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Winlock loses paving grant; political rivals still resolute

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Winlock has officially withdrawn itself from eligibility for a $76,500 repaving grant from the Transportation Improvement Board (TIB), with Mayor Glen Cook stating it was an attempt to preserve Winlock’s future eligibility for grants.

The request for withdrawal had been accepted by TIB April 29 and Cook explained during the May 13 Winlock City Council Meeting he had done so in light of repeated refusals by the council to approve the funding, which has been available for acceptance since November of 2011.

The bulk of opposition to funding approval has come from Council Members Dennis Korpi and Denise Green, who have been outspokenly critical of a grant-related pipe replacement project under First St.

Korpi has said Winlock is ignoring its own design standards while Green has additionally stated the city is violating state health codes and property owner’s rights (the latter two of which have been discredited by the Lewis County Department of Health and City Attorney Mark Scheibmeir).

In light of such continued opposition to grant approval, Cook said he withdrew Winlock before the city was disqualified by TIB, which would have otherwise prevented Winlock from applying for another such grant for at least a decade.

"Had I waited any longer, TIB would have pulled the grant money themselves and then we wouldn’t have been able to get another TIB grant for quite a while," said Cook. "So I had to pull it myself to enable Winlock to be in a position to get grant money, hopefully sooner."

Korpi said he had no argument against Cook’s decision to withdraw Winlock from the grant, but again asserted the need to comply with design standards and said the only proper course of action is still to dig up the pipes and redo the project according to standards

"Everything in that ground, right now, does not coincide with anything that we have in our guidelines or water plan," said Korpi, adding contractors would not be allowed to defy Winlock’s standards and neither should the city.

When asked to weigh in on the issue of design standards, Sewer/Water Superintendent Dennis Baker agreed the project had not strictly followed the standards, but asserted they were guidelines rather than firm rules and that the project still complied with standards established by the American Water Works Association as well as Baker’s certification though the state.

He also said Winlock’s design standards, which were last revised in 2007, are outdated in regard to current common practice among water works professionals and suggested the city consider revising them to prevent further conflicts.

A majority of council members agreed such revisions should be considered to bring clarity and resolution to the conflict and a proposal is expected to be presented during their next meetingMay 29. Korpi said he would support such revisions, but said they would not change the fact that the project needs to be redone.

It was clarified the pipe replacement project is still intended to be completed and a donation of $35,000 given anonymously last year for the project will not be affected by Winlock’s withdrawal from the grant.

When officials were asked if there was anything they should have done differently in the last year-and-a-half to prevent Winlock’s withdrawal from the grant, Cook replied he had mistakenly treated the project as an administrative duty and should not have kept the process and details to himself. No other officials responded to the question, though Council Member Barbara Pedersen had earlier stated officials should have examined and discussed design standards from the beginning of the project.

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