County, port boards discuss road, marijuana topics
May 9, 2019
The Port of Whitman County conference room was more crowded than normal Monday afternoon as port commissioners and staff were joined by their counterparts from Whitman County for their quarterly joint meeting.
"It's great to have this open communication with county commissioners," said John Love, the longest-seated port commissioner, noting previous commissions have not always been as open.
Both parties had submitted items to be on the agenda, including issues first broached at previous joint meetings. Speed signs with flashing lights at Boyer was one such topic and the county road crew has the signs ready in place. The desire to have the signs up before the Snake River Family Festival at Boyer Park June 8 was expressed.
Commissioners also discussed a standing concern about road conditions at the Port of Wilma and a question over ownership of a lot. The land use questions were sorted out by attorneys and staff, coming to the conclusion the county public works department needed records that had been submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers.
As for road maintenance, nothing is likely to be done in the near future except the development of a plan to address configuration and drainage issues. County staff noted the road is now treated as if it is private property by port tenants and any change would necessitate it being treated as the pubic road it is. There was concern about the culture of the tenants in use of the road and agreement the tenants would need to be a part of the conversation in use and restrictions.
Due to the heavy traffic at the port, any road surface work would need to be thicker than normal. Public Works Director Mark Storey noted a $750,000 per mile price tag for a normal two-inch overlay, but Wilma Drive would be better off with four-inch. Finding a way to pay for that is the county's biggest hurdle.
"It's going to be difficult to find dollars," said Art Swannack, county commissioner. The road is the lowest designation except for freight and does not qualify for any of the county's funding sources.
Both sets of commissioners agreed if a funding request came from the Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport, they would want to coordinate on those funds. During the runway alignment project, the county and port split $500,000 of funding toward the project. Commissioners also discussed the direction of the airport and funds the county has received to work on the county's section of road there.
There was brief conversation as to the port's input on the current marijuana zoning issue. County commissioners noted they wanted the port, as the economic development arm of the county, to have an opportunity to weigh in on the matter. While the port received a lot of inquires on land in 2014, the board at that time chose not to entertain them and things have been quiet on that front since. Furthermore, the port withheld any involvement as it accepts federal money, and marijuana is still illegal on the federal level.