Ward meeting covers a variety of topics

Highlights include information about streets maintenance, volunteer firefighters and the Post Office

Attendees at the recent Camas ward meeting got first crack at filling out a survey aimed at gauging public opinion on the current condition and value of the maintenance work being done on city streets, and importance of well maintained roadways.

The “needs statement” survey, which will be available on the city’s website at www.ci.camas.wa.us via Survey Monkey by the end of the week, is being conducted by the City of Camas in conjunction with the Camas Youth Council — a group of Camas High School students that advises the City Council on a variety of issues.

The city currently maintains 110 miles of roadway, with an annual budget for the past four years of about $325,000 per year. In order to keep city streets from degrading to a point where reconstruction would be necessary, officials say approximately $600,000 annually would be required.

“We need to think about how to prioritize street maintenance over the long-term,” Public Works Director Eric Levison said. “We really want to hold the line and not let any fall into the reconstruction category.”

Current efforts to maintain roads include crack sealing and applying preventative surface treatments such as slurry seals and overlays.

One citizen commented that maintenance work being done on some roadways is subpar.

“What we are doing is putting Band-Aids all over the place,” Levison responded.

To date, road maintenance funding has been taken from the city’s Real Estate Excise Taxes. The city has also contributed some of its general fund dollars to various road projects, and obtained grant funding.

Alternative funding channels discussed include establishing a “Transportation Benefit District” — a quasi-municipal organization and taxing district created to fund transportation improvements and maintenance.

Under the TBD umbrella, without voter approval the City Council can implement an up to $20 annual vehicle license fee charged to all vehicle owners. This option would bring the city an estimated $260,000 to $280,000 per year.

Approximately 30 citizens attended the community ward meeting event held at the Camas Police Department community room on Wednesday evening. City Council and staff touched on a variety of topics. Below are some additional highlights:

Lake Road will be resurfaced

A section of Northwest Lake Road in Camas will be resurfaced again this summer.

The impacted area, which stretches from the entrance to the Lacamas Shores development to Sierra Street, was initially resurfaced in August 2010 in conjunction with a project that added a bike lane, widened the road and installed LED illumination street lamps, among other things.

Due to unusually cool temperatures and other factors, the heavily shaded road just didn’t hold up, Levison said. With the work still under warranty, Intermountain, Inc., of Vancouver, will return to the site and this time a different design mix will be used for the resurfacing, and the road will likely be closed for a longer period of time. Timing of the work will depend on weather conditions.

Fisher Investments will occupy building

Construction is currently underway on a five-story building in Northwest Camas that will be occupied by Fisher Investments in September.

It is the first of two planned buildings in the $30 million office complex project. The first four floors will be filled by the 325 workers from Fisher Investments’ Vancouver satellite office.

Camas is also being considered by the company as a site for its corporate relocation from Northern California.

Downtown Camas central gathering spot being discussed

Plans are currently being made to someday build a central gathering spot in downtown Camas.

According to Steve Hogan, City Councilman and liasion to the Downtown Camas Association, the outdoor area would be a location where people could come to relax and enjoy the atmosphere. Comparable sites include Esther Short Park in Vancouver and Pioneer Square in Portland.

“That’s the concept we are trying to promote,” Hogan said. “It’s a long way off. There is still lots of work that needs to be done with it.”

Currently, no specific location or design has been determined, he said. “Our non-profit group is spearheading this and trying to move it forward.”

A meeting to explore ideas and possibilities will be held Thursday, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., at Journey Community Church, 304 N.E. Fourth Ave., in Camas.

Camas Post Office in purchase process

Community Development Director Phil Bourquin said Last U.S. Bag Co., is currently in the process of purchasing the Camas Post Office building, located at 440 N.E. Fifth Ave.

He said plans are to leave the exterior of the building intact, while some modifications will be made to the interior to accommodate a small retail showroom and administrative office space.

The downtown Camas main Post Office site was slated for consolidation by the USPS in January 2010 because of its close proximity to another post office about 1.4 miles away at 2455 S.E. Eighth Ave. — referred to as the “Camas carrier annex.”

When USPS moves forward on the consolidation, all services previously available at the downtown site will be moved to existing space in the Camas carrier annex.

Bourquin said to date USPS has not submitted any permit applications with the city.

Volunteers will be part of fire department future

With the Camas and Washougal fire departments currently in talks about pursuing a functional consolidation and possibly a complete merger, Interim Fire Chief Monte Brachmann said the role of volunteers is being considered.

While the CFD hasn’t had a volunteer department for several years, Washougal’s volunteer force is strong and active with 25 members.

To date, discussions regarding this aspect of the fire department collaborations have focused on maintaining and possibly expanding the volunteer program to feature an intern/cadet element.

“Camas paid staff has pledged that they want to work with the volunteers,” Brachmann said. “I really think volunteers have a place now, especially with shrinking budgets.”

Brachmann explained some of the challenges with maintaining a volunteer force, which include more stringent state standards that require ongoing training and proficiency exams.

City website upgrade

Citizens can expect to see a website upgrade at www.ci.camas.wa.us, during the next couple of months.

Finance Director Joan Durgin said the site will have a more community-oriented focus.

“It will be more flexible, and more interesting to read.”

The next ward meeting will be held Tuesday, May 17, at 7 p.m., at the Grass Valley Fire Station, 4321 N.W. Parker St. For more information, call City Hall at 834-6864.

Please review our community guidelines