Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Monday, January 14, 2008

Whitman County Commissioners Take Public Comment on Hawkins Bond Proposal

Commissioners Partch, Finch, and Largent listen to public comment

Just got back from the Whitman County Commissioners meeting in Colfax. I was there, along with fellow BREO members Russ and April Coggins, to express support for the proposed Hawkins development infrastructure bond.

Nothing extremely earth-shattering was divulged, although it was interesting to hear that the the water rights Hakwins receives will be turned over to the county as part of this deal. That has not been reported previously. Ed Schultz, chairman of the Whitman County Water Conservancy Board, stated that this would necessitate another formal transfer approval process.

Whitman County residents give comments to the commissioners; Whitman County Public Works Director Mark Storey is in the doorway.

No one present was in opposition to the project, but some citizens had some probing questions such as: Was the meeting legal?; Would this set a precedent for all future development?; Why didn't all developers get this help from the county?; etc., etc.

Commissioner Jerry Finch said that in a perfect world, Hawkins would pay for the infrastructure all on their own, but the time has come that if the county doesn't partner with Hawkins on this, they will walk. April and others pointed out that the infrastructure is a valuable investment in the county's future, as it can be used for future development in the corridor. If Hawkins owned it, it couldn't be. A developer from Pasco, who owns land in the corridor and was on hand to voice his support, said this kind of public/private partnership is becoming more and more common.

I was glad to see that Paul Kimmell of the Greater Moscow Alliance was on hand. I made a comment to the effect that hopefully his presence at the meeting was indicative of future cooperation between our two governments. Paul, who works for Avista, is no longer executive director of the Moscow Chamber of Commerce of course, but he was instrumental in getting at least one of the new Moscow City Council members elected and I'm sure one reason he was there was to report back to them.

If Moscow drops its water rights transfer appeals and extends water service to the Hakwins development, its a win-win for everyone. Whitman County wins by getting a piece of the Palouse sales tax pie and Moscow wins by also getting a piece of the action (a little of something is far better than a whole lot of nothing), as well as benefitting from spillover business attracted to the new mall, including Lowe's, which would be a new store for the Quad Cities.

Much more later. Rory Curtiss of KMAX, Evan Ellis of KQQQ, Devin Rokyta of the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Joe Smillie of the Whitman County Gazette, and David Johnson of the Lewiston Tribune were all on hand, so expect this to be well covered in the media.

Daily News reporter Devin Rokyta in the foreground; Gazette reporter Joe Smillie is visible over his left shoulder in the far back of the room; Paul Kimmell (wearing glasses) is on the extreme right, with David Johnson of the Tribune barely visible to his left.

1 comment:

April E. Coggins said...

I thought the meeting went well. There seemed to be some misinformation going in to the meeting, but everyone came out ammicable and on-board. Hopefully the commissioners, with the help of the media, can get the word out.

Here is how the bond has been explained to me:
The State of Washington has earmarked funds to provide almost no interest loans (bonds) to public entities to build infrastructure. Hawkins will build the infrastructure and sell it back to the county. The county will borrow the money for the infrastructure from the state. Hawkins will collect and pay sales taxes and property taxes which will pay for the (loan) bond.

The infrastucture Whitman county will own is normal infrastucture. Roads, water and sewer. Nothing different than what a city would normally provide. This is not new for Pullman or any other town, it is new for Whitman county. I have been told that Whitman county has never used the state's infrastucture loan program, we have always paid as we go. This project is so big, the county doesn't have the cash to pay up front for infrastructure by themselves. From my understanding, this will not cost Whitman county residents one dime as all the improvements will be repaid with new tax collections. And at some point, the infrastucture bond will be paid off and taxes collected from that point forward is additional profit for the residents of Whitman county.
This doesn't take into account other developments that will inevitably locate in or the near the Corridor, which will mean even more revenue for Whitman county.