Ferndale council again considers asking voters for gas tax


FERNDALE - Leaders of the one of the two eligible cities in Whatcom County that don't have a border-city gas tax will debate once again whether to ask voters to approve it.

The Ferndale City Council last discussed a 1-cent per gallon gas tax in November 2012. There was not enough support then for putting the tax on the ballot - or in 2006, 2007 or 2011, when the tax also was considered.

The revenue, roughly estimated at $50,000 to $100,000 a year, would go toward road projects. City officials have identified more than $15 million in improvements needed on Ferndale's streets.

Cities within 10 miles of the border with Canada are allowed by state law to levy a tax of up to 1 cent per gallon of fuel sold. Ferndale and Lynden are the only cities in north Whatcom County that don't collect the tax, according to a Ferndale staff memo to the council.

Council member Keith Olson said a consensus is forming on the council to put the measure on the ballot and leave the decision to the voters.

"There's no money for streets. We just cut everything and cut to the bone," Olson said. "Here's a chance to vote for that and get funding for some of those projects that need to get finished."

Council member Mel Hansen said in November he favors a gas tax, but the previous February voters had approved a sales-tax hike for road repairs. The timing might be even worse now, he said in an interview on Friday, May 3.

"The timing is terrible," Hansen said. "We haven't even had a chance to celebrate yet that the voters supported us on the library (in an April 23 bond vote). ... Now we're going to go back to the well and ask them to support us again?"

Also on the agenda of the Monday, May 6, meeting is a public hearing on a proposed increase to the fee developers pay for park projects. The proposal is for a $1,726 fee for a single-family home, to go toward park and trail construction. The city wants the park impact fee to pay for half of all park improvements. The new fee would be more than the current $1,134, but that represents a sharp reduction of the $1,872 fee in late 2011.

The meeting starts at 6 p.m. at 5694 Second Ave.

Reach Ralph Schwartz at 360-715-2289 or ralph.schwartz@bellinghamherald.com. Read his politics blog at blogs.bellinghamherald.com/politics or follow him on Twitter at @bhamheraldpolitics.

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