The majority of the Lewiston City Council voted against moving forward with Urban Renewal Agency (URA) closures Monday evening, after a long and heated debate.
The Lewiston City Council wasn't alone Monday night at a special session meeting. As Lewiston residents, County officials and City employees packed City Hall to debate the closure of two project areas within the URA.
"It's not a whale, it's a white elephant,” said Lewiston Resident John Bradbury. “How many of you would spend a million dollars providing infrastructure on a maybe."
“They're not white elephant's we have proven $12 to $13 return on every single dollar invested," said Council Member Dan Marsh.
The URA continues to receive all revenue associated with the North Lewiston and Nez Perce Terrace projects, despite their completion. The County contends that the original plan called for closing each area once the project was paid off, then directs that money back to each entity.
''That's how the system is supposed to work, I mean that's what we told the people back in 2005,” said Nez Perce County Commissioner Doug Havens. “I don't know why we would go away from that now. That's why people don't trust government."
The money from project closures would not only benefit the County's tight budget, as well as the Lewiston School District, but also the City's need for street repairs.
"I call it the coffee test,” said Bradbury. “If you can drink a cup of coffee and drive and not spill it on your lap, you’ve got a good street. Try doing that in downtown Lewiston."
The County is not alone in their thinking, as City Councilmembers Thyra Stevenson and Clinton Daniel support moving forward with the closures of the completed URA projects.
Despite a strong push, a motion to close project two failed 4-2. The majority of the Lewiston City Council pushed back in a different direction.
"A lot of unanswered questions, but I think we still need the time to get those question answered," said Lewiston Mayor Pro Tem Brad Cannon.
In a unanimous vote it was decided upon, that none of the URA allocation areas will close. However, all the entities will divide revenue from both project areas for one year as a rebate.
“I think it achieves part of the equation, that's the cash flow back to the entities that they can plug right into their budget," said Marsh.
More than $700,000 will be divided up among the agencies for the 2014 budget.