Commishes Eye Public Access to Gravel Bar, Collective Bargaining 

Public access to public land and improving transparency in collective bargaining contracts “in a manner open to the public” were under discussion at today’s Board of County Commissioner meetings.

Access to the West Fork Humptulips Gravel Bar was on the morning agenda. Citizen activist Dan Boeholt provided an update on the Forest Service’s continuing efforts to restrict same. At issue is a new rivlet/creek over the road to the gravel bar. The Forest Service wants to close off public access to avoid “squishing fish,” according to Boeholt. He added, “In the 55 years I’ve been out there, there’s never been water over the road.” For background, see: Forest Service Plans to Block Gravel Bar Access the West Fork Humptulips River.

Commissioner Wes Cormier brought forward a letter supporting public access to the area and opposing closure of the road. Citing access to public waterways through gravel bars as a “historical and cultural tradition that many residents have enjoyed since statehood,” the letter opposes “the proposed action of U.S. Forest Service Ranger Dean Millet’ s email dated January 13 to close Forest Service Road 2203-040 to the W. Fork Humptulips gravel bar.”

The letter received unanimous support from all three commissioners. It was brought forward by Commissioner Wes Cormier. The letter also seeks signatures/support from state legislators Brian Blake, Jim Walsh, Dean Takko, Mike Chapman, Steve Tharinger and Kevin Van De Wege. Boeholt later noted that all three 19th LD legislators said they’ll sign on.

Budget Director Brenda Sherman also presented a budget update. Commissioner Vickie Raines expressed concerns about possible inadequate budgeting by the Auditor’s office for the last election that included a presidential election.

Commissioner Raines was excused from the afternoon meeting due to a medical issue. The resolution on collective bargaining was addressed by four people during the first public comment period. All spoke in favor. No one spoke against.

Scott Roberts of the Freedom Foundation noted that open negotiations are “not only good for the taxpayers and elected officials, but also for union members to see how they’re being represented at the bargaining table.”

When the Collective Bargaining resolution came forward this afternoon, Commissioner Randy Ross said he was “generally supportive” but would like to postpone “until Vickie is here.”

During the Media Q and A session following the business meeting, Commissioner Cormier, who spearheaded the resolution, explained:

“For me, it’s not about being a Democrat or a Republican, or union versus management. For me, it’s about transparency.”

A former union member and shop steward himself, Cormier said that collective bargaining contracts are among the largest expenditures in the county budget. “It makes sense that the public sees it,” he said. The Commissioner noted that the resolution, if passed, would apply to general discussion being open to the public, “not strategizing.”

Commissioner Ross said he “totally favors transparency,” but wanted to wait to weigh in until Raines is available. Look for a revisit next Monday.