Accident reveals faulty wiring at troubled Ilwaco sewer plantILWACO - Mayor Ed Leonard reported to the Ilwaco City Council Monday that the city's sewer plant expansion "hit a snag last week."

He said during drilling into a concrete retaining wall an electrical conduit was hit, putting the sewer plant "completely out of commission until the line was replaced." He said the city's crew and Wadsworth Electric employees had power restored at the plant in four hours with no interruption in service.

"During the repairs, it was discovered that a loose connection had been made when the plant was constructed," Leonard said, adding that this "could have been the source of the plant's electrical problems over the past 10 years. We owe that drill bit a vote of thanks."

The mayor requested that people wanting items on the agenda for the next city council meeting on Oct. 27 should get them in to city hall soon because the city's clerk, Deborah Gore, will be attending classes and won't be in the office to place them on the agenda.

Two special city council meetings were held last week, Leonard reported. The first meeting, on Oct. 6, was to discuss hiring a Level 3 water treatment plant operator. The council approved hiring Jay Rude, who currently operates the water plant for the state Department of Corrections at McNeil Island. Rude is to begin work Nov. 1.

The second item discussed by the council Oct. 6 was construction of a new sidewalk on the north side of Howerton to the bus stop at the Port of Ilwaco. Only one bid was received, for $50,000, higher than the city's available funds of $18,000. Leonard said he has talked with contractors from the city's small works roster for bids and said the port has offered some manpower. "With that, coupled with our own crew, I hope we can install a sidewalk at small to little cost," he said.

The second special meeting, on Oct. 7, "approved the InterLocal Agreement with Pacific County Fire District 1 which I signed the following morning," Leonard said.

The second item asked the council to approve a contract with Pierson & Son Construction Co. to build a storm water line on Myrtle Avenue south of Lake Street. The motion was approved unanimously by the council.

Clarifying why the two meetings were called with short notice, Leonard explained "I was asked why these matters had to be heard so quickly and why they couldn't have waited till the regularly scheduled council meeting.

"As to the hiring of the water plant operator," Leonard said, "we have been without a Group 3 operator for months. We are under a duty to hire a suitable individual at our earliest. To delay yet another week in my view would have been irresponsible.

"As for the storm line issue, the need was only learned when a trench was dug down Myrtle Avenue. To have delayed would have meant leaving the trench open for over a week. That would have constituted a safety hazard and a gross inconvenience to those living on Myrtle. To have filled in the trench, then re-dug it, and refill it would have been financially inane. We were faced with a problem, identified a solution, and turned that problem into an opportunity, which we seized. I believe much of the drainage problem along Myrtle Avenue and north of Spruce as far east as Pearl, perhaps farther, is resolved."

Clark's tree and bicentennial plansContinuing with his report Monday, Leonard said the arrival of Clark's Tree at the Port of Ilwaco "was a great success. I suspect Clark's Tree will have a profound effect upon tourism. We have lacked a visual symbol of the end of the Lewis and Clark Trail. Lacking such a symbol, people focused upon Fort Clatsop, not the end of the trail, but close enough. Now we have that better symbol."

Leonard expressed the city's thanks to the Long Beach City Council, Mayor Jacobson, and the people of Long Beach "for their vision and effort in bringing this wonderful, wonderful tree into our community."

City Council Member Shirley Burt reported on the numerous community and Lewis and Clark Bicentennial events she has attended during the past month, including the unveiling of a Confluence Project sculpture by Maya Lin at Fort Vancouver, planning for a reunion of descendants of members of the expedition in 2004, the arrival of Clark's Tree at the Port of Ilwaco, the Ocean Beach Education Foundation auction, and she requested a certificate of appreciation for U.S. Coast Guard Cmdr. Richard Burke for service to the community.

Council member Victoria Stoppiello reported she had attended a symposium sponsored by the Economic Development Council on keeping existing businesses and attracting new businesses to the area.

Fire department staying busyDuring the meeting Monday, Ilwaco Volunteer Fire Department Chief Tom Williams reported on aid and fire calls between Jan. 1 and Sept. 24 this year. He said the department responded to 66 aid calls and 29 fire calls.

Williams also addressed fire sprinklers at the city's community building that have been painted over, and are not in compliance with the uniform fire code. He said he had received an estimated bid from Viking Sprinklers of $1,340 to remedy the problem.

A letter from the Washington Survey and Rating Bureau had some good news for the fire department. Williams said the city's rating will go from a 7 to a 6 this year, creating a 5 to 10 percent decrease in insurance rates for commercial buildings.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, citizen Nelly Beasley expressed her dismay at a letter in the Chinook Observer recently airing "petty grievances regarding attendance of council members at public meetings." Beasley also praised the work by Pierson & Son Construction on the Myrtle Street project. "He's doing a wonderful job," she said.

After congratulating the city on its new lowered fire rating, Pacific County Fire District 1 Chief Thomas O'Donohue reported that he had done a cost comparison of ambulance rates for 30 to 40 districts in the state. The PCFD rates are "well within a reasonable range," he said.

Betty Johnson of Children's Services in Long Beach asked the city's permission to install a long banner somewhere in the city containing information about the need for foster parents in Pacific County. Leonard said he would meet with the city's operations supervisor Randy LaVold to discuss a location for the banner and the council approved installing the banner in a "safe and secure place."

Exception sought to new home ordinanceThe council approved revisiting an ordinance that had been approved at the Sept. 22 meeting amending the city's code regarding the placement of mobile or manufactured homes. The ordinance would permit mobile or manufactured homes only on the east side of the city.

At the Oct. 6 special council meeting, Patrick Schenk had requested that the council move the eastern boundary in the ordinance slightly to the west so he could continue with his plans to place a manufactured home on his 14 acres in the eastern part of the city.

On Monday, Coucil Member David Jensen suggested requests such as Schenk's be considered on a case-by-case basis as a variance to the ordinance. But Council Member Doug Hubbard asked if that wouldn't "muddy the waters" by giving a variance to one property owner and not to others. "It could create problems down the road," he said.

Schenk told the council he isn't a developer and that the property, which was annexed by the city three years ago, is not part of the historic core area of the city. He said the three homes he has planned to put on the property are for his family. "Why can't you just move the line?" he asked. "It's an arbitrary line, it's easy to do and it wouldn't muddy the waters."

"If we pass an ordinance and turn around and grant a variance, why pass the ordinance in the first place?" Leonard asked.

Hubbard said he didn't see any harm in revisiting the ordinance and Burt, who voted against the ordinance at the Sept. 22 meeting, said she considers it "discriminatory."

She said only a small part of the town contains historical structures and there are a variety of residences including mobile and manufactured homes. "I hope the planning commission will look at this more generously and take a more sensible approach," she said.

The council then approved hiring Gray & Osborne engineer Jozsef Dezovics to provide training for all the city's water treatment plant operators up to a maximum fee of $7,500.

The council also approved construction of influent valve canopies at the waste water plant for $7,521. The canopies are a critical piece of equipment, Leonard said, as they protect the valves from corrosion.

The mayor then announced that 2003 Ilwaco High School graduate Kimberley N. Stephenson, Burt's granddaughter and a student at Seattle Pacific University, had received a prestigious award from the Lions Club for outstanding community service. Stephenson received the Leos' district, multi-district and international award, the only person to get all three awards within one year. The council approved a certificate honoring Stephenson.

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