Sunday, July 14, 2024

Hawkins Listing Tour pays a call on Bridgeport City Hall

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BRIDGEPORT – State Senator Brad Hawkins, representing Washington’s 12th Legislative District, stopped in Bridgeport last Thursday, Sept. 13, as part of his second Listening Tour in as many years to hear what citizens in his four-county constituency have to say.

This year’s three-day tour was similar to Hawkins’ first in 2017 when he visited communities in Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties. Stops this year included Leavenworth, Cashmere, Wenatchee, Chelan, Soap Lake, Coulee City, Waterville, and Twisp along with Bridgeport.

Hawkins met with both Bridgeport Mayor Janet Conklin and city council person Anthony Perkins among others at city hall where one of the topics was a site for a second city water tower.

The city wants to build a second water tower on a one-acre parcel of land adjacent to its existing water tower, but the desired land is part of a larger piece owned by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Conklin asked Hawkins for his help with the acquisition.

“My hope is that if the agency doesn’t need the land, then we can work an arrangement where that land can be transferred at no expense to the city, so they can work toward leveraging some other grants for their infrastructure,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins also suggested that city officials reach out to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Agency.

“I used to work in the Senate with the person the Trump administration appointed as the director of RD,” Hawkins said. “They actually have a lot of federal grants for things like that.”

Asked about restoration of the Public Works Trust Fund that provides low-interest loans to communities for infrastructure projects, an important resource for cities like Bridgeport, Hawkins said progress has been made to partially restore the PWTF.

The Public Works Assistance Account, created in the mid-1980s, drew its funding from taxes on property sales, public utilities, and solid waste collection. Since 2013 those funds have been diverted to other uses such as funding public education.

The Public Works Board announced last month that for just the second time in the past five years it has awarded funds to communities for infrastructure projects. The latest round of funding involved 10 entities around the state that received almost $5.5 million in pre-construction loans.

Hawkins said one of the leading concerns during this year’s tour is wildfire and that the state is pursuing a two-pronged effort to confront it.

“One is fire suppression effort and the other is forest health,” said Hawkins. “What we’re trying to do is get the state in a much more proactive position regarding long term forest needs.”  

Hawkins said that requires a strategy to “thin the forest responsibly, do the harvesting as needed. clear the underbrush and do some prescribed burning.”  

“I hope we can get to the point at the state where we’re fighting fires and putting them out soon after they start rather than just getting in a situation where we’re managing them once they start burning.”

Hawkins said his Listening Tour has been a valuable tool for keeping his finger on the pulse of public opinion.
“Too often elected officials under-value the importance of listening,” Hawkins said.

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