Over the past 10 years, millions of dollars in federal transportation money has been farmed out to the cities in Pierce County by the County Council – in the most recent two-year cycle alone, the county disbursed $21 million.
But according to Councilman Mark Hamilton, who serves as the city’s representative on the Pierce County Regional Council, in all that time, the city of Bonney Lake has not received a single cent of that money, something he said is simply not fair.
“A city our size should get something over a 10-year period,” he said, citing the city’s population of nearly 17,500 people.
In that same time period, 10 years, Edgewood (population 9,300) has received $2.3 million and Fife (9,100) has gotten $2.4 million.Even Sumner, with a population of 9,400, has received $7.3 million.
Among the larger cities, Lakewood (58,100) has received $5.3 million, but Puyallup with 37,000 people has only received $1 million. Pierce Transit has received $7.6 million.
Even the city of Pacific, which straddles the county line and has a Pierce County population of 85 people, received $250,000
To Hamilton, it’s an issue of fairness for Bonney Lake residents, who all contribute to the funds through tax dollars, but are not receiving a benefit from those dollars.
“In the end, you have to look over a period of time and make sure each jurisdiction got something,” Hamilton said.
To help insure that in the future Bonney Lake gets its share of federal dollars, Hamilton is part of a PCRC subcommittee tasked with studying a proposal that includes a cap on the percentage of funding any one municipality can get in a given cycle, among other proposals.
“Most important for us is a cap,” Hamilton said.
The idea was originally proposed by Roger Bush, who until Dec. 31 represented the Graham/South Hill area of Pierce County on the council.
Hamilton said until Bush’s proposal, the idea of distributing the money was much like “trickle down economics” in that money spread around the county would indirectly benefit the other, smaller cities as well.
“What’s happening is … the money is going to a certain number of jurisdictions,” he said.
Hamilton described it the following way: “If I get federal money and they are spent in my city, somehow they will trickle down to yours. So you should support federal dollars in my city and yours will be well off.”
Hamilton said it was a “flawed concept” and he seeks a “fairer way of distribution,” and though he admits not having all the answers on exactly how, the idea of a rising tide lifting all boats is not one he buys into.
“Put more water in American Lake and it’s not going to raise my boat in Lake Tapps,” he said.
Hamilton said it’s an issue of fairness in that by not receiving any federal money, the city’s list of transportation improvement needs is larger than surrounding cities. And since traffic impact fees are based on the cost of projects to be completed, the city of Bonney Lake is forced to pass that cost on to developers. It also forces Bonney Lake to find money for those projects elsewhere in their budget.
“These are dollars we don’t have to collect locally and they don’t have to be gleaned from our development community through development fees,” he said.
Though it’s not a direct correlation, Hamilton said it puts Bonney Lake at a disadvantage when competing for business.
“Obviously it has a huge impact,” he said. “In the end these smaller communities like Bonney Lake need to get a share of those federal dollars.”
Hamilton said he is “hopeful, but skeptical” about the measure moving forward at the PCRC, because many of the larger cities oppose the cap, something he concedes may not be the answer, though he thinks the discussion can only help cities like Boney Lake.
“Hopefully we can argue our point further,” he said. “maybe caps are not the answer but in the end I just to make sure Bonney Lake gets its fair share of federal dollars.”