The Elma City Council voted on Monday, Dec. 4, to authorize the mayor to sign an annual agreement with Greater Grays Harbor Inc. that includes setting aside $2,200 in the city’s budget in support of the entity. The vote followed debate in which several council members expressed skepticism as to what benefit GGHI provides to the city.
GGHI’s stated purpose is to serve as a regional chamber of commerce, economic development council and tourism center.
Mayor Jim Sorensen spoke in favor of continuing the annual agreement.
“I still feel that Greater Grays Harbor does us a lot of good even though sometimes we may not see what they’re doing for the city proper,” Sorensen said. “They were very instrumental in Overstock.com coming (to Satsop Business Park), which was an amazing bump in our city’s economy.”
Councilman Jim Taylor, who ultimately voted against continuing the agreement, said he hasn’t seen GGHI do anything to directly benefit the City of Elma and that the Harbor area and Satsop Industrial Park have benefited the most from its services.
Councilman Tom Boling said he tended to agree with Taylor’s assessment but was willing to extend the agreement for one more year. Boling said he would like to see GGHI do more to benefit Elma directly.
Eventually, the council decided on extending the agreement, with Taylor casting the sole dissenting vote.
The council later heard comment from Stephanie Rangel of the Elma Chamber of Commerce who said Overstock.com has proved a boon to the area.
“I don’t know if Elma has directly benefited yet, but these are jobs for young people (and) they won’t have to go out of the area to find work,” Rangel said.
Rangel noted that the vast majority of Overstock.com’s employees have been hired locally and only a few have come from out of the area.
• The council voted to approve ordinances adopting the 2017 supplemental budget and 2018 budget.
• The council voted to adopt a five-year agreement with Fire District #5 for the provision of EMS services to the city contingent on wording in the contract enabling the council to terminate the agreement with six months of advance notice.
• An official city seal was adopted by the council. The city has not previously maintained an official city emblem.
• Building inspector Joe Chrystal said a party has approached the city about potentially purchasing an old bank building with the intent of renovating and living in it. A city ordinance currently only allows living in business district buildings above the first floor and the bank building in question has only a single floor. City attorney Dan Glenn proposed forwarding the matter, along with several other unrelated zoning issues, to a hearing examiner for consideration.
• Mayor Sorensen proposed the purchase of a professional-quality drone to be used for fire department, public works and tourism purposes. Councilman Taylor touted its potential uses in cases of natural disasters, such as major flooding or earthquake. Police Chief Susan Shultz said her department could make use of a drone but that it would not be utilized for anything related to search warrants or surveillance.
The council’s second regular scheduled meeting for the month of December was canceled. The next regular meeting is scheduled for Jan. 2.