By SVERRE BAKKE
Repair of White Salmon's Dock Grade Road, following a plan drawn up by the city's engineer, began Tuesday morning.
The project is being carried out by city crews at the behest of Mayor David Poucher, who brought in city engineer Mike Wellman last Friday to give his professional opinion about the failing section of pavement in the road's south lane.
Based on the "new information" Wellman provided during a walking tour of the roadway, Poucher said he ordered the installation of temporary traffic control devices -- in this case, stop signs on both lanes in vicinity of the sinkhole -- and the reopening of Dock Grade last Friday to accommodate the White Salmon Arts Council's Art and Wine Fusion on Saturday. The road remained open for the weekend but was closed again Monday in preparation for its repair.
The plan, according to Poucher, is to cut out a 10 feet by 40 feet strip of pavement, stabilizing the slopeside, filling in the cut-out area with a concrete-like material, then finishing with a paving job.
"We hope to have the work done and the road reopened by the end of the week, but I'm not making any promises," Poucher said Monday.
This new approach to the Dock Grade situation came on day eight of the closure implemented by city administrator\public works director Pat Munyan. Munyan cited "public safety" as his reason for shutting down the road "indefinitely" on July 7 -- one day after the City Council deferred action on Munyan's recommendation to accept a $13,700 proposal from a geotechnical engineering firm to perform a safety review of the failing section of Dock Grade. (The council was scheduled to revisit the matter during its July 20 business meeting.)
According to Poucher, Munyan made the call to close Dock Grade after consulting by telephone with the mayor, who was out of town that day.
Last week, Poucher said he asked Wellman to come in for a consultation -- instead of waiting to discuss the matter at the next City Council meeting -- that included a walking inspection of the damaged section of roadway and Wellman offering his judgment.
"Mike laid out on the ground what needed to be done, and said he'd follow up with plans and a schedule for how things should be done," Poucher said.
Wellman said Monday that Poucher contacted him at a time when had a break in the work he is doing on the city's water comprehensive plan, and he agreed to have a look.
"There are a lot of differing opinions about what ought to be done with Dock Grade, but one thing everyone can agree on is that the road needs to be widened," Wellman said. "Short of that, is there something we can do to make the road safer so it can be kept open?"
"My goals as city engineer when I went down there were to assess whether the roadway is dangerous -- yes, it is -- and whether that danger can be mitigated -- yes, it can," he continued. "And my opinion is, we should go ahead and repair it if we want to continue using it as a two-way road."
Poucher indicated the city's goal is to return Dock Grade to service as a two-lane road at the least cost to the city.
"Sometimes it's more important to use common sense," Poucher said of his decision to bring in Wellman. He added, "Dock Grade is a major arterial for this community, so the most important thing we can do is keep the road open, preferably as two-way traffic."
In reaching a conclusion that something needed to be done sooner than later, Poucher said he did not consult members of the City Council because he wasn't required to.
"I'm the administrator, it's my decision; that's what I'm paid to do. The City Council's job is to appropriate the money so we can keep the city operating," Poucher said.