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What's going on with consolidation?

Should towns join into one?

 


Consolidation, or the combining of local towns, is a topic that’s been in discussion for decades.

A survey conducted by the Grand Coulee Dam Area Chamber of Commerce in 2016 revealed that out of 514 respondents, the majority were in favor of consolidation of two or more of the local towns, with 308 being strongly in favor and 84 being somewhat in favor, as opposed to 99 strongly opposed and 23 somewhat opposed.

But what’s happening now?

Many ramifications of consolidating the towns would need to be researched by an outside consulting group before pursuing that course, which would cost an estimated $15,000.

The chamber has been in communication with SCJ Alliance, a company that specializes in land use, engineering, outreach, and facility planning and which was involved in the consolidation of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, a combination of Army and Air Force bases south of Tacoma.

The cities of Grand Coulee and Electric City had each pledged money to hire an outside consultant to answer some of the questions raised by the topic of consolidation, but then each backed away from that pledge.

Recently, local area businesses have told the chamber they would help pay for the consultant group, pledging roughly half of the estimated cost.

Chamber Executive Director Peggy Nevsimal has said that younger business owners, many of them second- or third-generation owners of long-time area businesses, have been talking among themselves about how to make consolidation happen, and would help support a consulting group as well.

After such a consulting group helped sort out the nuances of the concept of consolidation, the issue could be put onto ballots some year in the near future, and if voters approved consolidation by a majority in each of the concerned towns, the towns would be bound by law to do it, a fact Nevsimal noted has already been stated by SCJ. If the towns refused to cooperate, the attorney general of Washington state would have to come in and intervene.

But would the consolidation of all the towns be on the ballot? Or only Electric City and Grand Coulee, which are both in Grant County? How would it work having one and a half towns on an Indian reservation? And what about unincorporated areas, such as Lakeview Terrace?

Another question is what kind of majority of the voters would need to approve the initiative, with one caveat being that it may have to be a majority of the number of voters who voted in the previous year’s election.

Nevsimal said that the chamber of commerce couldn’t be the sole champion of the cause, but that she would like to see further informal discussions take place in the community among the people, and is looking into setting up a meeting time and place where a discussion of consolidation could take place.

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