Town council reviews unfinished projects


September 23, 2021

A potentially short meeting of the Cathlamet Town Council turned into a sometimes contentious discussion of unfinished projects.

The council did authorize staff to work with Wahkiakum West Telephone Company to develop a franchise agreement that would permit the company to install broadband equipment in the town limits.

Wahkiakum West Chief Executive Officer Ken Johnson said that the company has joined an effort to install a high-speed fiber-optic network in the eastern part of Wahkiakum County to provide ultra-high-speed broadband. The company would join three other companies in providing the service.

Johnson said the company's rates would be close to other companies, but he feels the company's local presence would allow it to provide much better, more responsive service.

The broadband issue was the only item listed in the new business section on the agenda; no items were listed under old business, but the council agreed to Council Member Bill Wainwright's request to have updates on five issues.

First, Wainwright asked for an update on the installation of a new float at the town's Broadway Street dock. The new float will be partially constructed by a Vancouver firm, with the town crew finishing assembly and installation.

Clerk/Treasurer Sarah Clark reported the town has received 90 percent of necessary materials and a funding grant of $10,545 from the Wahkiakum County Marine Resources Committee to support the project. The town is waiting for the state Department of Natural Resources to issue a tidelands lease.

Town Attorney Fred Johnson reported the DNR has only one staff member working in the tidelands survey division, which slows the process.

Wainwright asked Public Works Superintendent David McNally how long it would take to complete construction and installation. McNally replied that it would probably take most of a week.

"But it's a high priority on your list?" Wainwright asked.

"We can work it in," McNally said.

Council Member Robert Stowe asked McNally if he was confident the crew could do the work, and McNally replied affirmatively.

Stowe also asked if new pilings were necessary, commenting that one seemed very unstable.

Attorney Johnson warned against adding piling work to the project.

"If you're talking about changing the scope of work, you can just add two more years to your schedule because you'll get into new permitting with the Corps of Engineers."

Wainwright next questioned Johnson about progress on a town mandate to the owner of the Columbia Saloon building to add overhead fire suppression equipment. The issue has been idle for a long time, he said.

Johnson replied that there have been conversations with the owner; if the council wanted more information, it would have to come in closed, executive session.

"Then set that up for our next meeting," Wainwright said.

Wainwright also asked for updates on a consultant's sewer and water rate study and an update of the town's comprehensive plan.

Clark replied that a report on the rate study is expected this week.

Johnson and Council Member David Olson said they would contact the Cowlitz/Wahkiakum Council of Governments about completing the comprehensive plan.

"We were doing good work on this," Stowe said about the comprehensive plan update, "till covid hit and shut it down."

Wainwright next asked about progress of the town's engineering firm in analyzing potential large cost maintenance needs for the water and sewer plants.

Clark replied that the consultant had experienced medical issues, including rotator cuff surgery, that has sidelined him. Wainwright indicated he felt the delays were too long and therefore unjustified.

Last, Wainwright asked when signs would be installed at Erickson Park stating nighttime closing hours.

Clark said the signs had arrived and would be installed when the crew had time. McNally commented that he had worked 30 of the past 36 hours and he didn't need more pressure.

Wainwright commented that people were abusing the park at night, that drug deals were occurring, and that priorities were being ignored.

"It really drives me crazy," he said.

Later, Wainwright commented that he wants the council and staff to set priorities and follow them.

"I'm very frustrated that we have no follow through unless it's a pet project," he said. "I don't see how we can take on anything new till we get a new council and mayor seated."

"We are moving forward," said Council Member Cece Raglin. "We need to give credit where credit is due."

"I don't see any," Wainwright said.

In their staff reports, both Clark and McNally spoke of having many demands to address.

McNally said the crew has had to take care of water leaks; they've been assisting Port 1 personnel in fixing a sewer leak, and they've had problems at the sewer plant: Road oil from recent highway work found its way into the sewer plant and played havoc with the treatment process.

Clark commented that the demands of preparing for two council meetings every month takes up much of her time that should be spent on other responsibilities. She suggested the council hold one regular meeting per month, as in the past, and another special meeting if needed.

Council members discussed the request and asked Johnson's opinion.

"There's nothing that stops you from cancelling a meeting," Johnson said.


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