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Toledo opts out of joining new sewer coalition

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The Toledo City Council has opted to forego joining a coalition of cities seeking funding for state infrastructure mandates on the basis the coalition would likely provide services Toledo is already receiving.

Discussed during the council's Oct. 20 meeting, a motion had been made by Council Member Steve Dobosh to join the coalition but failed for lack of a second, with officials later stating they would be willing to reconsider based on the future status of the coalition.

First proposed in May by the City of Shelton, the coalition's goal would be to lobby state legislators to provide larger and longer-lasting grant opportunities for cities struggling to comply with un-funded infrastructure mandates, which have made the operation of public utilities more costly through stricter purity standards requiring more expensive equipment, as well as increased requirements for testing and reporting leading to a greater needs for staffing, among other challenges.

Toledo's council had learned of the coalition after Council Member Nate Cook attended an Infrastructure Assistance Coordinating Council conference held in Wenatchee the week of Sept. 30 and then returned to report to officials on Oct. 6.

Cook said Shelton Mayor Gary Cronce had presented the idea of the coalition to those at the conference, explaining its goal was to generate dues-paying member cities for the purpose of hiring a lobbyist, with proposed dues set at $500 per year.

When discussing the coalition again Oct. 20, Cook said he had considered the role the Association of Washington Cities (AWC) already plays in lobbying for the interests of its member cities and said he did not feel the addition of one more lobbyist would lead to the results cities like Shelton are seeking out.

"I know there's five lobbyists just for AWC who tried really hard to get cities funding in this regard, and the legislature has turned a deaf ear," he said. "It might sound like a good idea, I see it being six lobbyists instead of five."

Toledo Mayor Jerry Pratt noted, while AWC does lobby actively for its member cities, a lobbyist directly representing cities and focused on a single issue could potentially make a greater impact on the perspective of lawmakers rather than a more broadly-focused lobbyist from a larger association.

"A representative directly from a city makes a stronger impression on legislators," he said, stating he was personally in favor of joining the coalition but acknowledged it would be the council's decision to make.

After the motion to join ended without action, Council Member Carol Hill said she felt, in light of the city's financial constraints, it was not the right time for Toledo to join, stating she would be willing to re-visit the issue if the coalition was proven to be worthwhile in the future.

Other local cities are expected to consider the coalition as well in coming weeks.

It was noted later by City Clerk Michelle Whitten the cost for Toledo to be a member of AWC is $357 per year (expected to increase to $363 next year) compared to the $500 annual dues of the coalition.

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