County officials seek way to pay for fairgrounds work


Wahkiakum County commissioners spent much of their Tuesday meeting discussing issues with constituents; they also worked with county fair officials to solve problems for financing improvements at the fairgrounds so that projects could be done before the start of the county fair in August.

West Valley resident Bill Spillman described problems with an undersized culvert on West Valley Road and asked that county workers address the issue.

Public Works Department Director Chuck Beyer said the road department is aware of the problem. The culvert functions correctly except in periods of high flow. The department hopes to work with the Wahkiakum Conservation District to address the problem, he said.

County officials and food service vendors discussed issues with food service permits and agreed to meet to seek improvements.

Vendor Bob Hill had reported problems getting permits in a timely fashion and that permit fees and regulations vary greatly between Wahkiakum, Pacific and Cowlitz counties.

"We're just looking for consistency," he said.

Health and Human Services Director Chris Bischoff acknowledged the permitting process has problems. He suggested the vendors and department staff meet to go over the issues.

"We'll come back with some revisions," he said.

It took a while, but county officials and county fair representatives found a way to address unexpected high costs for fairgrounds improvements.

Fair officials have been awarded grants for construction of a barn for sheep, goats and pigs and for improvements in the horse barn. However, quotes from contractors exceeded grant funds by $13,459 for the sheep, goat and pig barn and $16,550 for the horse barn improvements.

Also, the county has budgeted money to make improvements to asphalt paving damaged in flooding, but that work hasn't yet begun.

Commissioners were hesitant to cover the unfunded costs out of other county funds.

"Things are getting tight," said Commissioner Dan Cothren. "Thirty thousand dollars, to this county, is a lot of money."

The officials looked over the grants to see what, if any, grant funding could be transferred to support the projects.

Fair Manager Patty Dursteler came up with a likely solution: The fair is set to receive Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) funding later this year to pay for damage from flooding.

In the meantime, she suggested, the county could loan the fair the necessary funds for the projects, and the fair could use the FEMA money to repay the loan.

Officials said the idea seemed sound, and county Treasurer Tammy Peterson said she would work on the loan document for action at a subsequent meeting.

Commissioners and Puget Island residents discussed erosion issues and the need for beach nourishment to protect their property.

East Sunny Sands resident Mike Beutler said the recent high river has caused considerable erosion in the area between a long pile dike and the ferry landing.

Area property owners financed an engineer's survey of the area and presented it to the US Army Corps of Engineers last fall. In April, the Corps gave the residents permission to place sand on their beaches.

Commissioners said the properties could be added to the existing Sunny Sands flood control erosion zone district and included in the existing beach nourishment plan.

It is uncertain when sand could be placed on the beaches; that depends on how much sand and silt is deposited in the shipping channel, Commissioner Cothren said.

Residents said that the Corps authorized them to use sand from other sources; however, commissioners said that transportation costs could be "horrible."

Commissioners will meet with Corps officials this morning (Thursday) to discuss possible channel dredging in Gray's Bay; Cothren said he would get the Islanders' issue on the agenda, too.


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