Council canceling community center pact
November 18, 2021
The Cathlamet Town Council voted Monday to cease operations at the Community Center in Cathlamet as soon as possible and form a committee to determine future operation.
The center is a town facility operated on a contract with Wahkiakum County. The county has used grants and contracts with outside service agencies to fund center operations, but the funding has disappeared, and the center has been operated by volunteers.
Council Member Bill Wainwright reported meeting with county officials and interested parties to analyze center operations. There is now no director and usage is greatly diminished, with just five or six people the only regular patrons.
"Right now, it's not serving its purpose," Wainwright commented. "It's a rudderless ship. I don't even know why we're opening the doors for just a couple people.
"I think it's probably the town's best interest is to shut it down and figure out how it will be operated."
Wahkiakum County has no money budgeted for community center operations, said county Health and Human Services Operations Manager Duncan Cruickshank.
"Since the beginning, Health and Human Services has had no money for us to do it, and each year it gets worse," he said. "The money (to operate the center) is not forthcoming in the county budget."
Saying he is a proponent of community centers, Wainwright recommended notifying the county that the town wants center operation ceased as soon as possible and that a committee be formed of representatives of the town and county to decide the best steps forward to have a center.
That became a motion.
Town Attorney Fred Johnson commented that under the lease, the town can't mandate any action by the county.
"The county is in charge of operations," Johnson said.
Council Member Jeanne Hendrickson suggested the town simply terminate the lease.
Cruickshank commented that there are a few events intended for the center, such as a visit with Santa Claus at the Nov. 27 holiday lighting festival; other venues were suggested, and Council Member Laurel Waller offered to host Santa in the lobby of the Hotel Cathlamet, which she operates.
With nearly 40 minutes of discussion spent on the issue, Mayor Dale Jacobson said it was time to move on.
Wainwright pointed out that he had made a motion, and Council Member Robert Stowe said he would second it.
Jacobson called for a vote. Wainwright and Stowe voted in favor. There were no opposing votes, but Council Members Waller and David Olson abstained. Council Member Cecelia Raglin was on an excused absence.
To break the tie, Jacobson voted in favor.
Discussion of closure resumed Tuesday at the meeting of the Wahkiakum County Board of Commissioners.
During public comment, John Marx identified himself as a volunteer manager for the center and urged the commissioners to take steps to keep it open.
Commissioners suggested Marx discuss the issue with town council members.
Commission Chair Gene Strong added he would also contact Mayor Dale Jacobson about the matter.