Vote to urge fee riles local activists

Committee refuses to delay its support for replacing road fund that runs out this year

By Andrea Damewood, Columbian staff writer

Published:

 

A transportation advisory group passed a resolution this week asking the Vancouver City Council to pass a $20 car license fee to pay for road projects.

But some people feel the vote was rushed.

The Neighborhood Transportation Safety Alliance, an ad hoc advisory committee, voted 6-4 Tuesday to recognize the “urgent need for an adequate, stable funding source for maintenance and capital” for the city’s roads.

To solve the problem, the majority encouraged the city council to form a Transportation Benefit District and charge a $20-a-year licensing fee on autos to raise $2.1 million a year. Vancouver — which will have no money for new roads after this year — could then use that money to go after federal and state matching grants.

The resolution renews talk of the fee, which was discussed extensively early this year during city council budget meetings.

But a city spokeswoman said the alliance’s vote does not mean there’s an imminent action in the works from the city council to pass the fee.

“While no action is anticipated now, I expect discussion of transportation issues to be among many priorities the council considers as we discuss goals for 2012 early next year,” City Manager Eric Holmes wrote in an email to the city council Friday.

But Shumway Neighborhood Association President Anne McEnerny-Ogle wondered why a majority of the NTSA board voted down a motion to table the matter until its February meeting.

The notice was sent out Sunday night before Tuesday’s meeting, giving neighborhood leaders little to no time to discuss it with residents, said McEnerny-Ogle, who was not at the meeting. Lisa Ghormley represents Shumway on the traffic safety alliance.

“As neighborhood leaders, we’re not allowed to take that sort of stand without notifying neighbors, and being able to talk about it and get both sides of the issue,” McEnerny-Ogle said.

She said the NTSA usually votes on such simple matters as bylaws and preferences for traffic-calming routes. “This is a significant vote,” she said.

Information was not available Friday about how individual committee members voted on the resolution.

McEnerny-Ogle said she’d rather see plans for a Transportation Benefit District — and any fees associated with it — go to the voters. State law allows cities to impose a $20 fee without a vote; anything more requires voter approval.

Ross Montgomery, chairman of the traffic safety alliance and president of the Airport Green Neighborhood Association, did not return a call and email for comment Friday.

If the city council does form a Transportation Benefit District, it must specify what projects the money can fund. Tuesday’s resolution also commits the NTSA to help form a recommended list of such projects by Jan. 17.

Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542, http://facebook.com/reporterdamewood,http://twitter.com/col_cityhall or andrea.damewood@columbian.com.