Residents and business owners gathered at the Molalla Public Library on Nov. 19 to hear a presentation about Clackamas County potentially establishing a vehicle registration fee for cars and motorcycles. The plan is to establish the fee of $30 for all cars, small trucks, vans, other passenger vehicles, and $15 for motorcycles. However, a number of vehicles would be left out.*
"It was a great discussion, we talked about road funding and the needs throughout the county," said Mike Bezner, assistant director of transportation and development for the county.
For the most part, Bezner explained, the meeting was a chance to present facts about how the county pays for roads from the State House Bill 2017 passed last year that raised fees and taxes to increase the money necessary to keep the state's transportation infrastructure working well. However, that money has just begun to trickle in, he said.
The upshot is to the vehicle registration fee would provide money for the county to improve and maintain its roads and highways. The total collected will be split 60 percent for the county and 40 percent for the cities, based on percentage of population. When all is said and done, Molalla would receive about $183,000. The city would only be allowed to use their share of the fee for road purposes such as paving, capital projects, general maintenance, fixing curb ramps to make them ADA compatible and to make and improve sidewalks, Bezner said.
"While it may not sound like a lot of money, it will allow cities like Molalla to help with programs as well as leverage it with matching grants," Bezner says.
Bezner doesn't expect the House Bill money to stretch far enough to help with all the county's needs. "It does do more, like help pay for safer roads, but the county has other needs too," he added. "It will help with capital projects and congestion along with turn lanes at busy intersections," he added.
It's apparent that the county needs to improve its highways and provide maintenance. Too often streets can't be maintained because there isn't the money and the rate of road deterioration is considerable. Past elections have shown that residents don't want to pay anymore. But because of recently passed legislation, the county commissioners can add it without a vote by residents.
So, the county held four meetings in November to find out how residents feel about an added fee. Even though there has been some support from the Oregon Legislature to resurface major roads, upgrade curbs with ADA compliant ramps, safety projects and bike and pedestrian projects, it doesn't fulfill larger needs like resurfacing urban and rural local roads and build capital projects to relieve congestion.
The $30 or $15 fee would join the fee already charged by the state.
There's no decision as yet what the commissioners will do, according to Bezner. He and his cohorts in transportation will take the information from the public and discuss it with the commissioners in mid-to-late December. They have several choices: implement the fee, don't implement the fee, or just let it go.
*The vehicle registration fee won't be charged to registered farm vehicles, heavy trucks that already pay state weight-mile taxes, snowmobiles and Class 1 all-terrain vehicles, fixed load vehicles, vehicles register to disabled veterans or former prisoners of war, antique or vehicles of special interest. Nor would government-owned or operated vehicles, including school buses, school activity vehicles, law enforcement or undercover vehicles, as well as travel trailers, campers or motor homes have to pay such a fee.