Wills, Elduen disagree in Council candidate debate

By Scott D. Johnston

For the Grays Harbor Newspaper Group

Richard Wills and Frank Elduen, candidates for Ocean Shores City Council Position 3, differed on several questions at last week’s debate at the North Beach Senior Center in Ocean Shores. They are seeking the seat currently held by Lisa Griebel, who is not seeking re-election.

Opposing responses started with the first question, on the awarding of city public works contracts. Wills said many of the city’s projects are too small and the city is too far away from many contractors to attract a lot of bids and noted that the city just completed a state audit of the city’s finances, “and the results were spectacular,” with no issues being found. He added, “If there was anything untoward happening in our bidding process, the auditors would have caught it and made note of it. That didn’t happen.”

Elduen said, “I believe we should have a minimum of three bids on any public works project before we move forward on that project.”

He continued, “The collection system building project was hundreds of thousands of dollars over what the city had budgeted. This project should have (gone) back out to bid. Our public works director needed to contact some contractors and invite them to look at the project and see if we can get some more bids on that.” He said a concept called “value engineering” could help reduce overruns.

Wills responded by asking, “What do we do if we only get one bid? … I can easily see why, in some circumstances, there’s only one bid available.” Elduen said “contractors will travel for a decent job.”

The candidates also disagreed on a question regarding possible concerns about water source infrastructure,” specifically the aging concrete/asbestos pipes.

Elduen said, “I think there’s reason for concern … they deteriorate over time and start releasing asbestos fibers into the water.” He said the pipes have about a 70- year lifespan and were installed in Ocean Shores between 1960 and 1979.

“As the pipes age … the pipe starts to fail. I think we should be proactive in developing a replacement plan,” and that would save the city a lot of money.

Wills said his research revealed that that pH in the city’s water and in the soil surrounding the pipes is not high enough to slowly destroy the concrete. He added that, so far, significant problems have not been found locally and “undertaking replacement prematurely isn’t cost effective.”

Responding to a question on the city being in transition and “where do you feel we should be going,” Wills said he would like to see a “pedestrian-friendly downtown,” and want the city “to continue in the direction we have been,” of paying down debt and “gradually getting more disposable income, so the city gradually can pursue more programs to make the city a better community…”

Elduen said, (What) “we really need … is a growth management plan. We need to get something figured out so we know the direction that we’re headed and it’s controlled and it’s well thought out.”

Wills replied that “We do have a draft growth management plan, it’s the Comprehensive Plan.” He said the city’s Planning Commission, of which he is a member, “has been working on it for months” and it is “very close to being very completed.” He described it as “thorough and well researched and it does account for growth management.”

The candidates agreed that city codes should be better enforced, with Wills noting the police are understaffed and Elduen suggesting the city hire retirees to help with code enforcement.

They also agreed that the city has an “environmental education responsibility,” that the city should not allow a homeless shelter and that the city-owned radio station, KOSW, should operate without city interference except for emergency and public service information.

The remaining debates at the Senior Center take place Tuesdays at 6 p.m. and run as follows: Sept. 24, OS Council Pos. 2, Kathryn Sprigg and Michael Darling; Oct. 1, OS Mayor, Crystal Dingler and Susan Conniry; Oct. 8: OS Council Pos. 6, Bob Peterson and Chuck Anderson; Oct. 15, Hospital District 2, Pos. 2, Lynn Csernotta and Richard Thompson. Oct. 22: GH Port District Commissioner Pos. 2: Tom Quigg and Tim Carr; Oct. 29: On the Fence? Numerous candidates available for one-on-one conversation.