From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Relations between the city of Moscow and Whitman County could become a little warmer in the near future.
Newly elected councilmen Dan Carscallen, Wayne Krauss and Walter Steed say they would be open to trying to mend differences with officials in Whitman County and possibly even help Hawkins Companies develop its proposed shopping center just across the state border.
"I am open to having a dialogue with Whitman County on any subject and this development in particular," Carscallen said. "I am all for meeting with Whitman County and the city of Pullman and whoever.
"Let's all get together and see if we can get along."
The issue that has created the most tension between the two sides is Moscow's appeals of three water-right transfers that have stalled Hawkins' proposed 700,000-square-foot shopping development on the Pullman-Moscow Highway that would be anchored by a Lowe's home improvement store.
In its appeals, Moscow argued that each water right was located in two different bodies of public groundwater and that the transfers would impair existing water rights, not be in the public's best interest and would improperly modify the manner of the rights' intended use.
The development is expected to eventually provide at least $1.8 million a year in sales tax and property tax revenues to Whitman County.
Krauss said he hopes both sides can start working together for their mutual benefit.
"I would certainly hope we can open up some dialogue with Whitman County," Krauss said. "I think it is time we forgot about the imaginary line - which is the state line - and remember we are working toward the same goal and that is the prosperity of the two communities."
Whitman County Commissioner Jerry Finch said he welcomes the opportunity to speak with the Moscow City Council.
"I think it is fair to say some of the new Moscow council has expressed interest in having better relations with Whitman County," Finch said. "This water thing has gotten contentious.
"I want to have a good working relationship with these people and that doesn't mean you won't have a difference of opinions," he added. "I personally can't stress enough that I want to have good relations with my local government neighbors as much as my own personal neighbors."
While Finch hopes the county can mend relations with Moscow, he is not sure the revamped City Council will carry enough weight to repair short-term relations or provide a solution to the current water rights battle.
"I am not quite as optimistic about that as others," Finch said. "Long-term, I would like to get some open dialogue going.
"There seems to be a consensus that the new council has stripped power away from the mayor, but (Nancy Chaney) still is the mayor," he added. "Obviously, the political reality of Moscow has changed a little bit and I certainly wouldn't turn a cold shoulder to having discussions with those people."
Hawkins representative Jeff DeVoe said his company has been and will continue to be receptive to a meeting with Moscow.
"Hawkins is always open to talking with Moscow about anything they would propose," DeVoe said.
Carscallen said meeting with Hawkins to iron out differences could be a possibility, and one that could save both sides money in the long run by eliminating the need for lawyers and costly legal battles over water rights. "I'd rather cut out the middle man and not pay" lawyers, Carscallen said.
One additional possibility that could be discussed is Moscow extending its water and sewer services to the site of Hawkins' proposed development. Carscallen said that would provide revenue for the city while providing a needed service for Hawkins.
"I think it's something that can be explored," he said. The water "is all coming out of the same tub, so why not do what is advantageous for the city of Moscow? If there is a way we can work together to make this mutually beneficial for us and Whitman County I want to do that.
"A lot of people have been saying it's all about water," Carscallen added. "If that's the case the same people would be against it on the Idaho side."
The development could get off the ground sooner rather than later if progress is made between the sides and Moscow drops its water-rights appeal with the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board.
"I think it is fair to say we would love to have the city of Moscow withdraw their appeal and that project could move ahead full speed," Finch said. "What we want and what the reality is could be a long way away."
Councilman Tom Lamar said he also is open to talking with Whitman County officials, but he would not be in favor of selling city services outside of city limits.
"As the city of Moscow, we really want to be addressing the needs of the citizens of Moscow," Lamar said. "To me, it doesn't seem right to be selling our services outside of the city limits. If it's development taking place in Moscow I feel differently about providing the water or sewer rights."
Lamar said he also likely would not be opposed to the development if it was taking place in the city limits of Pullman or Moscow. Keeping the development out of the corridor would keep traffic flowing smoothly and would leave the corridor open for other potential transportation options, like a U.S. Highway 95 bypass.
"I don't think it is good to put this development in the corridor," Lamar said. "There's a reason why we have cities and that is why we should be building in the cities. If it's in Pullman I think that is a great idea. If the location of the facility is in a different place, then all of these comments have to be reorganized.
"There are multiple issues involved and it's important to look at all the different components - nothing is so simple to just say pro or con."
If the development was located within city limits it also would eliminate issues with water rights because the shopping center would be connected directly to existing city services in either Pullman or Moscow.
Lamar said the costs associated with constructing public infrastructure at the development's proposed site will be staggering in the end.
"I think in the long run it will be a net loss for Whitman County because those services are expensive," Lamar said. "It ends up costing the residents of Whitman County in the long run."
Finch believes Moscow's concerns are more about location than water and cost.
If the situation were reversed, "I can say we would be sitting over here being envious, but we wouldn't do anything to hinder it," he said.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Whitman County commissioners will take public input on a plan to sell $10.5 million in bonds to pay for public infrastructure at the site of a proposed shopping-center development in the Pullman-Moscow corridor.
WHEN: 2:30 p.m. Jan. 22
WHERE: Whitman County Courthouse