State Senator Kevin Van De Wege and Representatives Steve Tharinger and Mike Chapman stopped in Forks last Thursday for a one-hour Town Hall meeting that drew about 50 interested citizens from around the county.
The Town Hall was rescheduled from Dec. 12 when the three originally planned to visit, due to some important legislation on water issues that called them back to Olympia at that time.
The three each took time at the beginning of the meeting to outline their accomplishments this past state legislative session.
Van De Wege shared his work on timber issues saying that is an issue important to this community: “The DNR needs to jeep its fiduciary responsibility of making money for the trust.” He also shared that money is being set aside to assist with hatchery production and that as the sea lion population rebounds the state may soon take a look at their increasing numbers and take action.
Chapman said, “We understood the need to move fast on the Elwha Bridge project, to help the west end economy.”
Chapman said money was also allocated for a new turn lane for the road to the Hoh Reservation as well as funding to assist safer fencing on the Eighth Street bridge in Port Angeles.
Tharinger spoke of his work on rural healthcare and the challenges of rural hospitals. He spoke of a new partnership with Peninsula College and Jefferson Health whereby once students graduate they will have a job waiting at a local hospital. He also said $10,000 has been earmarked for design work for new buildings at Olympic Natural Resources Center that would use new CLT products.
In the question and answer period, Forks resident (and former Forks Forum editor) Lorraine Jacobsen shared her concern for rising electric rates. Van De Wege said that is a concern and for now our rates are lower than those on the east coast. Chapman shared his frustration with a recent bill that did not pass that would have helped extend a tax break and was highly opposed by the PUD. He hopes to bring it back next session.
Donna Moulten shared her concern over the public disclosure bill that was drafted and passed without public input. All three agreed that the process was not the best and explained they all thought it was a good bill but the process was poor.
Other questions from the audience were about studded tires, tax breaks for electric cars, salmon pens, lack of mental health resources, affordable housing and drugs. All were sympathetic to the issues but did not have concrete answers for solving some of the concerns, especially mental health and affordable housing.
The hour went by fast and the three headed down to Ocean Shores for a meeting there.