Town, county cancel community center lease
December 9, 2021
Operation of the community center in Cathlamet is up in the air after the Cathlamet Town Council and Wahkiakum County Board of Commissioners voted to cancel their lease for center usage.
The town owns the building housing the center, and the county in the past few years has provided a manager. The County Health and Human Services Department has covered the manager's wage through a variety of grants and outside entities without using county-sourced funds. Those funds, however, have disappeared, and without money in the budget for the position, the county hasn't provided a manager for several months, and volunteers have been managing the center.
Under the lease, the town essentially covered utilities and related expenses contributed $5,000 for the manager.
An advisory committee of citizens and town and county officials have met several times in the past few months but were unable to come up with a solution to the situation this year.
Consequently town officials, leery of liability issues and unsanctioned use and also not wanting to add more personnel to their staff, voted Monday evening to terminate the lease with commitment to explore a new operational arrangement in 2022.
Before the council's vote, several citizens spoke of the importance of the center to them and urged the town to continue services.
Dianna Adsero commented that citizens need access to the center's computer and internet services, and they can use the center for social gatherings or for a warming center in extremely cold weather. The present volunteer manager, John Marx, is doing a good job, she said. She suggested formation of a non-profit organization to take over center management, and until that time, letting volunteers manage the center.
Two other women, one describing herself as homeless, spoke of the importance of the center in their efforts to get their lives together after going through difficult times.
"I am using the center as my only computer and wifi," one woman said. "It has been invaluable to me lately."
The other woman supported that comment, adding the center has allowed her to have access to a case worker and that it is a safe space.
Council members indicated they were reluctant to see the center close, but they want to see development of a new operating strategy, and they voted to terminate the lease.
"The motion is to terminate the lease, said Town Attorney Fred Johnson. "The destiny of the building in is the town's hands."
Wahkiakum County commissioners had the issue on their agenda Tuesday, with the town's vote the evening before, they followed suit and voted to terminate the lease.