By Don Nelson
The Town of Twisp may ask voters to approve a small increase in the local retail sales tax to support street repairs, as opposed to a vehicle registration fee.
At its meeting last week, the council discussed how to proceed on a proposed Transportation Development District (TBD) that would raise money for local street repairs and maintenance that would not otherwise be funded. Town officials had earlier suggested a fee of $20 per registered vehicle in Twisp to generate funds. The revenue — estimated to be about $13,700 per year — would be earmarked for the town’s streets.
At last week’s meeting, town Clerk Jackie Moriarty reported that more than 80 other municipalities in the state have similar districts, but many are funded by way of a small, voter-approved increase in the local sales tax — typically about 0.1 percent to 0.2 percent — rather than a vehicle fee. A sales tax would raise about twice as much money as the vehicle fee, she said.
Mayor Soo Ing-Moody and council members agreed that it would make more sense to form a TBD first to keep the process moving, and then decide on a financing mechanism with more public input. Formation of a TBD would require a draft ordinance and a public hearings process.
In other council business:
• Public Works Director Andrew Denham said that phase one of necessary repairs to the Wagner Memorial Pool — relining the pool — will likely begin in May. Denham said there isn’t money available yet for phase two — repairing the gutters around the edge of the pool. Friends of the Pool, a local nonprofit group, is fundraising to support the second phase of repairs.
• Council members Hans Smith and Aaron Studen raised concerns about questions related to the status of former Okanogan County Fire District 6 Chief Don Waller, who is on paid leave of absence but apparently will still be on call to fight fires.
At a meeting last week of the fire district commissioners — which Studen attended — audience members raised questions about Waller’s exact role in the chain of command. Studen and Smith said they are concerned about the town’s liability — Twisp contracts with District 6 for fire protection — if there is a question about chain of command at fires within the town.
Ing-Moody said the town will send a letter to the fire district asking for clarification.
• Former mayor Mike Price presented the council with a substantial list of public records requests related to the history of actions at a proposed industrial park east of the Methow River. The Lloyd family, which owns the property, had earlier agreed to donate land for a community trail and then withdrew that pledge. The town and the Lloyd family are currently negotiating over an acceptable in-kind donation to replace the value of the land the Lloyd family had said it would donate.
Plans had called for the community trail to cross the bridge and head north along the river on the donated Lloyd property, following the roadbed of the former Wagner Street, which was vacated by the town in the 1990s at the request of the Lloyd family.
Moriarty told Price that he has to submit a formal records request form before the town can respond.
Ing-Moody said the town will respond appropriately to the request, but noted that the extent of Price’s list would likely make it quite costly for the town to comply. She asked if Price could review the list to see if it can be pared down.
Ing-Moody assured Price that the town has been conducting its own thorough “due diligence” research on the history of the project for several weeks. “We want to have a full understanding of what happened,” she said, “so that we can choose the best path for the town.”
The town will review the industrial park issue with full transparency, the mayor said. “There should no assumption about things being swept under the rug,” she said.
Price agreed to review his documents request list before submitted a form. “It’s not a matter of harassment and I don’t want to create busy work,” he said.
• The council also approved the appointments of Fred Wert, Bob Wagner and Chad Patterson to the town’s Airport Advisory Board.