Port Angeles waives interest on all fees

Recording offers help for utilities, rent

PORT ANGELES — The city has waived interest on all fees because of the coronavirus outbreak, the latest move to help Port Angeles residents affected by COVID-19.

The City Council on Tuesday affirmed and ratified City Manager Nathan West’s April 10 order to waive interest on accounts receivable and Parking Business Improvement Area (PBIA) fees for the second quarter of 2020.

The action was approved by unanimous consent and facilitated by a March 17 declaration of emergency for the coronavirus pandemic.

“Through that declaration of emergency, council did ask that we make every opportunity for economic relief (available) to our ratepayers and to our taxpayers, making sure that we’re thinking through any options that might be out there to provide additional relief,” West said at Tuesday’s council meeting.

The council had previously approved $300,000 in financial assistance for city utility customers and renters affected by COVID-19.

It also voted April 7 to call on Gov. Jay Inslee to extend a moratorium on residential evictions, ask Congress to provide financial relief to state and local governments and urge Bonneville Power Administration to provide utility relief to city customers.

Council member Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin said he appreciated the proactive approach in “figuring out ways to weather the storm that we’re in with the health emergency and the collateral consequences of what we need to do keep the health emergency in check.”

“It’s going to be difficult, I think, going forward figuring out more things that we can do,” Schromen-Wawrin said.

Automated calls were sent to Port Angeles residents Wednesday offering rent and utility payment relief.

“This is for residents who are out of work or have lost income because of the crisis,” the recorded message said.

“It is not a loan. There are no strings attached, and residents are not required to pay the money back.”

Applications for utility relief and residential rental assistance are available on the city’s website, www.cityofpa.us.

Council member Mike French disclosed Tuesday that he operates a business within the PBIA and pays a “pretty de minimis” $40 tax based on the square footage of his eatery.

“I do think that this is a reasonable thing that we did,” French said of the fee waiver.

Schromen-Wawrin said he was “wrestling” with a balance between the city’s financial solvency and the need to help residents, businesses and nonprofits during the COVID-19 emergency.

“It’s not a good situation for us to be in, but it’s a situation that’s shared by many other municipalities around the country,” Schromen-Wawrin said during a 32-minute council meeting Tuesday.

“So I really appreciate our city being up front and thinking of ways to assist the community and being proactive in that.”

Mayor Kate Dexter echoed Schromen-Wawrin’s concerns and gratitude for the staff’s effort to “come up with ways to help minimize, to the best of our ability, the impact on our businesses and our community in general.”

Council meetings are being held on video conference under Inslee’s stay-home order.

“We are restricted to only items that are necessary and routine, or related to COVID-19,” Dexter said.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].

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