"Ridiculous" and "disappointed": councilmembers and others vent frustration over budgets, mayor

Timber revenues are down, library budget shrinks

 

February 8, 2024



The Cathlamet Town Council received an update about the waterfront park, a forestry report, approved county funding for the pool and the library, and aired some of their grievances on Monday night.

Mike Johnson, an engineer from Gray and Osborne shared the latest plans for the first phase of the town’s waterfront park, which included moving some of the fill to shape the grounds and make it more useable as a park, development of trails, a gazebo, some planted areas in the corners of the old lagoons, removal of invasive species and planting of native species, lighting for trails, and a complete redo of the path at Strong Park.

“I would like to include the port and the historical society in some capacity as they are anchoring the park, to have their blessing, so they are kept aware of what is going on,” Council member Jeanne Hendrickson said. “On the Port One property it is now a pond next to River Mile 38. What is your opinion on that?”


Johnson said they had been talking about that, and agreed it would make sense to coordinate on the matter.

Bill Olsen, the town forester, provided a report of the town’s 648 acres.

“Over the years we’ve harvested all but 177 acres,” Olsen said.

The timber age of the stand is between 45 and 50 years old, he said, which is the age mills prefer today, and consists of Douglas fir, hemlock, red alder, some species of red cedar, Sitka spruce, and Noble fir.

He suggested breaking it up into three different units for future harvest. According to Olsen the first unit of 40.6 acres was easily accessible and they could use ground based logging, which was most cost effective for them and would net the town a higher percentage for the value of the timber. The second unit at 51.7 acres would require a cable harvest, and result in a lower percentage for the town in terms of value for the timber. That section has a higher volume of red alder which he intended to replace with Douglas fir.


Olsen recommend building 2,300 feet of road on the second unit, which he believed would make the harvest less costly and make it easier to access the third unit of 76 acres.

“The 177 acres could bring $1,770,000 and $2,124,000 gross value depending on value at time of the market,” Olsen said.

He estimate that the town could net $250,000 or $300,000 if they log this year, and suggested that they go forward with permitting for Unit 1.


“If the prices are acceptable, I would like to get that unit ready for harvest and do some road maintenance,” he said.

Councilmembers voted to approve funding from Wahkiakum County for the pool in the amount of $50,000 and for the Cathlamet library in the amount of $2,000. Council member Kermit Chamberlin abstained from the vote on the pool.

“I read these two documents today and keeping in mind that the library board has recently dropped the requirement for residents of Wahkiakum County who reside outside the town to pay for a library card,” Chamberlin said, “it’s free to anybody in the county, and yet the county funds the library at $2,000 and the pool at $50,000. I swim, but I don’t use the pool. I read. I use the library. I have difficulty striking a balance here, and because of that I’m not sure I’m in support of what I see as inequitable funding.”


He wasn’t the only one.

Councilmember Joe Baker described the support for the library as “ridiculous,” and Council member Laurel Waller noted that the amount of support had dropped from the previous year.

“I don’t know how we are going to proceed when our costs continue to increase without support on these particular priorities that we’ve chosen to keep with the town,” Waller said.

“I too was very disappointed that we weren’t able to help the library,” Wahkiakum County Commissioner Lee Tischer said. “This year I had so many disappointments. Two weeks into our budget workshops, we get a notice of over $300,000 increase in our liability insurance and notice that timber revenues were going to be way down. We had to cut way back on everybody. We weren’t just picking on the library. We’re hoping for a better year next year. We’re trying to secure more timberland to get us on a more stable budget.”

Finally, some of the council members aired grievances about the Mayor.

This is the only place we get to talk,” Waller said. “It is not a healthy relationship between the Mayor and certain council people. Hopefully we can figure out how to make things better.”

Olson suggested a team retreat.

 

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