Hoquiam’s new Chief of Police tours jail, pilots tug

On Monday, August 19, 2014, Hoquiam Police Department’s “Chief for a Day”, Dylan Ellefson, was sworn-in at City Hall by Mayor Jack Durney.
Chief Ellefson took the oath of office to include a promise to enjoy the time with his family and new law enforcement friends while representing the Hoquiam Police Department at “2014 Chief for a Day” at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission this Thursday, August 21st.
In addition to a station tour, walk-through to check on his prisoners in the City Jail and visit to the Hoquiam Fire Department, Chief Ellefson was escorted in a Hoquiam fire engine to the Levee Street docks. Dylan and his family were treated to a private ride on a Brusco tractor tug-boat, including time at the controls of the $11 million vessel.
Since the tug is “drive by wire technology” and acts like a giant jet-propelled watercraft, Chief Ellefson maneuvered the vessel up the river. Being a kid with great familiarity with video games, Dylan was a natural and drove the tug like a pro!
The day ended with a table full of thoughtful gifts for Dylan and his family- gifts and funds all so graciously donated by our friends and neighbors here in Grays Harbor. Monday was just the first of several events for Chief Ellefson and his family.


Dylan is a 12-year old from Grays Harbor who is being treated for leukemia for the second time after being cancer free for seven years. Dylan has been chosen to be CHIEF FOR A DAY of the Hoquiam Police Department; he will participate in the Chief for A Day Celebration with 34 other chiefs and sheriffs from around the state at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission on Thursday, August 21, 2014.

Hoquiam to consider ban on sale and use of fireworks

The City of Hoquiam is considering a ban on the sale and discharge of fireworks. Councilman Darrin Moir brought the motion forward at their Monday meeting “I’d like to make a motion asking our City Attorney to draft an ordinance banning the sale, use, or detonation of fireworks within the city limits, except by licensed pyro technicians.” The city council was split 6-6 on the vote, with Mayor Jack Durney tipping the vote in favor of drafting an ordinance for consideration by the public safety committee. Councilman Paul McMillan said earlier that night that the public safety committee would discuss the issue before Moir’s motion to draft a resolution. Durney said he voted for it so that they could have an ordinance to further discuss.

New home construction to begin in East Hoquiam, Summerhaven is also hiring

There’s some new developers at Summerhaven in East Hoquiam, Mayor Jack Durney told his city council last night “They have brought contractors down interested in investing and building some houses. It’s the first – really substantial housing development in Hoquiam since the 60’s or 70’s.”

The unfinished housing development past Hoquiam Plywood was once a senior-living community. Developer Michael Zblewski explained before the city council meeting “It was 55 and older, and now we’re developing single family homes. We’re just finishing the financing on Wednesday and hopefully we’ll begin construction within the next two weeks.
Co-Developer Michael Velanni said they’re also looking to hire as much local workers as possible on the new homes. They plan to launch a website with more details soon.

Construction begins on East Hoquiam Fire Station

Pile Driving begins this week on the East Side Fire Station in Hoquiam. City Administrator Brian Shay said the project is funded through a $900,000 Community Development Block Grant from the State Department of Commerce, and should be complete by the end of the year.

The new station, – at the same address on Ontario Street, will house personnel and equipment critical to providing fire and emergency medical services to residents, businesses and industrial companies along the waterfront.

For more information on this Hometown Hoquiam Project, please contact Fire Chief Paul Dean at 538-3962 or City Administrator Brian Shay at 538-3983.


I would like to add a sincere thanks to Brian Shay and Alissa Thurman who worked on the grant proposal in a very short time window to make the case that we needed an updated facility to handle calls to the growing industrial area in the Port area.  Also it is important to assist our partners at the City of Aberdeen when needed.  As the recent issues with the aging Simpson Avenue Bridge have proven, there must be a fire/ambulance presence on the east side of the Hoquiam River. – Hoquiam Mayor Jack Durney

Hoquiam staff and firefighters reach tentative agreement to avoid layoffs

The Hoquiam Fire Department has reached an agreement with its union and the city to avoid planned layoffs of two firefighters and two paramedics. In the final week of their 30 day’s notice they were notified after the city and the Union met for most of the day Tuesday to iron out the agreement.

City Administrator Brian Shay tells KBKW there’s still work to be done to collectively address the city’s serious budget problem, but the layoffs have been taken off the table. The agreement will also settle a grievance filed by the local firefighters union.

Local 315 President Doug Stankavich says the union will meet Tuesday to vote on a memorandum of understanding.

The City of Hoquiam and the International Firefighters Association Local 315 are happy to announce an agreement that will avoid layoffs throughout 2014.
“The City is hopeful that the changes made to the handling of ambulance transfers will result in enough increased revenue to get the City back to a balanced budget by year end,” said City Administrator Brian Shay. “This agreement is a good start to collectively address a long term solution to our serious budget problems.”
“The Hoquiam Firefighters are extremely pleased to have worked in conjunction with City Officials, coming to a tentative agreement that will both settle the grievance filed by the Local as well as save the four positions that had been given layoff notices,” said Firefighters Local President Doug Stankavich. “We all know there is much work to be done in the near future to find viable ways to maintain the staffing and service levels we currently offer the citizens of Hoquiam.”
“I am really proud of our administrative staff and the members of our Fire Department who sat down and came to an agreement that avoids the laying off of 4 great employees,” said Mayor Jack Durney. “I believe we have started to mend relationships and are ready to start having a serious dialogue about how we fund public safety.”

City of Hoquiam to lay off 4 firefighters

The City of Hoquiam is laying off four firefighters. City Administrator Brian Shay said they gave formal notice to the department early Tuesday. Staff said in a press release Tuesday “The City of Hoquiam has been able to manage its way through The Great Recession, the subprime mortgage crisis and even the permanent closure of its largest employer. However, in 2013 ambulance calls for service dropped by 9% and revenues declined by over 10%. Further declines in calls for service and revenue are forecast for 2014 leaving the City no other option but to act and to act quickly.
“These people we are laying off, they are all excellent firefighters,” Chief Paul Dean said. “They are all dedicated to serving and protecting the people of Hoquiam.”
Changes in firefighter staffing have been discussed since last year when the Ambulance Fund had to borrow $100,000 at the end of 2013. “We had hoped that 2013 was an anomaly and that calls for service would pick up in 2014 and return to 2012 levels. But they have continued to decline even further,” said Finance Director Mike FoIkers.
With this notice, the City of Hoquiam will have seen a 24% reduction in its workforce touching almost every department through layoffs and attrition since 1992. “Each loss has been a painful yet necessary step,” said City Administrator Brian Shay. “In these economic times, we cannot ignore difficult budget problems, and we must make the tough decisions that ensure we are providing the most efficient and effective service as possible within our available resources.”
Mayor Jack Durney said, “The City will continue to stay focused on the basic municipal services we provide our citizens, including public safety, public works and emergency services. These layoff of our youngest is painful. We hired them and we work with them every day. They define what kind of professional organization we wish to be and it is regrettable that the combination of our local economy, the reduction in calls for service, and reduction in medical reimbursements has caused this to be needed.”
The Hoquiam Fire and Ambulance budget is $2.8 million with 23 employees.

The firefighter’s local union 315 asked for prayers on their facebook page this morning, stating that the four affected were told that they would not have a job in 30 days.

Hoquiam City Council split 6-6, declines Marijuana zoning ordinance

The clouds almost parted over Hoquiam’s moratorium on marijuana businesses last night, as the city council adopted their revised zoning ordinance that would have allowed state licensed stores in some areas on a close 7-5 vote. But then they rejected revisions to their business licensing ordinance voting 6-6 against it – making it briefly legal to locate a store in some zones, but illegal to get a business license for a marijuana business.
Mayor Jack Durney said after that vote “OK friends we’ll think about that huh? Kind of a contradiction in terms if we change our zoning but then we say we’re not going to license them.”
City Attorney Steven Johnson explained “Our ordinance says that we cannot issue a business license if it violates federal law. By not passing this [and passing the other] they’re legally zoned, but we can’t issue a business license.”
After councilwoman Kay Diehm said she was unclear on the issue, the council reconsidered the original vote and failed to pass it’s marijuana zoning ordinance 6-6 against.
It took Mayor Durney to break that same tie on another vote to send the ordinance back to the public works committee “I don’t think we should have a moral discussion about this at this point. I think we need to deal with what the public has told us to do.”
The council will revisit the same ordinance, with one line omitted that would have made medical marijuana collective gardens not only illegal in city limits, but also a public nuisance and subject to abatement by the city.
Councilman Paul McMillan said the change wouldn’t sway his opinion on the matter, and felt that Hoquiam should wait for Colorado to pioneer the issue before challenging federal law.
Councils John Pellegrini, Kay Diehm, Greg Grund, Paul McMillan, Darrin Moir and Bill Nelson all voted against allowing recreational marijuana businesses in Hoquiam.

Aberdeen and Hoquiam discussing merger of Fire Departments

Aberdeen and Hoquiam have begun exploring the process of consolidation their fire and paramedic services, Aberdeen Mayor Bill Simpson told his city council last night “Over the last couple of weeks we have been meeting with [Hoquiam City Administrator] Brian Shay, [Hoquiam Finance Director] Mike Folkers, [Aberdeen Fire Chief] Tom Hubbard and [Aberdeen Finance Director] Kathrine Skolrood talking about what we could do to merge the two fire departments together. Last Thursday we met with the Unions, and they are all ready to help.”
A joint press release from the two cities said the idea is to find ways to cut costs while continuing to deliver the same level of service to the community.

In the spirit of cooperative governance, the Cities of Aberdeen and Hoquiam are expecting to explore options for the creation of a new regional approach for delivering fire protection and paramedic services. Aberdeen Mayor Bill Simpson and Hoquiam Mayor Jack Durney have authorized their respective staffs to permit formal discussions exploring the feasibility of consolidation of the two fire agencies.
“A lot has changed recently and we are constantly looking at ways to deliver services more efficiently and effectively,” said Hoquiam Mayor Jack Durney. “Our Fire Departments already respond jointly and work well together. It’s a natural fit.” said Aberdeen Mayor Bill Simpson.
The primary purpose of these discussions is to find ways to jointly improve the efficiency, economy and effectiveness in delivering sustainable fire protection and paramedic services for the two communities. In a phased approach, the intent would be to create a single department reducing costs and developing a streamlined approach to fire suppression, paramedic, and disaster preparedness to both communities.
“Our local looks forward to being involved in these discussions with the hopes of providing a safer, more efficient service to the communities we strive to protect. We as an organization continually look for ways to adapt and improve what we do and look at this potential consolidation as a proactive step to help our individual organizations remain viable in the future,” said Aberdeen IAFF President Dave Swinhart. “We are excited to work on this together with Aberdeen as a way to potentially improve service to the citizens and create a more sustainable model for our agencies to continue to provide these services for generations to come,” said Hoquiam IAFF President Doug Stankavich.
The Aberdeen Fire Department has a budget of $5.1 million with 37 employees and the Hoquiam Fire Department has a budget of $2.8 million with 22 employees.
More information will be provided as this analysis unfolds.

Hoquiam to celebrate Arbor Day, 6th year as Tree City USA, with new trees along 28th Street

In honor of Arbor Day, the City of Hoquiam Urban Forestry Committee, in partnership with  local Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts, will plant two Tschonski flowering crab trees on the west side of Olympic Stadium along 28th Street.

The scouts will join Mayor Jack Durney, Committee Members, and City Staff for the celebration and planting at 4:00 pm on April 25 at Olympic Stadium. Community members are invited to participate in this event. 

An Arbor Day celebration is one of the requirements to become a Tree City USA, a designation the City of Hoquiam has held for the past six years.  Hoquiam is also the only City in Grays Harbor to hold this distinction. 

Micki McNaughton from the Washington Department of Natural Resources will also attend the event to present the Mayor with Hoquiam’s sixth consecutive Tree City USA award.

For more information please contact Joshua Beach, City Planner, at (360) 538-3971 or email at jbeach@cityofhoquiam.com.

The city has several youtube videos on their website from previous celebrations.