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Snoqualmie council greenlights $60 county car tab plan, 6-1 | Outgoing fire chief honored
The Snoqualmie City Council voted 6-1 to give a symbolic green light to a proposed $60 county-wide car tab fee that would fix the region’s beleaguered road and transit system.
The tab hike was part of a plan for a new King County transportation benefit district, proposed by Executive Dow Constantine last month, that would ask voters to preserve Metro Transit and fix the county’s ailing roads system. Besides the new tab fee, a likely April ballot measure could include a 0.1 percent sales tax increase.
Snoqualmie put its own $20 car tab fee in place in 2010.
Chris Arkills, Trans-portation Policy Advisor to Constantine, briefed the council at its Monday, Jan. 27, meeting on transit necessities.
“The 2008 recession had a large impact on the funding available for roads and transit in King County,” Arkills said. Sales and property taxes took a big hit.
Metro reduced costs as best it could and raised fares four times in five years, saving or recouping $800 million. The roads department has also made cuts, slashing its staff by 40 percent, Arkills said.
The county’s temporary reduction charge, a $20 tab fee that drivers have paid for the last two years, will expire in June. Meanwhile, the state legislature has not been able to agree on a transportation fix.
“King County must move forward with the funding tools we have now, to avoid making severe transit service reductions,” Arkills said.
“None of this is easy,” he told the council. “But we have some structural problems funding our roads and transit in this county and this state… King County is the economic powerhouse of this state. We’re 30 percent of the state’s population, 40 percent of its jobs and 50 percent of the state payroll. We need to invest and make sure our economy is vibrant here in King County.”
Snoqualmie is a member of the Suburban Cities Association, whose Public Issues Committee was considering a resolution of support for the plan.
The council signed off on a proposed statement by the association that it supports the formation of a county-wide transportation district, with 60 percent of the new tax revenuegoing to Metro for transit funding and 40 percent distributed to the county and cities based on population for other transportation needs, such as roads, bike paths and sidewalks. To ensure dollars can be used as effectively as possible, and to avoid the creation of additional bureaucracies, funding would be provided to local cities through direct distribution.
The council discussed rolling back its own $20 car tab fee if county voters approve the new $60 fee. If it passes, Snoqualmie looks to nearly double the amount of revenue it would receive, via the county transportation district, from about $150,000 annually to more than $300,000.
The majority of the council agreed to support the proposal for the car-tab ballot measure.
Councilman Bryan Holloway was the lone nay vote.
“I’m going to have to vote no,” said Holloway, who expressed concerns for the size of the increase. “I just don’t believe this is a black-and-white issue. I’d rather have the people make their decision, rather than me tell them… I want a little tinge of gray in this council vote.”
The county council is expected to form the district the week of February 10, and decide whether to put the car tab fee on an April ballot by the end of the month.
Asked by councilman Bob Jeans about whether a state transportation bill to help the county might be passed, Arkills was doubtful.
“It hasn’t happened in the last several sessions. This is a short session in an election year… It’s not looking especially promising.”
“We know this is not an easy ask,” Arkills told the council. “But we believe we need to work to preserve our transit and road system.”
In other business
Puget Sound Energy officials brought a giant check to reward Snoqualmie, the winning city in Puget Sound Energy’s Green Power Challenge.
PSE challenged five cities to increase their enrollment in the company’s green power program in 2013.
Snoqualmie’s goal was to add 46 accounts and reach 190. The city blew through that number and the competition from Bainbridge Island, Tumwater, Anacortes and Kirkland, reaching 368 green power accounts. Participation grew by 156 percent over 2013. Community-wide, 8.3 percent of residents take part in the program.
Two businesses, Lula Ruby Organic Salon and Bayan Mongolian Grill, signed on for green power.
Snoqualmie now receives a $40,000 grant to build a solar power project at the local Y.
Snoqualmie resident and historian Dave Battey informed the council that 2014 looks to be a major milestone for the city. Snoqualmie was platted in August of 1889, 125 years ago.
The railroad came to town for the first time in 1889. The Snoqualmie Methodist Episcopal Church, now known as the United Methodist Church, was founded underneath the maple tree on River Street in September. In November, the Territory of Washington became a state.
“Eighty-nine was a big deal,” Battey said. “What we have is a 125th anniversary. What we do with that is up to us.”
Snoqualmie Fire Chief Bob Rowe was recognized for 15 years of service with the city. That time has gone by fast, said Rowe, who is retiring from the city department this year.
“Time flies when you enjoy what you’re doing,” Rowe said.