Tri-Cities’ mayors report their cities, region continue to thrive

‘Promising and robust’ is how all four of the Tri-Cities’ mayors described the economic health of their towns. The mayors gave a brief overview of upcoming projects and finances in their respective cities during the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon in May.

Mayors Steve Young of Kennewick, Matt Watkins of Pasco, Robert Thompson of Richland and Brent Gerry of West Richland, starred in a brief, humorous video before giving their presentations.

Pasco Mayor Watkins said it was gratifying to see such a large turnout at the event at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick.

“Last year we had 400 signed up to come to lunch, this year it’s 440. It’s great that so many people have taken time out of their busy day to come,” he said.

Watkins said even though progress in each city is important, it’s really all about how each city fits into the greater Tri-Cities picture.

For Pasco, the focus is on economic diversity. One of the city’s projects is a sewer lift station under construction in the Kahlotus area. Having it, Watkins said, will help accommodate industrial growth in that area.

A recent Taco Crawl promoting the city’s various taco trucks was a tremendous success. Participants bought booklets of 20 tickets to exchange for a taco at various vendors, then voted for their favorite.

“We sold 500 booklets for $20 each and 10,000 tacos were sold. A survey of the voters revealed that two-thirds of them were non-Pasco residents,” Watkins said.

The event raised $4,000 for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Benton and Franklin Counties.

Another successful project was landing the new Auto Zone distribution center.

“That alone will generate 200 living wage jobs,” Watkins said.

Other projects in the works include developing more of the land in the Broadmoor area and along Road 68, and sprucing up the downtown where the Pasco Farmer’s Market and Peanut’s Park are located.

Richland’s mayor, Robert Thompson, said the best news is community leadership is working together and with other community organizations, like the ports, to enhance life in the Tri-Cities.

Thompson said Richland has seven keys for long-range goals: financial stability, maintaining the city’s infrastructure, encouraging vitality and opportunity for businesses, targeting particular investments, managing natural resources like the river shore, adding community amenities like the new stage in John Dam Plaza and neighborhood and community safety.

Other goals include improving the downtown core and getting the Duportail Street exit and bridge over the Yakima River and Highway 240 built to help relieve traffic on George Washington Way.

West Richland has seen steady population growth since it was incorporated in 1955, said Mayor Brent Gerry. Now nearly 14,000 people live in West Richland.

It doesn’t hurt that the city has 8,000 acres of agricultural land within the city limits. That alone gives the city opportunities for population growth and commercial development, Gerry said.

Looking ahead, the I-82 interchange at Red Mountain is scheduled to be completed in 2020. Both that, and development at Keene and Belmont, will give the city ample opportunities for increasing revenue, Gerry said.

The Richland School District is also building a new middle school in West Richland that will house 800 students. It should be complete before the 2017-2018 school year.

The city is also building a new municipal services facility that will include the city shops and the city’s financial, public works and engineering departments.

“Right now we have people doubled up in offices, working out of closets; we just need more space,” Gerry said.

Moving the city offices will consolidate the offices — right now they’re scattered in two buildings at Van Giesen Street and 38th Avenue; the city shops are located in another location with people working out of an old farm house and a much too small a yard for equipment, Gerry said.

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