Thursday, August 6, 2020
Aug. 6, 2020

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Local cities to state: No unfunded mandates

With money tight at all levels, officials try to send consistent message to legislators

By , Columbian Health Reporter
Published:

As city officials in Clark County prepare for another year of declining revenue and increasing costs, they’re turning to the state for relief. Not by requesting additional funding, but by asking officials to maintain the status quo and hold off on issuing unfunded mandates.

“We know the state’s not in the position to allocate a lot of money because they just don’t have it,” Battle Ground City Manager John Williams said. “So our priorities are to not push undue economic pressures on us in the form of some of these mandates and maintain what we have.”

The city of Battle Ground isn’t alone. Other cities are sending similar messages as they draft, revise and finalize their 2011 state legislative priorities.

“We recognize that the state Legislature and state government in general is facing the largest deficit they’ve seen in generations now, and the likelihood of any funding for local government is pretty limited,” Ridgefield City Manager Justin Clary said. “So we’re more concerned about protecting what we have and that any mandates that have been put in place in the past are delayed.”

Unfunded mandates of concern to area cities include new Department of Ecology regulations regarding stormwater management standards, new DOE standards and permitting requirements for reclaimed water facilities, and required conversion of all city vehicles to non-gasoline power by 2015.

Most of the cities’ lists identify similar positions on proposed legislation, coupled with a few project-specific priorities. Working with other Southwest Washington cities and cities across the state to draft some similar priorities sends a consistent message to state legislators, Williams said.

Some of the common priorities include supporting greater flexibility with existing local revenue authorities (such as impact fees and real estate excise taxes) and supporting legislation that would provide new authority to create a street utility as a funding tool for local governments. In maintaining the status quo, many cities are asking legislators to continue the new stormwater grant funding.

In Battle Ground, maintaining the status quo means preserving funding for the state Highway 502 widening project. Construction of the Washington State Department of Transportation’s $88 million project is scheduled to begin in late 2012. Preservation of authorized funding is critical to insure completion of the project, according to the city.

The city of Ridgefield is also asking for continued support for a transportation project: the Interstate 5 interchange. The city is awaiting a final determination by Congress on a pending $1 million transportation earmark for the second phase of the project. If allocated, the earmark would fully fund construction of roundabouts and realignment of 65th Avenue, Clary said.

Maximizing funding to the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program would also benefit the city of Ridgefield. The first phase of improvements to Abrams Park is on the list of projects. If awarded the $730,000 state grant, the city plans to provide a 100 percent match.

Transportation projects are also priorities in Woodland and Camas.

The city of Woodland is requesting funding ($1 million state and $1 million federal) for design and environmental work on the $60 million Scott Avenue Crossing project. In Camas, the city is looking to the Public Works Trust Fund to provide money for priority projects like the 38th Street extension project. Camas officials also want funding to the Washington State Main Street Program protected.

The cities of Washougal and La Center do not yet have their state legislative priorities lists completed. Washougal officials will likely request support and funding for the next steps of the Highway 14 safety improvement and widening project, according to City Administrator David Scott.

In addition to identifying state legislative priorities, the city of Battle Ground is also asking for federal appropriations for a handful of projects. The requests include $1.2 million for the second phase of the Grace Avenue realignment, $250,000 for Old Town Battle Ground revitalization, $200,000 for a second school resource officer, $1 million for the construction of a water reservoir, and $3.1 million for the South Parkway improvement project.

For each request, the city identified specific grants for which it feels the project would qualify, Williams said. How soon the projects move forward is dependent on the city acquiring funding, he said.

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546 or marissa.harshman@columbian.com.

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