County defers decision on fee for vehicle registrations

The Washington County Commission will not decide whether to authorize a motor vehicle registration fee — with or without a public vote — until September at the earliest.

A county official asked the Washington County Coordinating Committee to postpone making a recommendation on the fee until September. The committee, which includes representatives of the county and all its cities, has been discussing authorization of the fee.

At Monday’s meeting of the WCCC, Andy Singelakis, the county’s director of Land Use and Transportation, said the county wanted to first gauge public opinion on the fee by conducting a scientific survey and soliciting opinions through its Westside Voices online survey system. Among other things, the county will ask whether the fee should be put to a public vote.

The 2009 Oregon Legislature authorized the largest counties in the state to enact a fee of up to $43 per vehicle to fund transportation projects. It would generate up to $18 million a year for county and city projects.

According to Singelakis, although the county had originally discussed phasing in the fee, it recently learned only two options are practical. They are the full $43 fee or roughly half the fee, $22. The $43 fee is the same as the state motor vehicle fee, the maximum allowed by the Legislature.

In Forest Grove, the $43 fee would bring in $480,000 for street maintenance projects, while the $22 fee would bring in $240,000, according to Public Works Director Rob Foster.

City representatives at Monday’s meeting all said the fee was needed, but split on whether it should go to a public vote.

Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey said members of the Hillsboro City Council came to a consensus that the commission should enact the fee without a vote.

“Just get it done,” said Willey.

But Tualatin City Council President Monique Beikman said her colleagues want a public vote.

“If you don’t have a vote, they’ll just refer it to the ballot anyway,” said Beikman.

The county has contracted with DHM Research for the survey. County Commission Chairman Andy Duyck said the results will be presented to the committee at its September meeting.

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