matter to my job if I were vaccinated or not."
Neither commissioners nor WHHS staff responded.
Another speaker, Season Long, commented that she had furnished written and verbal comment to commissioners and hadn't had a response.
"Enough is enough," she said. "I expected a response."
Commissioners did respond to comments from one of the community center's volunteers, who presented petitions signed by citizens urging officials to keep the center open.
The center has had 750 visitors so far this year, the speaker said. Visitors can have social contact with each other; they can access resources, use computers, search for jobs and beat the heat.
"To close the center would be detrimental to the community," the speaker said.
Even though there is no coordinator nor budget for a coordinator, county officials aren't planning to close the center, said commission Chair Gene Strong.
Instead, county officials will meet with officials from the Wahkiakum Chamber of Commerce to discuss what can be done for staffing.
In other business:
--County Engineer Paul Lacy suggested the county press Washington State Parks to make a state park out of the now closed upper salmon hatchery on the Elochoman River. It could become a nice campground and resources such as launching facilities for anglers, he said.
Commissioner Dan Cothren replied that the county has made similar proposals in the past.
There are problems with the site, he added: Buildings have been vandalized, and the bridge across the river is in poor shape.
A launch site was being considered, but pandemic response restrictions have derailed those talks, he said. He would like to meet with state officials to discuss site use.
Todd Souvenir, maintenance manager for Port District 1, reported a need for funding to improve failing walkways at County Line Park, which the port manages for the county. The cost of needed improvements is $38-40,000, he said, and the Wahkiakum County Marine Resource Council has a possible grant of $10-15,000, he said. He asked that the project be included in the county's 2022 budget.
Cothren commented that because of an error by the state in computing forest excise taxes, the county has an $80,000 budget shortfall to address.
Commissioners approved a request from Auditor Nicci Bergseng to remodel part of the vault located between the offices of the auditor and assessor. The space would become a dedicated elections room, which is now required by the state. The room would have a monitor which would allow people to watch televised proceedings. The estimated cost is $4,950, which would be covered by state grant funds, Bergseng said.
--WHHS Director Chris Bischoff reported that the county needs to expand funding to have a full-time Workforce employment coordinator position. County officials had hoped to transfer the position to another entity, Bischoff said, but the contract with Worksource doesn't allow that, he said. Commissioners approved the expansion.
--Commissioners approved an extension of a state contract to provide housing for homeless persons. Program coordinator Julie Johnston said the program goal is to help participants become self sufficient by addressing a variety of needs.
--Commissioners also approved an extension of a contract funding for a program aimed at preventing marijuana use by minors.
"You guys have a real uphill battle," commented Commissioner Cothren. "I've had to deal with it with my kids.
"You'll never get me to be okay with this stuff."