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Boat, horse owners will soon only pay $5 annually to register, reduced from $30/year

Clackamas County is preparing to lower its annual registration fees for certain kinds of trailers that residents have complained should not cost the same $30/year price as most motor vehicles.COURTESY PHOTO: CCSO - Clackamas County boat trailers, such as this one on Highway 26, will soon pay only $5 registration fees, reduced from $30 annually.

While Oregon law already exempts yearly registration charges for most trailers — including motor homes, travel trailers and campers — horse and boat trailers are still subject to a local fee which may be reduced at the county's discretion.

Commissioners directed staff on Tuesday, Jan. 25, to begin a countywide transition to a $5 annual trailer registration fee, following reports of residents complaining that the current bill is too large.

The county first established its Vehicle Registration Fee in 2017 to fund road maintenance and construction projects for congestion relief and driver safety, with 40% of the proceeds going directly to cities.

Transportation and development staff for the county assured commissioners that the fee-reduction proposal will have "no sizable impact" to ongoing projects funded by the fee and has received majority support from the advisory committee tasked with overseeing the fund. In 2020, Clackamas County received approximately $350,000 in registration fees for 5,600 trailers, about 3% of the total fee collection.

Staff say reducing the fee as low as $1 was an idea floated during meetings of the 15-person Community Road Fund Advisory Committee, some of whom own registered trailers themselves, but most preferred the $5 fee in light of the added wear-and-tear trailers can impart onto roads.

The annual $30 cost will otherwise remain steady for passenger vehicles registered with the DMV, with a $15 yearly registration fee for each motorcycle. Most vehicles are subject to biennial registration periods, meaning that drivers are charged for two years' worth of registration fees at one time.

The county in early 2021 considered repealing its registration fees for motor vehicles altogether at the suggestion of Chair Tootie Smith, who at the time said the change may alleviate some of the economic hardships being felt by residents following the COVID-19 pandemic, wildfires and recent ice storm.

After the board voted 3-2 in March 2021 to maintain the registration fee, Smith asked for the issue to be revisited at a later date following further public outreach and community engagement to gauge the community's views.

Smith expressed her "full support" for the latest fee reduction, explaining that as a trailer owner herself, the use of those vehicles is "sporadic" throughout the year and their registration costs should reflect as much.

The new $5 trailer registration fee received equal support from the rest of the board, with Commissioner Sonya Fischer lauding the process of a citizen-led advisory group coming together to give input on matters impacting the community.

"This is how government is supposed to work," Fischer said, joining her fellow commissioners in green-lighting the fee reduction.

County staff will now work with the Oregon Department of Transportation to implement the price reduction.

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