Town hears about traffic, water plan


After a moment of silence for Rick Nelson, the editor and publisher of the Wahkiakum County Eagle who passed away on June 2, the Town of Cathlamet spent the greater part of the next four hours discussing a variety of subjects at length at their meeting on June 5.

Sheriff Mark Howie talked about his department’s move to the back of the Wahkiakum County Courthouse, how they responded to the recent swatting incident at the school where a caller falsely reported an act of violence, the addition of a sixth deputy, and the purchase and outfitting of a boat for river rescues and recoveries.

Council member Robert Stowe asked about traffic on Main Street.

“That is an ongoing point of contention,” Howie said. “Deputies have sat out there, and what looks like speeding is not even going the speed limit. I have heard of no tickets being written there while tickets have been written on Front Street.”

He suggested that the town invest in a solar operated speed sign that alerts drivers to their actual speeds.

Howie also pointed out that speeding happens all over the county, and that Cathlamet is just a small portion of their map.

“We have five deputies,” he said. “We’ve been running on that for two years. Five deputies are going 24 hours, seven days a week We don’t have a traffic unit. We have one deputy on at any given time. We have two doubled up for most of the night. The undersheriff works the first four days of the week, I work the last four days of the week, so to have somebody on traffic for any length of time is really hard to do.”

He suggested prevention, including the aforementioned speed sign and speed humps.

(News Editor note: The speed humps were not proposed for Main Street. They were suggested for other areas in Cathlamet where speeding is an issue.)

Mayor David Olson said the town was still awaiting signs for the location at Glengate where there were ongoing problems.

Mike Johnson of Gray and Osborne talked about the update to the town’s water system plan, which is required by state law, he said, and now must be done every 10 years.

The plan assesses existing facilities and provides recommendations for improvements to correct efficiencies and more, he said.

Johnson talked about reducing leakage and customer consumption, and projecting for the future when the growth rate had been more pronounced in the last 10 years.

“I’d rather shoot a little bit high than a little bit low and end up with more growth than you planned for and have problems serving that growth,” he said.

He discussed several improvements suggested in the water plan. They included the addition of an alternative intake to the town’s water treatment plant, telemetry to help the town monitor the system and allow them to control it remotely, as well as replacing aged and undersized water mains, finding a second water source, and more.

Now might be a good time to address some of these matters, Johnson said, because funding was available.

Public Works Superintendent Dave McNally said a plan to replace a water main in town was shelved to complete the improvements in the telemetry system.

Councilmember Jeanne Hendrickson wondered if the town was under supporting the system.

“I would say it is a little bit underfunded,” Johnson replied. “There are communities who spend more and do a better job at the repair replacement, and keeping up on those things. I wouldn’t say you are in the lowest 10 percent, but I also wouldn’t say you’re in the highest 10 percent.

Hendrickson asked if they were over 50 percent, and Johnson said he thought they were right at 50 percent.

He told the council they would likely need a four percent annual rate increase to finance projected improvements and keep up with costs of operations.

Proposed rates for water hook up at a new development on Greenwood Hill called Ma’uka Nani Estates brought up several questions about the rates, including why one development received a discount, and when or if that was appropriate, and how to address the issue in the future.

The council will return to the matter at a later date.

The next discussion regarded the sewer winter average, which determines the annual rate for customers. Two customers rates were affected by leaks during this time and they requested that their average be adjusted to lower their annual rate.

After a lengthy discussion, the council agreed to have counsel draft an ordinance to address the issue. The motion passed with four votes in favor and one abstention from Jeanne Hendrickson.

The council then agreed to pay Freddy’s Mowing $1,200 a month, an increase of $300. The landscaper provides roadside lawn maintenance service to both sides of SR 4 from Jacobson Road to Elochoman Valley Road, as well as both sides of Front Street from the intersection of Columbia Street and Main Street, ending at the Puget Island bridge. The contract ends this year when Fred Hoven plans to retire.

The council reviewed and approved a six-year transportation improvements program and amended an ordinance to more clearly define single family dwelling and accessory dwelling.

More than three hours into the meeting, the council again addressed the comprehensive plan for the town.

The mayor said it was never his intention to jam the plan through, regardless of perception of council members.

“I just wanted to see it done,” Olson said.

Hendrickson differed.

“I disagree with what you’re saying, because it is not accurate with what happened in the last week or two,” she said. “I am not passionate about a comp plan being done or not done. I’m just saying that what was put before the council was inadequate and the council needs to sit down, because we want a plan for our community. We want to be able to say what we want to do for this community, what our priorities are for this community, and where we should go. That plan we were given to update did not address those issues.”

Hendrickson also expressed frustration that the council was expected to make decisions after getting voluminous packets of agenda materials four days prior to the meeting.

The packet for this particular meeting was more than 600 pages long.

“I have a problem with the volume of information that is given to us at the last minute,” Hendrickson said. “I’m unhappy with the way we are expected to handle the very important things we are asked to decide.”

Councilmember Laurel Waller took a moment to talk about the agenda for the town council meeting, reminding the mayor that it wasn’t his agenda, and that the council should have more say on its contents so they could do their jobs.

“We’re not being allowed to do it or we’re being held back or it’s ‘Maybe I will or maybe I won’t,’” she said. “I’m not okay with that.”

Councilmember Robert Stowe said that Hendrickson and Waller had valid points, but he thought Olson was doing a pretty good job, and he was grateful that he himself hadn’t been elected mayor.


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