Kennewick’s ability to do large, critical capital projects will be limited in the next six years without new sources of revenue.
Volunteer members of the city’s Blue Ribbon Commission recently told Kennewick City Council that it needs to find more money if it wants to tackle more of the projects on the city’s massive wish list.
“In some cases, if you do nothing, we’ll go backwards,” said Ron Hue, commission chairman.
The presentation to the council is the culmination of a two-year effort to evaluate and prioritize about 100 projects estimated to cost at least $750 million and to recommend timing of the projects and payment options.
For example, without new revenue, the city might be able to tackle building a fifth fire station, its portion of a new animal control facility and widening Hildebrand Boulevard in the next six years, the commission stated.
The city plans to start construction on the fire station next year. It was included in the council’s recently approved biennial budget, but the council still must decide whether to approve about $4.7 million in bonds for the proposed station on Kellogg Street and 10th Avenue.
The commission considered council-approved bonds; a Transportation Benefit District; and impact fees, which could be for fire, transportation, parks or schools.
Hue said the city also needs to consider more public and private partnerships. Private money is available for some projects if the timing is right. He mentioned the Gesa-sponsored Carousel of Dreams as an example. The city bought the carousel, but private donations paid for a new mechanism to move the carousel horses and its building at Southridge Sports & Events Complex.
If the city finds additional money, it could widen Hildebrand sooner and add intersections at Highway 395 and Ridgeline Drive, along with other Southridge area roads; remodel the fire station near city hall; replace the fire station near the Benton County Justice Center; and create a new interchange on Interstate 82, as well as other roads in the proposed urban growth area, according to the commission.
Kennewick Mayor Steve Young said he thought that there was no way the city could afford so many capital projects. However, the work done by the commission shows how much revenue the city has left on the table.
For example, Kennewick lacks impact fees, unlike the other cities, Young said.
Richland, Pasco and West Richland charge developers transportation impact fees. Kennewick doesn’t, so the city charges developers a mitigation fee based on how the individual project affects an existing road system. That mitigation varies from project to project and isn’t predictable.
That means some projects pay less for their transportation impacts in Kennewick than they would if they were in another Tri-City community.
Developers who create the need for additional services and infrastructure such as roads should help pay the cost of growth, Young said.
The idea was to create a map that will help city officials plan the future, Young said. Council members change, so there needs to be something in hand to help future councils stay consistent and know past councils already did.
Eventually, there will be a report that identifies each project and funding options.
Next, city council committees will consider the recommendations from the commission.