Commissioners address covid concerns
September 9, 2021
Wahkiakum County commissioners covered familiar ground and handled a variety of other business when they met Tuesday.
In opening public comment, a speaker described discomfort caused by logging trucks passing by his house and raising dust, and of sediment washing into a nearby creek, which is eroding his property. He described barriers to obtaining permits to address the erosion and wondered why timber companies can obtain permits so easily.
Commissioner Dan Cothren responded that timber companies do go through the permitting process and must follow regulations that other private landowners must follow.
Two speakers raised the issue of mask mandates to limit the spread of the covid-19 virus.
The first, Leslie Adams, asked if commissioners could channel state school appropriations to home schoolers and also if the commission would go on record opposing mandates that county employees must either be vaccinated against covid-19, or test for it, or lose their jobs.
Commission Chair Gene Strong responded that state school appropriations go to school districts, not county government, and that Wahkiakum had no mandates on employees.
The second speaker, Elizabeth Struntz, commented that a county road department employee had told her he would lose his job if he weren't vaccinated.
Strong replied that he knew of no county wide mandate and that he supported masking for safety for the wearer and others nearby. He said the board would check on the road department employee report.
The board approved a request from Prosecuting Attorney Dan Bigelow to add a provisional deputy prosecuting attorney to his staff in November and December.
The present deputy prosecutor will retire at the end of the year, and he wants to have the replacement on duty to learn the job. The estimated cost of up to $25,000 is available in various reserve funds, he said.
The board also approved a grant proposal from the Washington State Department of Ecology to continue funding the county's recycling program for two years. The department will contribute $105,000, and the county will contribute $35,000. The grant will cover contracts with haulers who handle the county's collection at various recycling bins.
Chris Bischoff, director of County Health and Human Services, reported that the past August saw the most cases, 17, of covid-19 among county residents since the start of the pandemic.
Area hospitals are full of covid-19 patients, and many are operating at crisis stage, which allows doctors to choose which patients to treat and which to refuse.
"We're still pushing strongly for people to get vaccinated," he said. "It works well."
Commissioners opened the meeting with a moment of silence to honor the 13 members of the US Armed Services who died recently in a suicide bombing at the Kabul, Afghanistan, airport during evacuations.
They also read and adopted a resolution honoring county workers who operate the Enhanced 9-1-1 center and related staff members involved in emergency response.