The county administration last night asked the County Council to approve spending $136,000 to reimburse the state for getting a proposed land-transfer ready.
The council declined.
The money was meant to reimburse the state Department of Natural Resources for costs it incurred in ‘moving around’ different trust lands in the Lake Whatcom watershed. The county and DNR have signed a deal to move around a specific type of trust land. It’s the type that can be transferred to county control for parks purposes.
The DNR was supposed to create large blocks on both sides of the lake of this type of trust land. Then, the county could formally asked for those large blocks to be transferred for use as parkland. In all, we’re talking about 8,700 acres.
The request to spend money was included in a budget amendment last night. The council decided to remove that request before approving the amendment.
The council didn’t do an up or down vote on the request, but it appears it would have been a 3-3 vote. Council member Kathy Kershner was absent.
Barbara Brenner, Bill Knutzen and Tony Larson spoke against the transfer of watershed land. Sam Crawford, Carl Weimer and Ken Mann have supported it.
Knutzen said they’ve had multiple opportunities to stop the process, but it keeps costing more because of the failure to stop it the last time. The DNR is nearly done getting the lands ready for transfer.
“The sooner we shut this down, the less money it costs the taxpayers of Whatcom County,” he said.
But Mann said the county has an obligation through its deal with DNR to reimburse the state.
“We’ve already received some of these services, so we owe money on some of this,” he said. He said this isn’t the way to go about killing the land-transfer proposal. He called it a “back-door scuttle.”
The administration budget request states that the county has an obligation to repay the state. Sam Crawford said he expected that the administration would bring the request forward again for consideration.
Click here to see more (it starts on page 6).
In November 2009, the previous council voted 5-2 to approve a contract with DNR to reimburse the state up to $291,000 total.
From my previous article, published in November 2009:
Council member-elect Kathy Kershner said she’s skeptical the county can afford the transfer right now. Council member-elect Bill Knutzen opposes the transfer, but he acknowledged that “to try and stop the process after we’ve paid for it is going to be difficult.” By the time the council votes on it again, it’s likely most of the $291,000 will have been spent.
“We’re asking the taxpayers to pay for this, ” he said, “and our only recourse after this is to tell them we paid for nothing.”