I can’t say that I’m a fan of building a Biomass Power Plant west of downtown Vancouver, but watching this scenario unfold is almost comical.
At Mondays City Council meeting, Leavitt and the council passed a 6-month moratorium “on development in the downtown zone where the county and its private partner, Schneider Electric, want to locate a biomass electricity generating plant.”
The moratorium caught everybody by surprise as it is the first anybody had heard of it in the back and forth over the county wanting to build the plant in Vancouver and city officials opposing it. Such a move effectively shuts down the idea of the plant.
Leavitt is quoted, “It’s my understanding that our city center vision is to transition away from industrial uses.”
Strangely enough, Tuesday evening we read, Vancouver wants county to forgive $4.4 million Hilton debt.
Although “no formal debt relief proposal exists for commissioners to consider,” according to Clark County Administrator Bill Barron, Commissioner Tom Mielke said “Vancouver city officials want the county to forgive $4.4 million in debt related to the Hilton [in downtown] Vancouver.” The revelation came as Commissioner Mielke was expressing his disappointment with the city passing the moratorium to kill the county’s biomass project.
According to the Columbian,
“At issue is a growing debt linked to an agreement made when plans for the city-owned, privately operated hotel and convention center at Sixth and Columbia streets were first formed.”
“Under terms of legislation signed into law in 1999, the state gives Vancouver and Clark County a tiny piece of sales taxes collected inside their borders to help pay for convention centers and other large projects. The county formed a public facility district to build the Clark County Events Center at the Fairgrounds; the city formed a public facility district to build the Hilton.”
“The county, in 2003, voted to give most of its sales tax credits to the convention center, with the understanding that the city would eventually pay the county back.”
“As of Sept. 30, the city’s public facilities district owed the county $4.4 million. That amount accumulates at a rate of $45,000 to $60,000 a month, with an interest rate of 5.64 percent, Vancouver Chief Financial Officer Lloyd Tyler said.”
The Hilton has been a money pit for taxpayers since its inception, leaving us on the hook for paying for it while the economy continues to decline and as the union representing workers at the Hilton are now demanding wage and benefit increases as well.
Commissioner Stuart remain in New Orleans at a transportation convention, looking over the latest in electric trains and seeing new creative ways to soak taxpayers some more for light rail, but both commissioners Mielke and Boldt have indicated the city can forget any debt forgiveness.
I can’t help but wonder if this was Leavitt’s plan all along. Pass the moratorium, approach the county for a forgiveness of the debt, then when commissioner’s balk, as they have, wait a short bit and offer to repeal the moratorium in exchange for the debt forgiveness.
Regardless of that thought, as both the Hilton Convention Center and the Amphitheater at the Clark County Fairgrounds continue to be a drain on taxes, why would any of the elected people even consider putting taxpayers on the hook for a new baseball stadium to house the Yakima Bears?
Once again we see the results of starry eyed elected officer holders who continue to thumb their noses at taxpayers as they wheel and deal with our tax dollars, wasting Millions of Dollars and having to request federal grants just to keep a firehouse open, not to mention pouring Millions of Dollars into a waterfront project, granting a $1 Million property tax abatement to a Millionaire developer, and preparing to leave us stuck owing Billions in taxes and tolls to pay for a new I-5 bridge to extend Portland’s Light Rail to Vancouver, even though voters have 3 times indicated we do not want it.
No county commissioners are up for reelection and I don’t have a vote in the city council races, living outside the city limits, but those of you who do, well, I hope you know what you should do.