Candidates forum Hopefuls discuss algae, homelessness, experience

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Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald State legislature candidate Jesse Hegstrom Oakey outlines his position on housing while his opponent, Rep. Tom Dent, looks on, during Monday’s candidate forum at the Moses Lake Civic Center.

MOSES LAKE — Homelessness, the state of algae-filled waters of Moses Lake, and the moving of Grant County’s juvenile offenders to Martin Hall at Medical Lake were all topics addressed at Monday night’s candidate forum at the Moses Lake Civic Center.

“The average depth of Moses Lake is 9 feet,” said Jeff Foster, the current chairman of the Moses Lake Irrigation and Reclamation District who is challenging incumbent Grant County Commissioner Cindy Carter.

“It is in much better shape than what it has been for a number of years,” Foster said in response to an audience question about toxic algae blooms in Moses Lake. “Until we got to this year.”

Foster said the algae situation was caused by a lack of a “killing freeze” last winter combined with a warm and windy late summer to promote massive algae blooms in the last six weeks or so.

Rep. Tom Dent, R-Moses Lake, added that the amount of irrigation and fertilization along the shores of Moses Lake, combined with the number of waterfowl who naturally “fertilize” the lake, create prime conditions for toxic algae.

Both Dent and Foster noted that lake conditions have improved significantly since the 1970s.

“Overall, we’ve done a great job,” Dent said. “While it’s not perfect, there’s been some real progress.”

The candidate forum was jointly sponsored by KBSM/KDRM Radio, the Columbia Basin Herald, Alpha Media/KWIQ Radio and the Moses Lake Chamber of Commerce and brought together candidates for state, county, and public utility district positions.

In attendance were Dent and his challenger Jesse Hegstrom Oakey, 13th District challenger Sylvia Hammond, Carter and Foster, Grant County Sheriff Tom Jones, Assessor Melissa McKnight and challenger Scott Schmig, Auditor Michele Jaderlund and challenger James Liebrecht, Treasurer Darryl Pheasant and challenger Casey Cooper, Grant County Public Utility District (PUD) Commissioner No. 1 Terry Brewer and challenger Judy Wilson, and Nelson Cox and Patti Paris, who are both vying for the PUD Commissioner B seat.

Candidates were asked to talk about their backgrounds and qualifications, and then each took a few questions from the forum’s sponsors and from the audience.

Not present at the Monday forum were incumbent Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, who has been dealing with a sex scandal and has promised to resign if re-elected, allowing commissioners from the 14 counties in the 13th legislative district to appoint his successor, and Myriam Villagran Diaz, who is running for sheriff.

Carter, responding to an audience question, said Grant County has saved about $1 million contracting out its juvenile detention services to Martin Hall in Medical Lake, a huge savings.

Foster, responding to the same question, said that while he trusted that the county commission had done its homework about the move, he also wondered if that was the only option open to the county.

“I’m not sure that was the best option for the kids, and the parents of the kids,” he said. “But from a budgetary standpoint, it sounds like it was the right decision.”

Calling homelessness a “multifaceted” problem, Foster said he believes a number of the homeless in Grant County need better access to mental health care, though he also said there are those “who need a hand up, and not a handout” to get off the streets.

Carter said the county is striving to help the homeless, and said more communities in Grant County need warming centers to provide assistance during the winter.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at countygvt@columbiabasinherald.com.

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