Letter to the editor
April 22, 2021
The taxpaying citizens of Columbia County have approved and are paying for bonds supporting Education and schools, Hospital and Health Care and Fire Department and Ambulance Services, all which support our quality of life. We are now being asked to soon support and help pay for a decades overdue new Justice Center and Jail, also which affects our quality of life.
Very limited tax dollars are available in Columbia County to pay for these essential quality of life services. With COVID’s impact it will take months if not years to recover. The Port of Columbia is proposing to spend additional tax dollars on a walking/bike trail connecting Dayton and Waitsburg to bring in tourist dollars.
Construction of the Trail will apparently be largely funded by grant money. The Port will still be required to provide additional tax dollars to complete the Trail with additional future ongoing tax dollars required to maintain it. As of yet the Port has not provided any estimate of the costs to complete the Trail or the future ongoing costs to maintain the Trail or how these costs may be offset by any anticipated amount of tourist dollar revenue.
Bottom line is would the citizens of Columbia County rather have our available but limited tax dollars continue to support our essential quality of life services or the Trail with its’ future and unknown costs verses tourist revenue. The Washington State Department of Transportation and other outside organizations say the trail makes sense. However no one but the taxpayers of Columbia County will be paying for the costs for the Trail.
The Port of Columbia Commissioners must take a hard look at not just the present but future expenditures of Columbia County’s limited tax dollars and the disposable income of Columbia County citizens. There will come a time in the future when the voters will be required to decide if they can afford to pass a bond supporting our quality of life issues knowing they will also be required to pay for the taxes levied on them by the Port.
This is a Columbia County issue. The Port Commissioners must make their decision on the input of Columbia County citizens, not from others. The Trail could end in Waitsburg now and extend it to Dayton in the future when there is grant money and Columbia County citizen tax money available to support it.