By Chris Hendrickson, Contributing Writer
Monroe Mayor Geoffrey Thomas expressed his regret and sadness over the recent landslide in Oso.
“Our hearts and our prayers go out to all those affected by the landslide,” said Mayor Thomas. “It is with a bit of heaviness that we begin this night’s meeting, and again our prayers go out to everybody involved, including those who are aiding in the rescue efforts.”
Monroe City Council decided against providing any financial support to assist in the production of a 2014 MusicFest. Keith Brock, who spoke briefly, submitted a financial proposal in which he offered to invest approximately $20,800 to organize the event if the city would agree to match his contribution at a cost of approximately $21,500.
The amount is less than half the amount that council was originally asked to consider. During the March 11 council meeting, the budgetary consideration requested to support the MusicFest was $65,000, a figure that did not receive a favorable response from council. Last year, Monroe authorized a maximum budget of $40,000 from the city’s contingency fund to be utilized to support the event. Unfortunately, the expenditures ended up exceeding the total revenues by around $36,000.
General council consensus was that even $20,000 was too much money to spend on a music festival, particularly as they are currently struggling to locate funds to be allocated for street maintenance.
Monroe’s MusicFest, held last September at Lake Tye Park, featured local musicians including Brock and his band called the LA All Stars, the Randy Oxford Band, Seattle country band Five Dollar Fine, and John Popper from Blues Traveler.
Councilmember Jason Gamble, Jeff Rasmussen, Ed Davis and Patsy Cudaback all stated that they were unwilling to authorize any financial contribution.
“What I’ve heard from residents and people around the community is ‘don’t spend the money again on this,’” said Cudaback.
Councilmember Kurt Goering did advocate for the festival, as did Hanford and Gamble, but agreed with the general consensus that financial support could not be given.
Gamble suggested exploring the possibility of holding an event like the MusicFest at the fairgrounds rather than at Lake Tye Park, in order to decrease the infrastructure-type costs that are associated with holding the event at the park. He stated that costs for things like temporary fencing and portable restrooms, both line items on Brock’s financial proposal, could potentially be eliminated.
Council voted to request that Monroe Parks Director Mike Farrell initiate contact with the Evergreen State Fairgrounds facilities to make a very general inquiry as to the possibility of partnering in events like MusicFest in the future.
No further action will be taken by council in regards to the Monroe MusicFest.
When council was going through the 2014 budget approval process it was brought to their attention that, by the end of 2014, the street maintenance fund would be depleted. Since then, council has been strategizing ways to initiate future funding for street maintenance; specifically the portion of the fund dedicated to pavement preservation. City Finance Director Dianne Nelson provided a report stating that a minimum annual amount of $500,000 is necessary to care for streets that are in good condition.
Monroe’s streets, particularly Dickenson, Columbia and 182nd Street, have fallen into such a state of disrepair that additional funding beyond the $500,000 is needed to fix them.
In the past, Monroe’s street maintenance pavement preservation fund received royalties of around $500,000 per year from Lakeside Gravel and Cadman for mining operations which took place on city-owned property near where the Galaxy Theatre now sits. This source of funding no longer exists.
Currently the streets maintenance fund receives revenues from the Washington state gas tax and from Republic Services, who pay a predetermined amount for the estimated roadway wear-and-tear from their vehicles. The amount received from Republic Services to mitigate road damage averages out to around $150,000 per year.
The gas tax is distributed by the state and is based on the current population in Monroe which is approximately 17,500. For this, the city receives an average of $350,000 per year.
Together, this revenue stream is only sufficient to cover a portion of the street maintenance costs, and without the mining revenue, the pavement preservation portion of the street maintenance fund is left unfunded.
Councilmember Cudaback, who sits on the Transportation and Planning Committee, reiterated the committee’s discussion from their meeting on March 10.
“I think we all were in agreement that we didn’t want a band-aid fix,” said Cudaback. “We wanted to look at a consistent revenue stream.”
Councilmembers Davis and Kamp also sit on the transportation committee.
Cudaback stated that they were interested in seeking a ballot measure to request that a .2 percent sales tax increase be implemented in order to fund street maintenance. The sales tax increase would generate an estimated $524,000 per year.
“The reason we went with that was to kind of spread it around… We didn’t necessarily want to go first to a property tax increase because that affected just the residents,” said Cudaback.
She stated that the committee agreed that a sales tax increase distributed the burden more appropriately, so that it could be carried not only by residents, but also by folks who come to Monroe to shop. The committee also felt that with the new Walmart store opening, the traffic impacts from those coming to the city to shop will likely become increasingly significant.
The Transportation Benefit District (TBD), while composed of the members of Monroe City Council, operates as a separate entity. Per Washington State RCW, city councils do not have the authority to impose taxation for the purposes of street maintenance, and so the TBD was formed in 2012 as a vehicle by which council could effectively seek a tax increase to replenish this funding.
Washington State RCW also stipulates that, with a few exceptions, all tax increase measures require an affirmative vote by the majority of the citizens.
The TBD will schedule a board meeting at which time they will initiate the process and develop a resolution to place this matter on a ballot to be decided by the voters.
“In looking at this we felt that was the best option,” said Cudaback.