County board Ok's salary resolution for commissioners
April 28, 2022
Wahkiakum County commissioners addressed a variety of issues at their meeting Tuesday, including a property donation request, commissioners' salaries, and Gray's Bay siltation.
Members of the Skamokawa Fire Department asked the board to consider donating a lot adjacent to their fire hall to the department.
Assistant Chief Austin Smith said the department is growing and wants to expand their building to accommodate more equipment and training.
"Is that (the lot) something that could be turned over to us?" he asked.
Commissioners were receptive to the request but wanted more information about the issue before acting.
Treasurer Tammy Peterson cautioned commissioners to consider the precedent they might be setting. Other departments have sold bonds to finance similar projects she said. The district has about $80,000 in its account, she said, adding that the county could sell the land at a nominal price.
The parties discussed asking Prosecuting Attorney Dan Bigelow for an opinion, and board Chair Gene Strong asked that department officers meet with county Public Works Director Chuck Beyer to develop a proposal for commission action.
"Come back to us with something," he said.
The board passed a resolution to establish a process to set commissioners' salaries automatically.
The salaries are now set at $34,000 per year and haven't been increased since 2004.
Auditor Nicci Bergseng said the county's salary committee had researched commission salaries across the state and found that the Wahkiakum rate was under average.
"Believe me, it's not a salary you can live on," said long serving Commissioner Dan Cothren. "You have to have something else on the side. It (the job) is getting more and more detailed."
The resolution sets the commission's salary at 25 percent of that of a superior court judge, which is in turn set by a state salary commission.
The increase will still leave the salaries under the state annual average, Commissioner Lee Tischer said.
The commissioners, by law, can't raise their own salary during their current term of office; the increases will come at the start of the next terms. For position 3, Commissioner Strong's position, the increase would come January 1, 2023, and for positions 1 and 2, Tischer's and Cothren's positions, January 1, 2025.
Commissioners agreed they want to press the US Army Corps of Engineers to discuss what can be done about siltation of Gray's Bay.
The board is scheduled to meet with officials from the Corps in May, and board Chair Strong said he wanted the meeting to be more than a meet-and-greet session.
Commissioners and Corps officials have met in the past and discussed the issue, he said, and there has been no progress.
Commissioners and others feel the Corps's dredging of the shipping channel and related deposits of dredge spoils has plugged the Gray's River channel through the bay, and that exacerbates flooding and damage to property.
"Major flooding occurs in these areas multiple times per year and this flooding gets more severe and frequent each year," Strong said in a letter which the board agreed to send to the Corps. "As a result of this flooding, a local fire district had to relocate their fire station. The flooding has also damaged houses and roads in these areas and causes many county roads and the state highway to be closed for numerous days multiple times per year.
"This is the issue we wish to continue discussing with you and would like to see this project put into the Corps's dredging schedule as soon as possible."