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It's decision time about annexation to Renton for West Hill residents; some key links

A  huge crowd filled the meeting room at the VFW Hall in Skyway Tuesday night to learn more about the pros and cons of annexation to the City of Renton - Dean A. Radford/Renton Reporter
A huge crowd filled the meeting room at the VFW Hall in Skyway Tuesday night to learn more about the pros and cons of annexation to the City of Renton
— image credit: Dean A. Radford/Renton Reporter

West Hill residents will vote on an issue Nov. 6 that has been up for discussion for most of a decade – whether to annex to the City of Renton.

Tuesday night at a forum at the VFW Hall on Renton Avenue that was filled to overflowing, residents heard from the speakers on both sides of the issue, along with informational presentations by City of Renton, King County and Fire District 20 officials.

But if they choose to annex West Hill, which includes Skyway, Bryn Mawr, Lakeridge and other neighborhoods, they may not actually become Renton residents until sometime in 2014 or even later.

The City of Renton still must formally accept the annexation and there’s no definite deadline in state law to take that action. The issue for the City of Renton is how to pay for services on West Hill.

Under the current analysis, the city would fall about $1.3 million short of what’s necessary to provide daily services in 2013. That shortfall could increase to $4.5 million in 2023 because of the expiration of a sales-tax credit.

The city also must plan for the transition of the city services to West Hill, including critical police and fire services.

“If annexation passes, it will become a priority for us to address all of the transitional issues so that an annexation date can be set,” said Mayor Denis Law in an interview.

In June the City Council voted 4 to 3 to keep the annexation measure on the ballot. Concerns about the impact on services for existing residents was eased because the city has time to figure out how to fill those financial gaps to pay for services.

Tuesday night, the debate at the VFW Hall was impassioned and respectful. It was clear the residents areconcerned about what will happen to their police and fire services.

Paul Berry, who has lived on West Hill for more than 40 years, represented those opposed to annexation. He warned of reduction in fire and police services if West Hill annexes. And, he pointed out the annexation is not inevitable – but it is forever.

He said residents would pay higher taxes, but fewer services.

“This is not in your best interest,” he said.

Dian Ferguson has been active in West Hill for nearly 25 years. She spoke in favor of annexation, pointing to the hope and opportunity the West Hill would have as part of Renton.

“I would say we have lots of potential,” she said.

Jay Covington, the City of Renton chief administrative officer, gave a detailed explanation of city services and was asked the most questions by the audience.

The city, he said, also sees great potential in West Hill. He pointed to the expertise of the city’s economic development team that will be key to building West Hill’s tax base.

Karen Wolf, a land-use planner for King County for more than 20 years, explained why the county is supporting annexation. The county, she said, is not in the business of providing urban-level services; its budget and services are more geared to rural areas.

Right now, the county is spending $1.2 million more for services that it’s collecting in revenue from West Hill.

HERE ARE SOME KEY ONLINE RESOURCES

King County Boundary Review Board decision approving annexation (file No. 2303)

Fact sheet from King County about annexation

City of Renton updated financial information about annexation

City of Renton informational handout

City of Renton annexation Q and A

King County Elections explanatory statement

Map of annexation area

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