Letter to Editor: South County – Unraveling Our Infrastructure Dilemma

It is no secret that many of our roads, sidewalks, boat ramps, recreation areas and bike lanes are shipwrecked and have seen better days. While the Haystack area in Pacific City has well maintained roads and sidewalks, sidewalks or lack thereof outside that area become a danger for pedestrians. Poorly marked crosswalks make crossing dangerous, and safe bike lanes are lacking. Potholes, cracks, damaged road signs, and poorly designed access areas can have devastating effects on all categories of users.

Several years ago while exercising my service animal on a county owned boat ramp in the community of Woods, I found myself victim to an unmaintained and dangerous public access. I have endured four surgeries and have been physically disabled from this. After years of litigation and learning that it is nearly impossible to seek damages from a governmental entity, I sought a positive remedy to replace my bitterness. I decided to take my personal tragedy and seek answers as to how to protect others from injury due to poorly maintained infrastructures owned by the county. In doing so I dropped my tort claim against the County of Tillamook and wish to share my opinion.
I believe that Tillamook County has some tremendous assets, from the beach to the mountains, and it is great that we can share them with the rest of the world. But this sharing does not evolve without an imploding infrastructure. For example, as the bulge in travelers moves through Pacific City, economic resources to maintain and support our growth for improved infrastructure become increasingly scarce and in demand.

The Tillamook County Transient Lodging Tax went into effect January 1, 2014 to create more revenue for promoting tourism. The tourism tax created by the Economic Development Council has been successful in that aspect, but it has failed in generating adequate economic resources for our local infrastructure. Seventy percent (70%) of the funds are used to promote county tourism, but only thirty percent (30%) of the tax goes to public works, and this is not satisfactory.

Although the travel and tourism economy is increasingly essential to trade in this county, it cannot justify placing the tax burden for increased energy, water, wastes, roadwork, fire, rescue, and more police on our local residents. In an October 2014 edition of the Pacific City Sun, the Director of Public Works said in regards to my injury on county property: “We haven’t been maintaining it because I didn’t even know it was under the jurisdiction of the road department…if we can’t even fill potholes how we can pay for fixing the boat ramp.”
Therefore I find it puzzling that the Pacific City Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Council, Pacific City/Woods CAC and our County Commissioners (often on the same boards) focus on promoting and increasing tourism, but have failed to provide safe public access and meet the needs of the infrastructures in dire straits within Pacific City as a whole. While the Cape Kiawanda area continues to look like a modern maintained mini San Diego with its vacation homes and expensive lodges, lined with paved roads, sidewalks and lit crosswalks, the rest of the community lacks revenue to repair its imploding infrastructure.

As a former Operations Manager of crew lodges, better known as man camps in North Dakota, I was faced with an influx of growth on the infrastructures locally, similar to the issues at hand. Together the owners sought a solution with the elected county commissioners and city council members. Drafted in this solution was the premise we would not burden the home owners with more taxes, yet would support our infrastructures while still making profits. We developed an infrastructure tax assessed against the crew lodges and oil companies causing this implosion. This tax was assessed on bi-yearly bases from their profits. The success of this new tax increased the city and county infrastructure budgets overwhelmingly. Roads were repaired, bridges were built and even a new highway was constructed.

The solution is simple. In addition to the lodging tax, which the tourist pays, it seems only fair to also tax a small fraction of the profits from the owners of the brewery, vacation homes and lodges that profit from the tourist who often pay them upwards of three hundred dollars ($300.00) or more per night. Doing so would serve dual purposes: public works, parks and other needed entities would obtain further economic assistance for needed equipment and staff, while the increased maintenance would stimulate positive growth and immediate jobs. Perhaps this tax could help keep our beaches clean and develop affordable housing for the working class that cannot afford or even find housing in this area.
It is better to deal with this now, than face huge damages in the future for injuries or property damage which in the end comes from the taxpayer. Making sense will make dollars.
Bill Minnix
Pacific City