All Politics is Local

Environmental Services will see a new face

The Yacolt Mountain Quarry as seen from above in 2008. (Handout)

The Yacolt Mountain Quarry as seen from above in 2008. (Handout)

Remember a few weeks ago when I wrote about the new code enforcement officer for quarries falling to the Department of Environmental Services?

Turns out it will be in DES.

Last we heard anything three weeks ago, Acting County Manager Mark McCauley was going to take a look at the job description for the proposed conditional use permit officer

and determine for himself which department that job would best fall in. In this case, so many of the conditions in the quarries’ permits are environmental that it will end up in DES.

Which, of course, means Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, will be that enforcement officer’s boss.

There was no official vote on this item, nor will there be, as the council has no authority over hiring and firing. That didn’t stop Councilor Jeanne Stewart, however, from getting a bad feeling about the whole thing.

“There has been an assertion by some members of the public that the quarries get special consideration here,” Stewart said. “All the more reason to have this code enforcement position be in as objective a department as possible.”

It’s really easy to connect the dots on this one. David Rogers, perhaps the loudest and most consistent protester of Yacolt Mountain Quarry, has alleged that Councilor Tom Mielke and quarry operator J.L. Storedahl and Sons are in bed together. In his campaign for county chair, Mielke has received $1,300 from Storedahl.

Furthermore, Mielke, along with Councilor David Madore, were instrumental in getting Benton his job at the county, bypassing human resources policies to hire him. I mean, how much more do we really have to say about that? The fact that Mielke and Benton are buddies is well known.

Mielke also didn’t want this code enforcement officer in the first place. He thinks current code staff can handle quarry enforcement on their own.

I asked McCauley about the issue after board time, and he said it will become clear very quickly if the new quarry enforcement officer has biases or isn’t equally enforcing code. That doesn’t change the point Stewart made about the public’s perception of alleged bias, however.

The council will consider an item on Tuesday authorizing the purchase of a vehicle for the new enforcement officer, and the job listing could hit the county’s website as early as Friday.

Kaitlin Gillespie

Kaitlin Gillespie

I'm the education reporter at The Columbian. Get in touch at kaitlin.gillespie@columbian.com or 360-735-4517.