CHEHALIS- It was a first in many months that Southwest Washington state legislators and Lewis County elected officials gathered to discuss public programs, services and issues of common concern.
It was the Legislative Roundtable hosted by the Lewis County Commissioners Tuesday afternoon.
Effecting public safety services, tops on the list of items discussed was the immediate need for state financial support to replace more than 20-year old 9-1-1 towers and antennas. Lewis County Manager Erik Martin acknowledged that the county is exploring at a 9-1-1 tax, such as is levied by the state and neighboring Thurston County to assist in funding infrastructure and operating costs of essential emergency communication services. State Rep. Ed Orcutt said he would propose in the next legislative session, one million dollars toward the estimated 7.6 million dollar cost of equipment replacement.
Another project that has been on the drawing board for many years is the building of a new I-5 interchange between highway 12 at Grand Mound and Harrison Avenue in Centralia. Lewis County Public Works Director Josh Metcalf says a traffic study is being conducted and will show increased traffic along Harrison and Old Highway 99. Interest in a new north Lewis County I-5 interchange began in 2015 to encourage investment in properties and economic growth.
The Economic Alliance of Lewis County is creating a map of Lewis County, showing where infrastructure improvements are being made by various local and state agencies. Economic Alliance Executive Director Richard DeBolt says by using a “dig once” policy there will be no duplicating projects, saving state and federal agencies and local governments money.
Legislators also learned that Lewis County and its cities are expecting a combined $22.8 million in federal tax, stimulus dollars, which they hope to match with state dollars to realize completion of larger water, sewer and internet expansion projects.