Washougal sets city goals for 2021

City officials eye ‘sustainable path forward’ with Camas-Washougal Fire Department agreement

The proposed renovation of the George Schmid Memorial Ballfields will include the addition of a third playing field. (Contributed illustration courtesy of city of Washougal)

City of Washougal leaders are cautiously optimistic that they can achieve most or all of their primary objectives in 2021 as coronavirus vaccines are introduced into the community and restrictions are lifted.

“I can certainly see that light at the end of the tunnel,” city manager David Scott said. “(The pandemic) certainly has implications for us, but it’s not universally constraining. We’re pursuing all of our goals with some minor exceptions.”

The city council has asked Scott to focus his efforts in 2021 to help the city make gains in the following areas:

Public safety

Washougal leaders would like to figure out a way for the agency to remain a part of the Camas-Washougal Fire Department (CWFD), but acknowledge that financial limitations may force them to seek another solution.

Scott and Camas city administrator Jamal Fox are currently working to put together a request for proposals for “a facilitated partnership evaluation” of the current CWFD agreement and all of the options available to them.

Scott said that the cities could choose to keep the agreement intact through 2023, wiith “some adjustments as appropriate;” cancel the agreement and go forward with separate fire departments; or create a regional partnership that could include the East County Fire & Rescue fire district.

“We need to look at all of the dynamics and all of the options and pick a path forward that will be sustainable,” Scott said. “If it’s not the No. 1 priority that the council has given me this year, it’s one of the top two or three. It’s a hugely important program, a hugely important priority, and we’re going to make a concerted effort to figure out how to move forward with the program.”

Transportation

The city will restart its pavement management program, continue work on its 32nd Street railroad underpass project and update its transportation plan in 2021, Scott said.

“We did defer quite a bit of (the pavement) work this past year because of the uncertainty with COVID, but we will (relaunch) our pavement management program this year – crack sealing, slurry sealing, and certain projects where we re-grind and repave,” Scott said. “That’s an expensive program, but obviously super necessary.”

Parks and trails

The city’s waterfront trail project is under way and should be completed later this year, Scott said.

“That will complete the connection from the (Port of Camas-Washougal’s) marina area all the way to our town center through where all the new development is going to take place,” Scott said. “With some use of sidewalks, that trail connection connects you to the Washougal River Greenway in east Camas and is also part of a trail system that goes from wildlife refuge to wildlife refuge, which is great. That is a hugely important project that will get done.”

Work on the city’s other “highlight” project — the renovation of the Schmid Family Ballfields complex — should begin soon and end later this year, according to Scott.

The city will also begin work on a “pocket” park on Main Street and update its parks plan, which hasn’t been modified in several years.

Economic development

The city continues to search for a way to create its “Economic Development 2.0” plan after the Camas-Washougal Economic Development Council was disbanded in 2020.

“There is nothing specific for this yet,” Scott said. “We continue to be members of the Columbia River Economic Development Council. We have continuing funding for economic development efforts in the budget, and the goal is to determine what approach we will use moving forward in this effort. We have been holding these funds in light of the COVID financial ambiguity.”

Community enhancements

Washougal council members have voiced a strong desire to enhance the city’s aesthetics through activities and programs, maintaining and improving the city’s appearance by working with citizens and property owners to maintain property aesthetics and value.

“It will really depend on the economic dynamics related to the pandemic,” Scott said. “We have a high priority around enhancing community aesthetics, and there’s a program we hope to launch in that regard. We require additional resources, and those resources have been made available in the budget, but my pledge to the council was that we wouldn’t pursue those resources, which is a new position, until we see how things are going financially.”