Port Townsend voters may weigh tough choices

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — City Hall plans to come to voters as many as four times in the coming year in an effort to bolster declining budget categories.

“There are things that need to be done, and we need to understand the consequences of not doing them,” City Manager David Timmons said.

The four critical areas he identified are the creation of a transportation benefit district; creation of a metropolitan parks district; funding for library renovation; and annexation of the city into East Jefferson Fire-Rescue.

The fire annexation might be off the table already.

Annexation before city and county property values are aligned — scheduled for 2014 — would cause inconsistency and confusion among voters, Timmons said.

Timmons prepared four charts outlining possible alternatives for each topic that included arguments for and against each move, and all of the foreseeable consequences.

The charts were discussed at a City Council workshop meeting earlier this week.

Each matrix had a column regarding the consequences of not addressing the problem and maintaining the status quo.

For the creation of a transportation benefit district, the two active options are to impose an annual $20 car-tab fee or a $100 car-tab fee, both of which would cancel out a recent state initiative limiting licensing costs.

The consequences of maintaining the status quo in this case would be the degrading of street repair, Timmons said.

On the flip side, imposition of a car-tab fee could bring unrealistic expectations to city motorists, he added.

“With the costs of roads, if we spent a million dollars a year, it would take us 80 years to fix everything,” he said.

For the library, the four choices are maintaining the status quo, a ballot bond issue, a ballot issue taking reduced costs into consideration and a redesign of the renovation project.

The consequence of the ballot issue is a conflict with other groups seeking funding, while the consequences of the other three choices “will strain relationships between public, library board, library staff and [City] Council,” according to Timmons’ chart.

Timmons acknowledged that no single action can please everybody.

“There are people who want the library to move forward and other people who don’t want it to move forward,” he said.

“The goal is to achieve equitable compromise the best way you can.”

The library topic will next be addressed by the council in late January and will provide the template for a town meeting scheduled for February, Timmons said.

The next step is to find ways where the different needs overlap and where funding can be combined, he said.

With the ballot initiatives, voters will decide which projects are important and need to be subsidized — and this can go either way, according to Timmons.

“It all depends on how much of a tax increase the constituents will accept,” he said.



Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: December 12. 2012 5:57PM
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