Mid-Columbia cities, agencies race for state funds

On August 31, there was a cyber race to push the “submit” button on the Washington Department of Revenue’s website.

Whoever is first in line will have first dibs on a $2.5 million pot of money offered expressly for local revitalization projects.

That’s $2.5 million a year, through the year 2035 – or $62.5 million in the long form.

Kennewick wants $500,000 and Richland wants $333,000. And who knows how many other cities and public agencies in the state want a share of the prize. The grant is unusual in that the agencies who submit qualified applications and are among the first to hit that electronic trigger will be rewarded.

“It’s first come, first served,” said Marie Mosely, Kennewick’s director of support services. The maximum grant is $500,000, which means there could be only five winners, theoretically. It all depends on how many ask for how much.

“It’s a challenge,” said Mosely, adding no one except the state has any idea how many agencies might be poised for the 9 a.m, cyber start.

“(State officials) have said they will be tracking this in milliseconds and that only one (submitter) will be processed at a time.” Mosely said.

The unusual way of awarding the grants is the state’s way of seeing how much interest there is in a Local Revitalization Financing Program. The Legislature authorized the pilot program this summer, giving little time for cities and other public agencies to prepare applications.

Basically, the state is offering a cash advance of up to $500,000 annually as seed money to public entities that promise to use the money to develop infrastructure that will promote growth of business and development and create jobs, which will in turn produce increased state tax revenues. In the long term, the state expects to recoup its investment through increased property and sales taxes.

Kennewick wants the $500,000 to help pay for bonds that would build roads and infrastructure in the Southridge area. It has the backing of the Port of Kennewick, Benton County and the Kennewick Public Hospital District, whose commissioners have agreed to give their share of expected property and sales tax revenues associated with the growth to help to pay for the improvements.

Mosely said Kennewick is counting on being among the winners, but won’t know the results for up to 60 days. The state has reserved two months of reviewing the applications and determining which of the first-in applicants deserve the grants, she said.

“We expect to get a time stamp, but we won’t know where we are in the line-up or if we won,” Said Mosely.

“It’s a lot of money and we’ve got a lot riding on it. If we don’t we get this, we will have to go back and start over,” she said.

Spread out over 25 years, Kennewick stands to collect $12.5 million.

Bill King, Richland deputy city manager, said the city wants to use the $330,000 to pay for $8.5 million in bonds to bring road, water, sewer and broadband improvements to the research district, business park and industrial park in North Richland,

Richland’s city council voted to pursue the Local Revitalization Financing Program after learning about Kennewick’s plan for the Southridge area.

Source: Tri-City Herald

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