WENATCHEE — Public officials from other parts of North Central Washington were generally quite surprised by the level of support that voters in both counties gave to the .1 percent tax measure to help pay for the Town Toyota Center.
While no one said they were predicting the measure to go down, few thought it would be passing with a 65 percent favorable vote.
“It was a hard one to predict,” said East Wenatchee Mayor Steve Lacy.
He said the tax measure turned out to be like a lot of issued they deal with through city council — “You don’t hear a lot from the people who are silently in favor of things. You hear a lot from the people who are against them.”
Lacy said he shouldn’t have been surprised. “The Wenatchee Valley is one of the most responsive, in terms of people’s willingness to sacrifice to solve other people’s problems. This is just a reflection of that,” he said.
The mayor said although he personally went to other jurisdictions to ask them to put the measure on the ballot, he didn’t push for its passage.
But now that the vote has been taken, he said, “I’m pleased. I feel, as I always have, that while there may have been other solutions that might have worked out, this was the only solution I could see that had any viability. The alternative was to see Wenatchee face a lot of cutbacks and difficulties.”
He added, “It doesn’t mean I support everything that happened, but I think this was the right thing.”
Chelan Mayor Bob Goedde said he, too, heard a lot of negative comments.
“I thought it would be closer than that,” he said of the vote.
He said Chelan got a reputation as the naysayers, and as such, he’s hoping that the questions raised get answered. “Follow through with what you said about doing all the investigative work. Find out who may have influenced the Wenatchee City Council. … Look at how we got there, and make sure it’ll never happen again.”
Entiat Mayor Keith Vrandenburg said Entiat voters weren’t as negative as those in Chelan.
Overall, he said, “I believe the people understand the importance of it, and I think they did the right thing,” he said.
One of the best selling points, he added, is that the tax in Wenatchee will be .3 percent, compared with .1 percent in other areas. “That made it easier for people in our area to vote, ‘Yes,’” he said.
Vrandenburg said also thinks people also understood that if it didn’t pass, Entiat and other towns would have been saddled with legal fees, if not the debt. “We’re very pleased here in Entiat that it passed. It takes a big burden off our shoulders.”
“There’s a sense of relief that it’s over with,” agreed Douglas County Commissioner Steve Jenkins.
He said he was especially surprised that Douglas County voters went over 60 percent. And mostly, he’s glad the people got to have a say in the matter.
“Actually, I’m pleased. I hate to see the increase in taxes, but I’m happy it passed, and maybe now, we can move forward. I guess it’s no different than going to Seattle and paying the hotel or sports tax for the defunct King Dome,” he added.
Chelan County Commissioner Keith Goehner said he wasn’t making any guesses about the outcome, but knew that people on both sides of the issue were passionate about it.
“I think it reflects great support for the Center,” he said. “And now there’s a plan in place that should help finance it.”
Goehner added, “It’ll be interesting to see how quickly things can be put in place, and we can put this behind us,” he said.
K.C. Mehaffey: 997-2512