Commissioners hear concerns, comments on community center


December 2, 2021

Wahkiakum County commissioners discussed future management of the Community Center in Cathlamet at their Nov. 23 meeting and adjourned to 9:30 a.m. next Monday to hold a public hearing on 2022 county budgets.

During public comment, a visitor suggested the county install RV hookups at the fairgrounds in Skamokawa to open the area for more recreational use.

"I do know it's in the long range plan," said commission Chair Gene Strong, who represents the commission on the county fair board.

Two issues to address, he said, are having an adequate supply and functioning sewer system.

The fairboard is looking for a grant that would finance the improvements, Strong said.

"It would be nice to have the facilities," he said.

Sheriff Mark Howie pointed out that when RVs last landed at the fairgrounds, people were stretching extension cords to supply electricity to them.

"It was costing us quite a bit in electricity," Strong added, and there was a safety issue with extension cords running through standing water.

"And be careful what you ask for," commented Commissioner Dan Cothren. "Pretty soon it turns into a domino effect and it turns into a trash pen. We had that problem with the fairgrounds."

"That's why we need to have the policies as well," Strong said.

Craig Brown, an advocate for the Cathlamet Community Center, read a letter which appeared in last week's Eagle reviewing center operations, the center's value to citizens, and urging county and Town of Cathlamet officials to allow volunteers to keep the center functioning.

Presently, neither the county nor the town have budgeted funding for a manager; it has been managed by volunteers, and last month, the town council voted to cancel their contract with the county for center operation and form a committee to reorganize center operations.

"The community center is a service for those who are not so favored," he said.

"It's a town building," Strong commented.

"It's town building and a county wide service," Brown replied.

Town Council Member Bill Wainwright, noting he was not speaking for the town, said he doubts there's a single person on the council who wants to shut it down; all want it functioning.

"But it's got to function effectively," he said. "The game plan is to shut it down, get a couple people from the town, a couple people from the county together, figure the best way to manage it, get a new advisory committee, to get an understanding of how it's going to look like, how it's going to serve the community, how are we going to fund it and manage it, what hours are we going to have, get an agreement, and get it happening.

"But right now we have zero. Hopefully it will be up and running again in 2022."

Brown responded that they don't need to shut down the center to improve it.

The building is the city's responsibility, Strong commented, and he urged Brown take his concerns to the council.

"We don't have control over the city," he said. "They're their own entity."

In other business, commissioners scheduled a public hearing next Tuesday, 10 a.m., to consider adopting a plan to revise commission district boundary lines.

County officials have said there have been no great changes in the distribution of population or any significant demographic shifts within the county, so they recommend boundaries remain unchanged.

Commissioners may amend or replace the existing plan based on comments received at the meeting.

Commissioner District 1 includes Puget Island and part of Cathlamet; District 2 includes part of Cathlamet, the Elochoman Valley and eastern portions of the county, and District 3 includes Skamokawa and Westend areas.

On Monday, commissioners will reconvene at 9:30 a.m. to continue work on their 2022 county budgets, including hearings on setting tax levies for 2022.


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