Benton County, cities, ports split $6M for economic development

Economic initiatives throughout Benton County will get a $6 million shot in the arm under an agreement announced Wednesday.

Benton County, the cities of Kennewick, Richland, Prosser, West Richland and Benton City and the ports of Benton and Kennewick will split money that has accumulated in the Rural County Capital Fund. The fund is fueled by Washington’s 0.09 percent sales tax rebate to local governments.

The public agencies will split the balance according to their populations.

Benton County will receive the largest initial slice, $1.4 million.

Kennewick will receive almost $1 million and Richland $825,000. The other entities will each receive $500,000 each.

At a news conference in Kennewick, elected leaders said the money will support current projects, such as the Port of Kennewick’s Columbia Gardens Urban Wine village now in development on Columbia Drive.

Benton City Mayor Linda Lehman said her city will use its share to upgrade aging sewer infrastructure to improve public safety and attract commercial development to newly annexed land on the south side of Interstate 82.

Richland Mayor Bob Young said his city will steer funds to the Duportail Bridge project and Swift Boulevard upgrades.

Benton County, in partnership with the other government agencies, previously used the “0.09” money to repay bonds associated with the expansion of the Benton County jail and District Court.

The fund has grown enough to fully repay the remaining principal and interest balance on the bonds.

The county will continue to allocate the money for rural economic development until the program expires in 2022.

Wendy Culverwell: 509-582-1514, @WendyCulverwell