By Rodger Nichols
For The Sentinel 

Deluge forced sewer backups in city


August 21, 2019


BETTER SITUATION: Tony Gilmer of the EMS board reports to the Goldendale City Council that the district is in better shape after the levy increase.

Among the items on the agenda for the Goldendale City Council was a report on the Emergency Medical Services from Tony Gilmore of the EMS board. Gilmore apologized to the council for not reporting to them on a regular basis, explaining that he had changed jobs, and the district had been involved in a months-long hunt to find a replacement for their operations manager. He said that Bruce Brending, who had filled in on an interim basis, had accepted the position following interviews with three other candidates.

His report noted that until the levy was increased last year, the district had never been financially secure since it was formed in 2014. "In addition to that," he said, "I remind the public that a lot of our staff only gets raises based on the minimum wage increase. If you want to know where we are in the State of Washington, while it is nationally known for its medical salaries, that's not in Klickitat County. And we have some of the best staff I have ever met. The teamwork and the passion that goes along in doing that job is a true benefit to the citizens of Klickitat County, and we want to maintain that

"We've worked on bringing the stations into a better state of repair. We want professional people to take care of our families, and when we borrow them for a shift, we want them to have a standard that we, too, would be willing to live with for 48 hours. And that's not easy to do. It's not easy to have a motel anyplace you go. Remember, we're working out of pre-existing garages with livable space, and we try to improve that. The furniture that has been bought in the last six months is the first furniture that was not taken out of a garbage dump."

He mentioned an unusual result of the Eagle Creek fire in the Gorge in 2017, saying that recreational visitors, shut out of their west-Gorge hiking trails, had discovered recreation in Klickitat County. With more people coming in unfamiliar with the territory, more rescues were needed, often needing an ambulance to stand by for three or more hours. And if the rescued person did not need transport, the district would not be paid.

He closed by saying the EMS board was open to any ideas and suggestions.

Another major topic of the meeting was the Aug. 8 deluge. City Administrator Larry Bellamy said that it was more like a 200-year event and that stormwater in one area had infiltrated the sewer system, causing it to back up into several homes. Those are being cleaned up with the help of the city's insurance carrier, he said, and the public works crew will be carrying out smoke tests to find where the storm drain water is getting into the sanitary sewers.

Under the mayor's report, Mayor Mike Canon praised the efforts of the public works department in the torrential rain.

"I'd like particularly to draw attention to the incredibly hard and timely work that our public works crew did," he said. When that torrential rain came, they were out all night finding manhole covers that were blown off [from water pressure] and making it so we didn't have a really bad pothole. They were exceptional in responding and taking on responsibility and everybody showing up to get the job done. That's the kind of cooperation and collaboration that makes a city work."

A sharp observation during the meeting came from Councilor Jane Roberts, who said she was disappointed by the failure of the KVH bond.

"A few days after the bond, I was able to take my dog out to Marianne Randall's new clinic, which is a beautiful facility," Roberts said, "and it kind of hit me in the gut because we have two veterinarians practicing in our small town, both of whom have now equine facilities and small and large animal practices and house calls and everything, and we're obviously willing as a community to invest in the healthcare of our pets and livestock. When do we do the same for human beings?"

She said the district plans to resubmit the bond for a vote at an upcoming election.

In other action, councilors voted to declare a 1995 pickup used by the police for Animal Control as surplus. It will be given to Klickitat County to start their own Animal Control activity. In return, the county will give the city five light bars for police vehicle. And they passed an ordinance adjusting some of the city's ordinances to match changes in state laws.

Larry Bellamy announced several dates to note: on Aug. 26 the city will open bids for the fire department's old brush truck; Aug. 27 is the new date for the overlay on South Columbus, starting at 6 a.m .; Sept. 9 at 7 p.m. the Ordinance Committee will meet; Sept. 23 is the date for the presentation of a draft plan on broadband to the council.


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