By David Hotle, The JOURNAL
Looking back on the year 2017, Washington City Administrator Brent Hinson said that many projects had been completed, but he felt the biggest accomplishment of the year was the passage of the hotel/motel tax in the city.
During the Aug. 1 election, the measure was approved by Washington voters by about 75 percent. The measure, which began collecting tax Monday, levies a 7 percent tax on the renting of rooms in any motel, inn or lodging. Revenues from the tax, which are projected to be about $30,000 to $40,000 annually, are state-mandated to be used to promote the area. The first payments to the city from the tax is expected in June. The community has voted on whether to have a hotel/motel tax in the past and it has been voted down. The most recent time the issue was voted on was in 2009, and the result was 67 percent of the people who voted opposed the tax. The City of Washington had asked the Washington Chamber of Commerce to promote a referendum for a hotel-motel tax in 2016, but the vote was put off until this year due to the city hosting the RAGBRAI bicycle ride for an evening.
?We have a request for proposals out to various marketing firms,? Hinson said. ?With council approval we will hire a marketing firm to help us determine the best and most efficient use of that money to promote the community.?
He said once a firm is selected in the spring he expects to do some focus groups and public presentations. Hinson stressed the project was not to bring someone in from the outside to tell the city what to do, but to bring in someone who has knowledge to listen to people from Washington and, through market study, put together a marketing plan. The plan is expected to be in place by the end of summer.
Hinson said 2017 was a quiet year for city maintenance projects, as it was a year when planning was done for future projects. The biggest projects included starting improvements to the city?s water plant and improvements to two of the city?s three drinking water wells. The city also began improvements to the south water tower.
The project to increase the flow of Well 6, which was being recused and reportedly had slowed its flow, had worked better than anticipated. Brent Hinson said an acid cleaning of the well had raised the capacity from 300 gallons per minute to over 650 gallons per minute. He said the capacity had increased to the extent that a stronger pump is needed for the well than previously anticipated.
Hinson said that 2018 would be a busy year for city projects.
The face of the council also changed in 2017, due to the city election held Nov. 7. Before the election longtime council member and Mayor Sandra Johnson had announced that she would not seek re-election. At-large council member Kathryn Salazar also said she would not seek another term. During the election, council member Jaron Rosien was elected mayor while Fran Stigers and Elaine Moore were both elected to the council.