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Vehicle fee plan parked

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 at its Monday meeting. The committee, which includes representatives of the counties and all cities in the county, has been discussing the authorization of the fee.

At the meeting, Andy Singelakis, the county’s director of Land Use and Transportation, said the county wanted to gauge public opinion on the fee before the committee’s September meeting. Singelakis said the county will conduct a scientific survey and also solicit opinions through its “Westside Voices” online survey system between now and then. 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. The commission had asked the committee for feedback on whether the fee was needed, and if so, whether it should go to a public vote.

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

Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey said the Hillsboro City Council thought the commission should enact the fee without a vote.

“Just get it done,” said Willey.

But Tualitan 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 other councils either had no opinions or had not discussed whether there should be a vote.

“I was hoping for a little more direction on the vote,” said Washington County Chairman Andy Duyck after the meeting. “We’ll have to measure public opinion and factor that into our decision.”

According to Singelakis, although the county had originally discussed phasing in the fee, it recently learned only two options were 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.

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

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