Town, sheriff, confront parking enforcement standards
The sheriff said he will not enforce a no-parking space on Main Street until changes are made
January 25, 2024
Following a presentation by Minette Smith and Terrie Howell on a mentoring program through Wahkiakum Health and Human Services, the Cathlamet Town Council agreed to an increase for services provided by Forrest Mora, discussed a problematic parking spot on Main Street, and what to do with a recent windfall, thanks to a new cell tower contract.
Mora requested a 20.3 percent increase for lawn maintenance which will now include roadside mowing previously completed by Freddy’s Mowing. He explained it was a cost of living increase to offset inflation. It was also noted that he’d only received two percent increases since he was contracted by the town in 2020.
“I’m not really getting a raise,” Mora said, “I’m just trying to get caught back up.”
Councilmember Laurel Waller asked when the council would go out for new bids instead of continuing a contract.
“If we are supposed to be putting it back out for bid, I think we should,” Waller said.
Town Attorney Fred Johnson said it was a professional services contract and not subject to bidding, rather at the discretion of the town as to how they want to do that.
“If the town is satisfied and thinks this is a good deal, there is no requirement to go through a long, drawn out procurement process,” Johnson said.
When Councilmember Robert Stowe asked town staff what the total would be after the increase, it became clear that information was not available, so Mora itemized what he is currently doing for the town, and what he currently charges.
He said he takes care of several areas around town every other week, including Erickson Park, Strong Park, the waterfront trail, and Una Street. The town pays him once a month at $403, $163, $76.50, and $76.50 for those locations respectively, totaling $719 per month.
He also cleans up the downtown corridor every week for another $122 a month, and takes care of Queen Sally Park when needed, charging $280 each time. He maintains the area around the Cathlamet sign on SR 4, charging $145, and around the library for $76.50.
With that information, the town council agreed to the 20.3 percent increase to those prices. Four voted yes, with one abstention from Waller.
The town received a letter from Sheriff Mark Howie in December about the parking spot in front of Patty Cakes, which was painted yellow by the town in an effort to curb parking in that spot, because of visibility issues at the crosswalk there.
Howie was in attendance and spoke about the matter.
“It really comes down to part of our contract and service with the Town of Cathlamet is provide enforcement on Main Street for parking,” he said. “So that is what we will do with any particular spaces you deem no parking.”
Because the sheriff’s department was not notified when the town made the change to the parking spot, Howie said they would not enforce it at that time. He said they would enforce it if the town would add a stencil indicating no parking, as the yellow paint was ambiguous and had different meanings in different communities.
He also said that he had an issue with randomly enforcing ordinances in one location and not another.
“If we’re going to do it because somebody is parking too close to the crosswalk, then we have to write for every space in the town that is too close to the crosswalk. I can’t just pick that space out,” he said. “You’ve got to be consistent.”
The discussion continued for some time. The ambiguity of yellow paint, whether or not to retain the spot for loading and unloading, treating all crosswalks consistently, or simply following the Washington State RCW, which says that cars should not be parked within 20 feet of a crosswalk, and the potential safety issues all arose, and it became quite heated at times.
Nothing was resolved.
Mayor David Olson spoke of the revenue the town received for easement at the cell tower in Rosedale, as well as the copay from T-Mobile, which added up to an additional $673,000 in the town’s coffers, and he was eager to talk about how the town might spend it.
“The decisions about holding or spending these funds are decisions for the council to make,” he said, “and I want to make sure that you know that I know that.”
He reasoned that because of inflation, the funds would likely lose value if they held on to them.
“We’re building a once in a multi-generation park,” he said. “That has never happened in the history of the town and we’re now building it at a scope and a level we never previously did.
“That’s the waterfront park. We’ve greatly increased construction costs but with critical elements missing, including restrooms.”
He mentioned the toxic mold in town hall as well.
“It’s your decision. We can leave the money unspent, or spend some of it or all of it,” he said. “My own view is that the next council and the next mayor will be happy to allocate this.”
There was talk of using the money to continue to fill the former sewer lagoons, the site of the future park, and bathrooms, a kiosk for the Butler Street parking lot, adding hours at the library, fixing the recently abandoned town hall that is leaking and riddled with mold, and more.
“I want to make sure we are doing it sensibly and not feeling rushed,” Waller said, “and not locking things in, so when the need comes, well we don’t have any money because we already locked it up here, I want us to be a little more fluid than that. I want to approach these things carefully.”
Nothing was determined at that time.