Enumclaw council debates taxing district that funds street repairs

A proposed change to the local Transportation Benefit District brought sharp differences of opinion during the most recent gathering of the Enumclaw City Council. A public hearing on the TBD is scheduled for Nov. 13.

A proposed change to the local Transportation Benefit District brought sharp differences of opinion during the most recent gathering of the Enumclaw City Council.

On the agenda during the council’s Oct. 9 meeting was a resolution stating the city’s intent to consider taking over the TBD. Currently, the district operates as an independent entity, even though it is made up of the seven members of the City Council.

At the heart of the resolution was the setting of a public hearing that would give the public the opportunity to weigh in on the issue. That hearing will take place during the Nov. 13 meeting of the council.

Talk quickly gave way to a “bigger picture” nature of the TBD, rather than the simple setting of a public hearing.

The Transportation Benefit District is a voter-approved entity that, through sales tax, pays for street repairs in Enumclaw. State law allows cities to assume “the rights, powers, functions and obligations” of the TBD.

Such a move has been recommended by the state auditor’s office. City Finance Director Stephanie McKenzie noted that it would be “more time- and cost-effective” if the TBD were under city control, rather than operating independently.

But not all agreed.

Councilman Chance LaFleur recalled that Enumclaw voters approved creation of the TBD when other cities saw their efforts fall short. At the time, he said, he had presented the TBD as something that would be outside the realm of city government.

“We made a commitment and a promise to our constituents that this would be kept separate,” LaFleur said, before voting against the resolution.

Councilwoman Juanita Carstens shared that view, maintaining that the TBD should remain independent.

Councilman Steve Cadematori went the opposite direction, supporting the proposal largely for reasons of governmental simplicity.

“It’s a clean and easy way to make life a little simpler,” he said, noting that assumption of the TBD could save city staff both time and money.

Councilman Hoke Overland, also arguing in support of the change, noted that the power behind the TBD wouldn’t change. “It’s not other people making promises and obligations,” he said, pointing out that the seven members of the council would retain full decision-making authority.

An exasperated Mayor Liz Reynolds brought the discussion back to its basic, simplest roots.

“This whole thing is about setting a public hearing,” she said, asking for a vote on Resolution 1602.

The item than passed with support from Kim Lauk, Jan Molinaro, Anthony Wright, Overland and Cadematori.

The public hearing on Nov. 13 will be part of the regularly-scheduled council meeting beginning at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall, 1339 Griffin Ave.

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