Area legislators host town hall meetings

During 18th Legislative District Town Hall, Sen. Ann Rivers discussed I-5 bridge replacement

Brook Pell

BATTLE GROUND — On Saturday, state legislators from both the 17th and 18th Legislative Districts hosted town halls to discuss what had occurred during the last session, what they expect to come out of the next session, and to give citizens a chance to weigh in and ask questions.

The 17th District town hall was held in the community room at the Firstenburg Community Center, filling the room to near its capacity. Legislative and committee updates were shared as well as the vision for the coming 2018 session.

Sen. Ann Rivers (seated) and Rep. Brandon Vick (right) hosted a 18th District Legislative Town Hall Saturday in Battle Ground. Photo courtesy of Brook Pell
Sen. Ann Rivers (seated) and Rep. Brandon Vick (right) hosted a 18th District Legislative Town Hall Saturday in Battle Ground. Photo courtesy of Brook Pell

A recurring topic that is brought up time and again around gatherings in Clark County is the need to support businesses. Rep. Vicki Kraft (Vancouver, 17th District) discussed a bill she will be working on saying, “my bill is to reduce small business burdens by changing the the B & O sales tax filing thresholds so that smaller businesses could file annually or quarterly instead of monthly if they choose to.”

Topics raised by citizens ranged from increasing voter turnout after the abysmal 30.8 percent turnout in Clark County in November this year, to protecting gun rights, and the ever-increasing homeless population in the area.

Sen. Ann Rivers (La Center) and Rep. Brandon Vick (Felida) held three separate town halls across their district (18th District). Many of the same topics were discussed in those meetings as were in their colleagues’ town halls, including how to better support small businesses — something Vick seems to have on his radar at all times.

Of noteworthy discussion was the ever-increasing traffic congestion on I-5 between S.R. 500 and the Rose Quarter in Oregon. Earlier this year, Clark County residents learned that Oregon lawmakers passed a bill to toll the I-5 and I-205 corridors starting at their border and extending south where the two interstates conjoin. The Portland Region Value Pricing Policy Advisory Committee must have their tolling plans submitted to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) by Dec. 2018.

During the discussion, Rivers also brought up the very same deadline for the FHWA after saying she was hopeful to have a plan for a third bridge in about five years by saying, “by Dec. 2018 we have to have the project design.”  Rivers went on to to say, “I do think we will be reliant on private companies to do design and build and do the funding for which we would be responsible to pay them back with tolls on the bridge.”

Because it was not clear if Rivers meant there had to be a plan submitted for bridge replacement or construction of a third bridge, to gain clarity on the matter, Camas resident John Ley asked if the project plan due by Dec. 2018 pertained to the replacement of the I-5 bridge or the construction of a third bridge. Despite substantial opposition from Clark County residents to replace the I-5 bridge before a third bridge is built, Rivers confirmed it was for the replacement of the I-5 Bridge.

Rivers didn’t respond to a request for a further interview on the subject.

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