Washougal postpones vote on tax credit program

Additional discussions are expected April 28

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Varying opinions regarding a New Markets Tax Credit program have led the Washougal City Council to defer additional discussions and a possible vote by two weeks.

Councilors voted unanimously last night to table a decision regarding a professional services agreement with the Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association, the City of Camas and the Port of Camas-Washougal. It would include an expenditure of $21,875 from Washougal.

The first phase would be a feasibility analysis, followed by the formation of a Community Development Entity and application for tax credits. CWEDA would serve as the lead agency, coordinating the consultant’s work efforts.

The New Markets Tax Credit program involves an indirect federal subsidy for business and development investment. Tax credits are awarded through annual competitive applications, and awardees sell tax credits to investors.

The U.S. Treasury awards $3.5 billion in credit authority each year.

Councilman Dave Shoemaker said he objects to asking the federal government for money, and he would rather spend funds on street projects.

Councilwoman Jennifer McDaniel said the $21,875 is not in this year’s community development budget and the city could plan to fund a professional service agreement next year.

City Administrator David Scott said a professional services line item could be identified for that amount in the general fund this year, due to salary savings resulting from position vacancies.

Councilwoman Joyce Lindsay made the motion to table a decision to April 28, saying she wanted to understand the funding better.

Councilwoman Connie Jo Freeman wanted more discussion among council members and time to process what she heard from CWEDA President Paul Dennis and Stephen Brooks, with Pilot Management Resources, of Portland.

Dennis has said as part of the application process, three local projects would likely be submitted — one each from Camas, Washougal and the port.

During public comments, Larry Keister, of Washougal, spoke in support of seeking New Market Tax Credits.

“The port has businesses looking to develop there,” he said. “You will benefit from this. Support the economic development of Washougal.”

The port commission is expected to vote regarding the expenditure of up to $43,750 for the PSA during its next regular meeting today, at 5 p.m., in the port office meeting room, 24 S. “A” St., Washougal.

Discussions regarding the New Market Tax Credit program and $21,875 are expected to occur by the Camas City Council during its workshop Monday, at 4:30 p.m., with a potential vote during the 7 p.m. meeting, at City Hall, 616 N.E. Fourth Ave.

The deadline to submit New Market Tax Credit Program applications is in mid-September.

Meals on Wheels kitchen funding is delayed

The state budget, approved last month, did not include funding for a Washougal Senior Center project.

Scott said it was included in the House version, but not the Senate, and they did not reach agreement overall on a supplemental capital budget.

The senior/community center renovation and Meals on Wheels kitchen upgrades are expected to cost $212,000.

The city has been given more time to become compliant with Clark County Health Department codes. Improvements are needed next year in the Washougal Community Center kitchen, in order for that facility to continue preparing food for the Meals on Wheels program.

Instead of having 1.5 sinks, there needs to be three. The code also calls for a range with an approved hood instead of two residential ranges, and a commercial cold storage system instead of residential-type refrigerators.

During the council meeting, Wanda Nelson, center Manager of The Meals on Wheels People Camas-Washougal, said the non-compliance — mentioned in November 2013 — was an emergency situation.

She said it was wonderful that the health department’s timeline for kitchen upgrades was pushed back, so the whole building could be worked on instead of having piecemeal projects. They include reroofing the community center, moving the HVAC units from the roof to the ground and replacing the facade of City Hall and the community center.

Nelson requested additional communication from city officials.

Vehicle tab fee for road maintenance is discussed again

An idea that was discussed during the Washougal City Council’s annual planning session in January was brought back for further discussion last night.

It would involve creating a transportation benefit district, to pay for pavement preservation. A revenue option, not subject to voter approval, would include a $20 increase in Washougal residents’ vehicle tab renewal fees.

“No new taxes,” Freeman said. “Where can we find money [for road maintenance] without raising taxes?”

“It would be a pretty specific user fee, not a general tax,” Councilman Paul Greenlee said, pointing out that it would not affect bicyclists or residents of senior living facilities.

A phased-in approach, starting in $5 increments, was mentioned as a potential option by Public Works Director Trevor Evers.

Additional discussions, regarding whether to survey Washougal residents about the proposed fee, are expected to occur at the council workshop, Monday, April 28, at 5 p.m.