Last (week) I attended the May 9 Root-Beer Social and Town Meeting in the new fire station on the hill. By the way, being a “townie” myself, I was reassured by their location, which I think a fair choice servicing both the residents on the Ridge as well as downtown within a reasonable amount of response time.
Observing the comments and information given at the meeting, it did not take me long to realize that our town is in trouble. Big trouble! Lacking the background that led the city to contract with the builders who are peppering an entire mountain with high-density housing, I am at a complete loss as to understanding how we got here. Needless to say, I am a new resident.
During the meeting I kept asking myself, why would anyone in their right mind keep building Phase II? Especially since it has now become public knowledge that our town cannot maintain the costs of city services for what has been built so far?
That – my husband tells me – is the quagmire. If, in some miraculous way, the city were indeed able to halt the construction of Phase II with all its crushing legal implications, Snoqualmie would likely become insolvent within a short amount of time.
No wonder. Small towns were not designed to explode at this rate of growth. For centuries small towns have comfortably grown into medium-size and large towns; gradually absorbing newcomers and expanding city services as needed, based on business growth and property taxes.
The new trend of large corporations settling near a small town along with their resident workers is putting a different face on things entirely. Quite often the new housing additions are disproportionately large and concentrated, while being entirely dependent on the corporation they support.
What to do? At any rate, last night convinced me that any council member charged with finding a way of salvaging the financial constraints Snoqualmie is now facing deserves our respect. I certainly would not want their job.
Faced with an unanticipated property tax lid of 1 percent per year, a handful of bravely struggling businesses downtown and steep maintenance costs to support this rate of unnatural growth, they are in deep difficulty.
No way to win this one. Certainly cutting emergency services, such as our beloved and highly respected police department, will not endear them to the community. Halting construction on the hill is not an option. Not anymore. Developing the business community to attract more tourist money is the right decision, but it will take time and may be too little too late.
Yet, I got the distinct feeling that to blame the 600-pound gorilla, namely the big business investors who are in part to blame for the dire straits we are in (the other part is the City Council who let them), would be highly unpopular. After all, the so-called “one-time money” or “shortfall loan” is coming from that corner. Of course, it has conditions attached to it. I could be wrong, but I would imagine they have something to do with Phase II.