The Dalles City Council met last night and covered a number of topics. Councilors approved contracts for timber management of the Dog River Pipeline Replacement project, street repairs, and ADA sidewalk ramps. One discussion item on the agenda was determining a process to select projects to benefit from future Enterprise Zone Fees from the 2015 Google Taylor Lake facility. For several years those fees have been used to help Columbia Gorge Community College with matching funds in order to take advantage of a $7.5 million state appropriation that is funding the current construction of a skill center and student housing on campus. Once that obligation is complete at the end of this year, the city and county have to decide how the remainder of the payments will be used. It involves a significant amount of money, as Mayor Rich Mays noted:
“What we’re talking about here is a process to determine what to do with 12 payments that equal one million eight hundred and fourteen thousand dollars and change apiece, times 12 equals about twenty-two million dollars if you look at it in its entirety.”
The proposed new process, which was presented to the Wasco County Commission last week, would use a ranking system from Mid-Columbia Economic Development District, which staffs the county’s economic development commission.
Councilor Dan Richardson said he wanted to explore more options, explaining that whatever process is chosen for the remaining years of the Google Taylor Lake Enterprise Zone will likely have momentum when it comes time to decide what to do with much larger annual sums for the proposed fourth and fifth Google projects:
“Let’s think about this as potentially a process that is not just a couple of years long but really is more like a 20 or 25-year horizon for the potential phase 4 and phase 5 funds. and not just 20 million, but potentially 80 or 100 million dollars. it’s potentially a very big deal for our community, how we allocate these Google funds – in fact, perhaps the biggest thing any of us will decide in public service, is how to do that.”
After some discussion, councilors agreed to ask staff for more options, which will be brought back to the council in a month.