By Ann McCreary
An ordinance establishing a Transportation Benefit District (TBD) will come back to the Twisp Town Council for possible approval at its next meeting, after a public hearing at the March 8 council meeting drew no public comment.
The TBD would be a special taxing district that could raise money through a sales tax or vehicle fees to fund street resurfacing and other street maintenance and improvements in Twisp.
Town officials are considering a possible sales tax of 0.1 or 0.2 percent, which would have to be approved by voters. Alternately, a fee of $20 on vehicles registered in Twisp would provide another funding mechanism.
In discussion of the proposed district, council members wanted to be sure that money from sales taxes or fees could be held in reserve to fund projects that cost more than the annual revenue raised through the district.
“Some projects cost more than we would collect in a year. If we aren’t able to build a reserve we aren’t going to be able to do them,” said council member Bob Lloyd.
A list of potential street maintenance and improvement projects that could be funded through the TBD was prepared by Public Works Director Andrew Denham. Town officials were checking with the town attorney to determine if that list would be included as part of the ordinance.
A $20 vehicle fee would raise about $13,700 per year for street improvements. A sales tax could raise about twice that amount, according to town officials.
Town officials are exploring the transportation district because Twisp’s street maintenance fund has diminished over the years, and the town has had trouble keeping up with maintenance such as repairing potholes and resurfacing streets.
The council sent the ordinance to the town attorney to tweak the language before the measure comes back to the board for approval.
In other business:
• Police Chief Paul Budrow said the town received only one response to its advertisement for a lateral police officer, but that applicant took another position. He said the position would be advertised again seeking a lateral officer, which means a trained police officer with previous job experience.
If no qualified lateral officers apply, the town will seek entry-level candidates who would need to attend law enforcement academy before beginning work in Twisp.
“If we hire an entry-level officer it would be another year of just the two of us,” Budrow said.
The town included funding in its 2016 budget to hire an additional police officer, bringing the department to three full-time officers.
Budrow said Twisp’s small size and comparatively low pay scale make it difficult to attract experienced and qualified candidates.
• The council gave final approval to the Isabella Ridge subdivision, a 13-lot development (one lot is not buildable) on six acres in the Painters Addition neighborhood on the west side of Twisp.
Most of the site work for the subdivision has been completed, with the exception of a 1,200-foot-long street serving the property. Developer Vaughn Jolley has provided a bond for the work required to complete the street.
In an interview after the council meeting, Jolley said the street would be completed as soon as the snow is gone.
Isabella Ridge is the largest development approved by the town in decades. “I do not believe a 13-lot subdivision has been approved in Twisp since I began my planning career … in 1982,” said town planner Kurt Danison, who began working for the town in 1989.
Jolley said would begin planning the next phase of development on 26 acres he owns on benches west of Isabella Ridge subdivision.
He said he will likely pursue a planned development on that property and is meeting with planner Laurence Qamar of Portland this week about the project.
“I want to get an application in [to Twisp] within the next 60 days,” Jolley said.