ELLENSBURG - Kittitas County commissioners are rebuking the state’s Department of Transportation after it reportedly refused assistance from county road crews after a historic snow storm last week.
Kittitas County’s commission says the WSDOT dishonored its interlocal agreement with the county, which was signed on November 30, 2021. The agreement between the two allowed Kittitas County to assist state transportation crews should there be an identified need for additional resources caused by reduced staffing.
Kittitas County’s governing board says state crews refused assistance from Kittitas County on January 11 when it offered to help clear State Route 903 near the small town of Ronald near Roslyn.
“Washington State informed Kittitas County they could not accept this assistance due to Kittitas County not mandating the COVID-19 vaccination for county employees,” commissioners wrote.
“The Kittitas County Board of Commissioners is extremely disappointed with the States’ position to refuse assistance,” commissioners added.
“During these times, we need to be able to put differences aside and work to support one another,” states Commissioner Laura Osiadacz. “It needs to be neighbors helping neighbors and lending a hand to get the work done.”
Commissioner Cory Wright shares, “This county is ready, as always, to put all hands on deck to solve this problem. It’s time for logic and leadership to overcome ideology and allow skilled equipment operators working alone in their cabs to get this job done.”
“I’m extremely proud of the work being done by our Public Works Department to be able to clear roads and be in a place to be able to lend a helping hand to the State. It is unfortunate given the circumstances an agreement could not have come to fruition because we all want what is best for our community. At this time an agreement has not been reached,” states Commissioner Brett Wachsmith.
In response to the Kittitas County commission’s criticism, WSDOT tweeted on Wednesday that the vaccine mandate was a factor in its declination of county assistance and that failure to meet the mandate nullified the agreement between the two parties.
However, the WSDOT also stated that Kittitas County’s large snow blower truck would be too big to clear SR 903 through town because of houses and vehicles nearby. As an alternative, WSDOT contracted with a private company, BKC Contracting out of Cle Elum to provide dump trucks, excavators and bulldozers to complete the work. WSDOT says it took more people and vehicles to clear the road section by section.