Backman suggests 'partnership' for park improvement funding
November 15, 2018
Wahkiakum County commissioners will have a choice on how to fund improvements to the water and electric systems at County Line Park.
The county owns the park but contracts with Port District 2 to operate and manage the park.
On Tuesday, port Commissioner Lori Scott and Manager Janet Bryan visited the county commissioner meeting to request an appropriation of $40,000 to make the improvements.
Port officials suggested funding for the work could come from a portion of the excise tax dedicated to capital improvements.
If the cost goes over the $40,000 estimate, port officials said, they would cover the difference.
"I'm supportive of it," said Commissioner Dan Cothren. He said the board would work it into the county's 2019 budget.
Commissioner Mike Backman said he was supportive of the work; however, he had a different idea for funding: He suggested the county loan the money to the port.
Port commissioners had voted to increase rates for park use, he explained, and a portion of the income from the increase could be used to repay the loan.
"Money would come back," he said. "We could take part of the extra back so we can use it for other infrastructure projects."
The suggestion drew a cool reception.
"I'm not sure it would actually bring in more revenue," port Commissioner Lori Scott commented.
"The way I look at it is that we (the county) own the park and you guys (Port 2) are managing it," Cothren said. "We did say, ‘If you guys have some infrastructure needs, we do have to deal with that.' We're obligated to help with that. I don't want to nickel and dime that."
"I'm just trying to look at the numbers," Backman responded. "If it doesn't pencil out, we can use the Capital Improvement Fund. I think we should at least have a workshop to go over the numbers."
"I agree with Dan," said Lee Tischer, a Port 2 commissioner who often observes county commission meetings. "You would be taking money from the port."
No, Backman countered. The port is increasing rates, and the repayment would be a share of the revenue generated by the increase.
"The port would get more money, too," he said.
With Commissioner Blair Brady absent, attending a meeting of the Washington State Association of Counties, which he serves as president, the commissioners took no action.
They recessed their meeting to 3 p.m. tomorrow (Friday) at which they'll address this and other issues as they wrap up work on preliminary budgets for 2019.