Following public opposition, the Grays Harbor County commissioners took time to further distance themselves from a stoplight that will be installed at the intersection of Highway 12 and Clemons Road to mitigate traffic issues after the new solid waste transfer station is built later this year.
While the commissioners had considered a letter of support in December 2015 and at the first meeting in January 2016, that letter was never sent and the minutes show no motion, despite conversations to the contrary earlier this year. That letter had been drafted by Waste Connections.
“One was drafted and we had a December date but it was never approved,” clerk to the board of commissioners Jenna Amsbury said on Monday, March 6.
“I thought we had sent a letter — I know we talked about it a lot — but we never actually sent a letter of support,” Commissioner Wes Cormier said.
“I was opposed to the letter of support,” Commissioner Vickie Raines said. “The Grays Harbor County commissioners provided no letter of support for the stoplight version. When that proposal was brought before us, I was under the impression that either a stoplight or a roundabout had to go into that intersection… my understanding today is different. The business owner requested the stoplight.”
Both commissioners said they believed the choice was only between a roundabout or a stoplight when the draft letter of support was brought before the commissioners (again, that letter was never signed).
Raines noted her concerns for a stoplight impeding heavy trucks as well as issues with the angle of the setting sun blinding drivers as they drive up the hill during certain times of the year. She also said she would have had concerns about drivers accelerating to climb the hill but then encountering a roundabout.
But Raines also said a bigger frustration was a lack of transparency.
“Ultimately, my concern is why was the business owner the one to make the decision and make the request and pay for it and no other input was requested,” Raines said. “When you talk about transparency and openness, there hasn’t been a lot of that as far as communication for people.”
Cormier said it isn’t a county issue.
“It’s not county business — I’m going to focus more on county business and not state business,” Cormier said. “This is a private business, and the inquiry should be at the state level and not the county level.”
When asked if the commissioners would make any attempts to block the installation of the traffic signal, Raines said, “I think the project is too far along for the commission to do anything even if we could.”
Waste Connections hired a consultant group and funded a traffic study which was approved by the state Department of Transportation. The study looked at three options: a traffic signal, a roundabout, or do nothing.
The Department of Transportation has said the project did not require a public meeting (unlike Schouweiler Road improvements in Elma) because the project was completely privately funded.
“I believed that the choice was one or the other and it couldn’t remain left as is, and when I found out that it could be left as is and it was the business owner that requested and wanted the stoplight and wanted to pay for it — that frustrated me,” Raines said. “I’m just frustrated that I didn’t ask more questions.”
Cormier suggested residents opposed to the traffic signal should contact their state legislators (districts 19 and 24).
A community meeting for the public to voice their concerns will be held at Country Estates Mobile Home Park Rec. Center at 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 11. The rec. center is located at 57 Clemons Road in rural Montesano.
The new transfer station will replace the current transfer station further west near Lake Aberdeen. Waste Connections has said the new transfer station will be ready late this year. The traffic signal could be installed sooner.
According to Waste Connections, the new transfer station will be safer for employees, customers and the environment.
Commissioner Randy Ross was absent from the meeting.