On the opening night of the 13th edition of Haunted Palouse, Oct. 24, a young trick-or-treater screams inside the corridors of the old Palouse fire station. Organizers report that opening weekend was very successful. Haunted Palouse runs again on Friday and Saturday nights.
By Sally Ousley Gazette Reporter Whitman County will have $750,000 addtional revenue next year as the result of a voter-approved increase in the county’s tax levy. When asked for the levy lid vote, county commissioners acknowledged that if the county’s rates of increase in payroll continues, the levy lift would be used up within four years. However, it could be sooner than they anticipated. The commissioners also noted that the new revenue would not be the solution to long term sustainability for Whitman County government. They acknowledged the money would allow them some breathing room. According to county Administrative Director Gary Petrovich, approximately $750,000 in additional property taxes will be collected in 2015. First tax payments are due at the end of April and typically more than half of all property taxes will be paid then. The second half of payments are due the end of October. Petrovich said that because of the increase in revenue, county commissioners were able to set aside a Capital Improvements Fund, initially for $300,000. However, because the budget had a deficit, commissioners decided to pull $100,000 out of that fund along with $100,000 from the Operations Contingency fund to eliminate the deficit and maintain staffing levels. In December 2013, with an increasingly difficult budget to balance, county commissioners decided to ask voters to raise property taxes in 2015 to ease budget woes. They voted unanimously to ask voters to hike property taxes from $1.38 to $1.60 per $1,000 of assessed value starting in 2015. The state limit is $1.80. Voters approved the levy lid increase in February of this year. Under the state’s one percent limit on revenue increases the county’s actual levy for 2014 was $1.38 per $1,000 as a result of higher property valuations. Revenue next year has been estimated on the $1.60 rate approved by voters and that is expected to produce the extra $750,000. Commissioner Art Swannack last week remarked that the county’s capital improvement project list now totals $3.8 million. The budget for next year now provides for $200,000 in capital improvements. Petrovich also said that to balance the 2014 budget, the last county payroll of approximately $350,000 for 2014 was eliminated and will be paid in 2015, resulting in 23 pay periods in 2014. Total 2015 county budget is $58,230,933.
By Garth Meyer Gazette Reporter Whitman County Planner Alan Thomson received a notice Oct. 17 of a potential change in ownership for the First Wind turbine farm in Naff Ridge west of Oakesdale. A representative of First Wind left a voicemail informing Thomson that the operation may be sold to J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. “If ownership changes on a project like that, they have to notify the planning office,” Thomson said. “It’s one of the conditions on any conditional use permit.” John LaMontaigne, a First Wind spokesman in Boston told the Gazette last week he could make no comment on the matter. “A change of ownership to us is nothing more than an informal note in the file that XYZ Company now owns it,” Thomson explained. The requirements for the conditional use permit which was granted to put the facility in the county’s agriculture zone remain regardless of ownership, he added. Paul Kimmel, Regional Business Manager for Avista, indicated that a sale would not affect the energy or the rates associated with the wind farm. “We have a contract to purchase all of that generation, so that wouldn’t change,” Kimmel said. J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. owns interests in power plants and wind farms through its private equity division, J.P. Morgan Capital Partners, and J.P. Morgan Infrastructure Investments Group, its asset management division.