After trying for years to convince local entities to come to the rescue of the faltering Town Toyota Center, the Greater Wenatchee Events Center Public Facilities District and its lead member, the city of Wenatchee, are trying a new tactic… divide and conquer.
Local lawmakers and the state Treasurer’s Office plan to meet individually and privately with representatives of the nine local governments that make up the Public Facilities District tomorrow. Local media, including Kozi Radio, have been told that we are not welcome at the discussion.
PFD board members have been trying to sell the idea of asking voters to approve a sales tax increase to pay the arena’s debt for years but representatives from all nine said they do not support putting a tax on the ballot. They fear that Wenatchee, with its larger population, would approve the tax even if the majority of voters in the smaller areas rejected it.
A proposed state bill that would bail out the Event Center will likely address a controversial the sales tax that has sharply divided the nine jurisdictions.
The bill will ask the state to temporarily loan the money to pay off the arena’s nearly $42 million debt when it comes due on Dec. 1. The Legislature will be asked to approve the bail-out plan during its special session later this month. One element of the bill would allow each of the nine jurisdictions to decide individually whether they want to ask voters to approve a sales tax increase to help pay off the arena’s debt.
Chelan Mayor Bob Goedde said local lawmakers and the state Treasurer’s Office hope to have the details of the bill worked out by Friday when they meet privately with the City of Chelan.
Lawmakers have been privately telling the local jurisdictions that the most of the entities that make up the PFD are not going to like the legislative plan to save the Town Toyota Center. Douglas County Commissioner Ken Stanton said he’s heard there is a hammer in the bill that would affect all members of the PFD but hasn’t been told what it is.
The secrecy of the negotiations and the newly adopted strategy of “divide and conquer” have all of the affected jurisdictions on pins and needles. Kozi will be at the meeting to try to sort through proposed legislation.
The bill must be formally filed by Nov. 23 in order to be heard on Nov. 28. The bill must win approval by the state House and Senate and be signed by the governor by 10 a.m. Dec. 1 in order to stop default on the arena loan.