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Mayor comments on Butler lot finances

Editor's note: Here is a copy of a letter Mayor David Olson sent to Cathlamet council members regarding expenditures for the development of the Butler Street parking lot.)

To the Cathlamet Town Council:

I want to respond to statements concerning the Butler Lot, many of them inaccurate or misleading, contained in the Letter to the editor published in the January 12th Wahkiakum Eagle.

I recognize at the outset (and regret) the cost escalation associated with Butler lot development. Much of this arose from process delays (the latest is that the electric panel required for the EV charger will not be delivered until August instead of May as earlier expected – this is a supply chain issue outside our control but frustrating to all of us). I also acknowledge more remains to be done at Butler and decisions continue to lie ahead to evolve the lot into the positive showcase for the town it was envisioned to be, and an asset to the town. But as we continue to work together to complete the process, I recommend we be mindful of the underlying facts, which are not accurately represented in the letter to the editor from former Council Member Wainwright.

Here are clarifying facts:

Cost of original lot acquisition- $68,000. The appraisal was $40,000. The acquisition was not “twice the then current appraised market value”. I do not defend the original acquisition decision and had I been on the council at the time I doubt I would have supported it. However, a fundamental precept of responsible elected service (reinforced by MRSC and AWC training) is to support decisions made by a majority of the body on which you serve (even if you disagree) and avoid the temptation to perpetually re-argue such decisions. I particularly commend Council Member Stowe in this respect, who followed this precept in joining the rest of the council to approve issuance of bid documents on the Butler lot even though he was consistently on record as opposing the development of the lot. Thank you, Robert.

"Contaminated" a small strip at the edge of the Butler lot had residual toxins from the prior gas station, but this was a fraction of the site and was addressed by agreement with the Department of Ecology.

"Personal Agenda" - Butler lot development wasn't anyone's "personal agenda"; rather, it has been supported by a majority of elected town council members (old and new) throughout the development process.

"$600,000 cost" – this figure is not accurate, see breakout below. Moreover, it is particularly misleading to compare cumulative costs over 5 fiscal years (2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022) inclusive of outside grant funds (e.g. state EV charger grant $110k) to one-year costs;

5 year breakout:

EV Project-- $145,560.24 ($109,410.92 funded by grant).

Development --$343,614.84 (100% town funded).

Total Cost: $489,175.08 ($379,764.16 funded by town) .

(Does not include property purchase of $68,000)

“Cost is close to half of town capital” - Letter states: "a year ago $600,000 is close to half of what Town's total available unallocated capital was (net of transfers and reserves)" – the statement in the letter is inaccurate: actual unallocated town capital (2021) is $2,705,416.46. ; the letter misleadingly compares five years of cumulative Butler expenses to one year of town capital (this is apples vs oranges – for accuracy the same time frame needs to be used); secondly it is easy to make any town expenditure seem expensive if you lump together expenditures over multiple fiscal years, for example I expect Erickson Park maintenance and repairs would appear extraordinary and expensive if five years’ worth of maintenance and repairs (including recent renovations) were lumped together and compared to one year’s worth of expenses elsewhere.

“underground pipes beginning to fail” - Letter states: "(last year) Town's consulting engineer commented that many of our underground pipes were beginning to fail but was unable to estimate how badly" – No one at the town, including the public works superintendent, can verify, affirm or source this allegation;

$1.0 million to fix intersection last year” - Letter states: "last year it cost over $1.0 million alone just to fix Columbia St/Olive Road intersections underground repairs" – first of all, this was a 2019-2020 project (not last year, 2022); the cost was $774,374.53 to REPLACE Main Street from intersection of Columbia/Jacobson to SR4 AND from Island View Lane to 332 E SR 4; secondly, the cost was covered by a loan which is being repaid over time, the town did not have to cover the expense from a single fiscal year.

Please let me know if council members have any additional questions. Thanks for your understanding and ability to work together on behalf of the town we love.

David C. Olson, Mayor

Town of Cathlamet


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