Councilman tries, fails to cut Port Angeles city funding for Economic Development Corp.

PORT ANGELES — Port Angeles City Councilman Lee Whetham unsuccessfully led an effort to strip the Clallam County Economic Development Corp. of its funding during a budget discussion this week.

Whetham said during the Tuesday night meeting that the city already pays Nathan West, director of community and economic development, to do the same work and that the $5,000 budgeted for the EDC in 2017 should instead go toward buying new kitchen equipment in the Vern Burton Community Center.

He said the city needs to replace the 30-year-old kitchen equipment so it can support such activities as the Port Angeles Kids’ Fishing Derby and other organizations that borrow city kitchen equipment.

“To pull funding from one entity in this matter is political and is not a good decision to make,” Councilman Dan Gase said.

Mayor Patrick Downie questioned Whetham on whether he sincerely believed the only way the city could find $5,000 out of a proposed $113,475,850 budget was by stripping the EDC of its funding.

Last year, the city gave $15,000 to the EDC.

West said that because of his many other duties, he doesn’t get to spend much time working on economic development.

Whetham’s motion was rejected in a 5-1 vote; Councilman Brad Collins was not at the meeting.

Whetham then made a motion only to strip the EDC of its funding, not earmarking the $5,000 for parks and recreation.

That motion also failed, with Whetham and Councilman Michael Merideth voting in favor of it.

Merideth said he has not supported the EDC for a long time but that he didn’t believe the EDC’s funding should be taken to fund buying new kitchen equipment.

The council will consider approving the 2017 budget Dec. 6.

Property tax increase

The council unanimously approved a 1 percent property tax increase Tuesday, which is allowed under state law.

“I don’t think any of us like to raise taxes,” Gase said. “When the costs of services and goods exceed 1 percent, it’s negligible not to.”

While the council approved a 1 percent increase, the total property tax rate will decrease because assessed values have gone up greater than 1 percent, said Byron Olson, chief financial officer.

The tax rate will decrease from about $2.98 per $1,000 of assessed value to about $2.92 per $1,000 of assessed value. Under the new rate, someone who owns a $200,000 home could expect to pay about $584 a year.

The tax will provide about $44,000 extra to the city.

Due to technical issues discovered halfway through the meeting, some portions of the meeting might not have been recorded, Downie said.

The council also agreed Tuesday to discuss during its Dec. 6 meeting whether the city needs an animal control officer.

The decision came after comments from Marolee Smith of Port Angeles, who said that without an animal control officer, it’s difficult for the city to hold pet owners responsible for their pets.

Gase said the city eliminated the animal control officer position in 2003 for budgeting purposes but that it was a good idea to bring it up again.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

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