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Group files complaint against city for Walmart road construction

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Cars snake around construction pylons on Pacific Highway near Sothwest 72nd Avenue. A local activist group alleges the city is misusing public funds to complete some of the work near Southwest Dartmouth Street.A local group of political activists has filed a complaint with the city of Tigard, claiming officials misappropriated funds for road projects near the soon-to-open Walmart supercenter.

Tigard First filed a complaint last week, saying the city misused $1 million from its local gas tax in order to widen a road and do other roadwork to benefit Walmart.

“That $1 million comes at the expense of our neighborhoods,” Tigard First spokesman Steve Bintliff told The Times on Tuesday. “This is kowtowing to Walmart.”

The City Council approved a plan last week to begin the work. This summer, crews will widen the road south of Dartmouth Street and add new sidewalks.

Walmart is already required to do roadwork in the area as part of an agreement with the city; widening roads, installing traffic signals and preparing the infrastructure for the influx of new cars expected when the store opens its doors this summer.

Who is Tigard First?

Comprised of Tigard and Lake Oswego residents, Tigard First was formed in 2013 in opposition to the world’s largest retailer coming to Tigard.

The group has held protests at the site and spoken out at CIty Council meetings and other city events.

This isn’t the first complaint the group has lodged against the city.

The group filed a federal disability discrimination complaint against the city last December for its relationship with the Tigard Area Chamber of Commerce.

The complaint alleges the city violated its own code by earmarking gas tax funds to non-priority projects.

“This violation erodes the trust that the citizens of Tigard have in their city government, the citizen’s advisory committees, and in the statements previously made by its public officials,” according to the complaint.

Bintliff said he didn’t have a problem with the work being done, but questioned the process for how it was approved.

“It makes sense that they were worried about 72nd, but there are other projects,” he said. “There is one near my neighborhood on 121st from Gaarde that needs to be widened. My kids could never walk to school for 14 years because it was never improved.”

The city’s Transportation Advisory Committee prioritizes road projects in the city, but the project was not included on a list of priority projects issued in 2012.

Bintliff called for an audit of gas tax funds and said he’d like to see the project funded through other means.

But Marty Wine, Tigard’s city manager, said the project has been in the works for years.

In 2011, the project was ranked 11th out of 19 priority projects.

Wine said once the project was budgeted, it was not included on the 2012 list of projects.

“They have their own project listing in the proposed and adopted budget,” Wine wrote to Tigard First in an email last week. “The city does not ask for re-prioritization of already current, active and funded projects each year by the (committee).”

Wine said Walmart’s work in the area prompted the city to begin construction sooner.

“What was once a project that we thought we would have to do ourselves shifted,” Wine said.

Walmart is required to do some work in the area, but Wine said the city opted to foot the bill for additional work in order to improve the area even more.

“We don’t want to widen it again in a few years when there’s more traffic,” Wine said. “The city thought, ‘Why not widen the road to its ultimate capacity more than what Walmart would have needed to do?’”

The city has invited Tigard First to meet and discuss the issue, but no dates have been set, Wine said.

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