County frets state budget stalemate

Though day-to-day services will not be interrupted thanks to the passing of the state operational budget, the Grays Harbor County commissioners remain concerned with the uncertainty surrounding the state capital budget.

The state Senate closed their third special session without approving a budget on July 20. Without a budget, state projects and some county projects are unfunded and remain in financial limbo.

The commissioners are concerned about a large dredging project for Westport.

The Port of Grays Harbor has applied for the necessary Army Corps of Engineers and Department of Ecology permits for dredging Westport Marina, but the failure of state lawmakers to pass a capital budget has the project on hold.

There is $2.5 million for the project in the current budget proposal, but without it passing the funds will not be released. The 10-year project will remove 245,000 cubic yards of sediment as crews work to dig the water level back to between 15 and 17 feet. State funds were also provided in the capital budget for improvements to the public boat launch at the marina, but they too are on hold until the state passes a budget bill.

When asked which projects were in jeopardy, Commissioner Randy Ross listed the dredging as a top concern.

“There are several projects throughout the county that aren’t county related but they’re in the county and they’re being held up by this,” Ross said. “Probably the biggest one being the Westport dredging. So that’s big.”

In East County, the commissioners are preparing for a shortage of cash to the county-owned ORV park east of McCleary.

In the last biennium, the county received $400,000 in grants for the ORV park. The county matched $159,000.

“That gives you $559,000, and at this point in time the state is funding ORV facilities, but only the ones that are operated by the state, so we look to receive zero funding the next biennium,” Commissioner Vickie Raines said.

The county maintains equipment and facilities at the Grays Harbor ORV Park.

“It’s not very competitive money because there aren’t many ORV parks,” Commissioner Wes Cormier said. “The state has decided to hold onto that and use it for their own facilities.”

Suicide prevention

Also during the meeting, the commissioners approved a grant-funded program for suicide prevention training for Hoquiam School District staff and administrators.

The program is “HOPE Squad” provided by HOPE4UTAH.

“(HOPE squads) are comprised of students who are trained to watch for at-risk students – provide friendship, identify warning signs and seek help from adults,” the HOPE4UTAH website states. “HOPE4UTAH works with school advisers to train students who have been identified by their classmates as trustworthy peers to serve as HOPE Squad members. Through evidence-based training modules, HOPE Squad members are empowered to seek help and save a life.”

The program was vetted and recommended by the county public health and social services department.

Dan Hammock contributed to this story.