On behalf of the Grays Harbor mayors, we have several issues regarding the proposed jail contract including:
• The lack of communication with us as the county was developing the idea of a new contract;
• The fact that without any discussion with us the county terminated the contract before negotiations could begin;
• The proposed technical discussion on the elements of the contract with the county and representatives of our law enforcement and legal staffs that we had proposed has been replaced by a meeting in an open setting unlike any of your other contract negotiations;
• And all of this is taking place within an environment articulated by Commissioner Mike Wilson that cities are not paying their fair share and that an unfair “levy shift” should be continued.
Regarding the latter, Commissioner Wilson was quoted in The Daily World as saying ” ‘the County does plenty of work for the cities at no, or relatively little pay’ and he’s only asking residents to pay their fair share.” Below are the actual property tax revenue figures (totaling nearly $6 million) that are a part of our contribution to county government — hardly what could be called “relatively little pay”:
• Aberdeen: $1,549,521
• Hoquiam: $755,205
• Montesano: $522,041
• Elma: $363,983
• McCleary: $185,343
• Oakville: $67,775
• Cosmopolis: $192,056
• Ocean Shores: $1,745,186
• Westport: $566,428
Further, in 2011, the Grays Harbor County Commissioners voted to “shift” $750,000 from their Road Levy to the Current Expense (General) Fund. The result was a push for owners of property in rural areas but ultimately resulted in a $0.27 increase for every $1000 of assessed value for owners of property in incorporated cities. Therefore, without any corresponding increase in service levels, owners of real property in incorporated cities paid the county an additional $430,000 in 2012.
• Aberdeen: $111,838
• Hoquiam: $54,508
• Montesano: $37,679
• Elma: $26,271
• McCleary: $13,377
• Oakville: $4,892
• Cosmopolis: $13,862
• Ocean Shores: $125,960
• Westport: $40,882
Ironically, with the levy “shift” owners of property in incorporated cities now pay more than 50 percent or $5,947,539 of the $10,405,918 in property taxes the county’s General Fund receives. Needless to say, we are opposed to a continuation of the levy “shift” in 2013.
Regarding communication, the county commission, the sheriff, and the prosecutor were invited (with reminders) to a meeting of the mayors in Montesano on Feb. 9. The discussion was to be about various financial and other concerns regarding the criminal justice issue that we all share. In attendance were all but two of our mayors, most of the chiefs of police and city attorneys. The only person to attend was Commissioner Willis. No one from the Sheriffs office and no one from the Prosecutor’s office attended.
This disinterest in communicating with the cities as it relates to the jail contract continues. The significant expanded elements of the contract were not discussed prior to going public with the chiefs of police. And the commissioners have cancelled the contract (for the second time due to inadequate notice the first time) even before negotiations with the cities had begun.
This entire process has been disturbing and I hope we can work toward a mutually satisfactory agreement and, further, move forward to partnering on our common problems funding our law enforcement officers, our courts, and our jails.
Jack Durney is mayor of Hoquiam.