Hoquiam City Council approves additional utility fee hike effective April 1

Additional $3.31 hike added to the $4.09 approved late last year to bolster lagging ambulance fund

The Hoquiam City Council has voted to increase the ambulance utility fee to $19.23 a month. That’s an additional $3.31 pop added on top of the $4.09 compromise utility fee raise approved by the council late last year.

During the 2016 budget talks city administrators recommended an $8.39 hike to cover the cost of a new ambulance and to keep the ambulance fund functional as a stand alone account. The council came to the $4.09 compromise at their Dec. 22 meeting.

Since then, City Administrator Brian Shay says the account is losing about $11,000 a month. Monday evening the council approved the additional $3.31 rate hike, with councilmen Dave Wilson and Greg Grun voting against the ordinance.

The council did agree to an amendment to the utility raise ordinance, giving it a sunset clause, which would in effect roll back the latest increase by the end of 2018. In the meantime, the city is proposing funding a study to look at options such as consolidation of ambulance services between cities as a long term solution to the ongoing ambulance fund problem.

New Hoquiam firefighter

First on the council agenda Monday was the introduction of new Hoquiam firefighter Karl Long. However, a two-alarm fire on Emerson delayed his arrival. He was finally introduced later in the meeting by Fire Chief Paul Dean, who noted that on just his fifth day with the department, Long was the first man to arrive at that Emerson fire, was the one who put it out, “and even saved a cat.” Long comes from the Lacey Fire Department and was accompanied by his wife and children, along with the chief and a handful of fellow firefighters.

Better drainage proposed for Ontario and Simpson

“We’re looking at addressing a major stormwater problem at Ontario and Simpson,” said Shay as the council was presented with his report regarding the replacement of water lines in that area.

The city is already planning to replace about 4,000 linear feet of water main on Simpson Avenue in downtown Hoquiam and on the east side of the bridge. Shay asked the council for permission to get local engineering firm Berglund Schmidt to design this addition to the already planned project, which would include replacing several 1.5- to 8-inch drainage pipes that cross Simpson Avenue. Shay says the city plans to bid for that project later this summer.

“The goal is to address the crossing before the Department of Transportation does their repaving project in the spring of 2018,” said Shay. The council unanimously approved the recommendation, allowing Mayor Jasmine Dickhoff to sign the agreement with Berglund Schmidt. The entire project, if approved, will replace the main water lines on Simpson Avenue, the smaller water lines at the Ontario intersection, repave Simpson Avenue and replace and repair the sidewalks.

New tractor approved

The council approved the purchase of a new mower tractor, replacing the current one purchased in 2010. It will be purchased from the John Deere dealership in Central Park at a cost of $12,913. General fund reserves will be used for the purchase, which will allow the Community Services Department to hang on to its $15,500 in reserves for maintenance on all its other vehicles and equipment.

Youth sports contracts

Mayor Dickhoff got the approval of the council Monday to renegotiate the contracts with youth sports associations that use Olympic Stadium and Gable Park Field. Finance Director Corri Schmid said the current fees charged to the youth associations, which include youth football and a number of baseball leagues, don’t come close to covering the cost of opening those facilities for use. Shay said the cost of turning on the lights isn’t even covered in most cases. To that end, Schmid hopes to negotiate a three year contract with each association, with incremental cost raises each season.