Both candidates on the ballot to serve as mayor of West Richland are running on their records as mayor.
Jerry Peltier served as mayor of West Richland for 11 years starting in 1994.
He is challenging current mayor Brent Gerry.
In West Richland the mayor is more than a figurehead who runs the meetings and goes to ribbon cuttings. The city of 14,000 has no city manager so the mayor is also the chief administrator.
“I feel my forward thinking and strong vision made West Richland what it is today,” said Peltier, a retired Hanford project quality assurance engineering manager.
During the years he was mayor the town’s population more than doubled to 11,000 and its 200 businesses increased to about 600, he said. The city gained a new library, new strip malls, new post office and Yoke’s Fresh Market.
All major city streets were rebuilt. At the same time budget reserves went from nothing to more than $2 million, he said.
He criticizes city spending since he left office.
Money has been spent on economic development consultants, yet the number of businesses has remained close to the same, he said.
West Richland has undertaken major projects, and some of the improvements were needed, Peltier said. But projects have been marked with sharp increases from original estimates, he said.
“When this occurs it is time to stop and rethink the end objective,” he said.
The new city maintenance facility was badly needed. But the city went with a “fancy” design that was not necessary for a maintenance facility, where workers come in to pick up their assignments in the morning and then head out to perform work, Peltier said.
If elected, I will control spending and restore a solid cost effective foundation and vision.
Jerry Peltier, candidate for West Richland mayor
City water and sewer funds are being used to support cost overruns at both the maintenance facility, where other city offices have been added, and also the improved Yakima River entrance to the city, requiring rates to be raised, he contended.
“If elected, I will control spending and restore a solid cost-effective foundation and vision,” he said.
He would like to see enhancements to Flat Top Park, but no commercialization. Additional water supply, upgrading neighborhood streets, the possibility of a water spray park and restarting Mayor’s Night to give an opportunity for public discussion are also goals.
Gerry, a long-time West Richland business owner, countered that spending has been done responsibly in the four years he’s been in office.
“The city is in excellent financial condition,” he said, but noted incorrect financial information is being circulated in an election with five of eight city positions contested.
The city paid off $1.2 million of infrastructure loans early, saving taxpayers $200,000 in interest during the years he led the city, he said. The city also secured its first AA bond rating.
It has an available debt capacity of 95 percent, due to its small amount of outstanding debt and excellent financial practices, he said.
Retrofitting the city’s streetlights to LED is saying taxpayers $73,000 annually in energy costs, he said.
Larger projects, like anchoring the Belmont Business District with city offices behind prime retail space on Keene Road, are already showing benefits, he said.
For four years we got a lot done and I’m not done.
Brent Gerry, West Richland mayor running for re-election
“To get any business to dirt, you need an anchor tenant,” he said.
Now the city is losing 80 percent of potential retail sales taxes to the rest of the Tri-Cities as residents leave town to shop, he said.
Opening up landlocked areas with infrastructure led to the purchase of nearby private property for a new middle school, to be followed in the future with a high school, Gerry said. The new middle school increases traffic to the business district and provides daytime jobs in the area, both factors that businesses consider in picking a location.
The new Yakima River gateway will provide recreational and economic development opportunities, he said.
It also will solve public health and safety issues at a popular spot for accessing the river, he said. It has parking to end unsafe parking on the highway and bathrooms to end complaints of public urination.
The project, which had a $1.3 million grant, is not over-budget, he said. Peltier has argued the grant did not cover a significant portion of the cost.
Gerry said he wants to continue to focus on economic development opportunities and to maintain West Richland’s standing as one of the safest and best places to raise a family in the state.
“For four years we got a lot done and I’m not done with it,” Gerry said.
The position pays $48,000 a year, while council members receive $6,000.
Ballots must be returned by Tuesday.