The challenger hoping to uproot the District 2 incumbent on the Asotin County Commission has been working on a four-phase economic development plan to increase the county’s revenue stream.
Mike Henze said raising the lodging taxes in Asotin County could help pay for recreational and housing needs, such as a county-owned RV resort along Sixth Avenue and Evans Road, which is one of the sites proposed for the new Asotin County Jail.
The incumbent, Chris Seubert, said raising the lodging taxes so the county can own and run a RV resort near the Asotin County Regional Landfill isn’t feasible. During the campaign, Henze has referred to recent state legislation that includes numerous built-in stipulations, Seubert said, and Asotin County doesn’t meet the requirements, such as having a transit hub within a half-mile of proposed workforce housing. In addition, the county would have to take out bonds to build the resort and housing.
“I have heard talk of workforce housing being built, based on a tax imposed on the hotels and motels in Asotin County,” Seubert said. “I’m sure those entities would not be thrilled about adding another tax to build housing that would take away business from themselves.”
Henze said two bills passed by the state House and Senate would allow the county to use the lodging taxes to fund the projects. The money can go toward backing general obligation bonds to finance loans or grants to nonprofit organizations or public housing authorities for affordable workforce housing, he said.
During the campaign, Henze has said he wants the county to acquire the recreation lodging tax funding, select a new location for the jail, and develop housing and businesses along Sixth Avenue and Evans Road. More details about his plan are available on his website.
“We can move forward with new ideas that will not undermine our economy or jeopardize our future,” Henze said. “The possibilities are endless — vineyards, wineries, residential development and businesses generating untold millions of dollars in both property sales and tax generation. For the life of me, I can’t understand why we are stepping over free revenue.”
He also wants the board to improve communication with county residents and figure out better methods of allowing public comment during the pandemic. Weekly meetings should be taped and transcripts should be made available to anyone who wants a copy, Henze said.
“I have found that becoming part of the solution, in most instances, is the best way to make a real and lasting difference,” Henze said of his decision to run for county commissioner. “The people who live and work in Asotin County deserve elected officials who provide all the relevant information on issues in a timely manner, collect all available input — both pro and con — and insure opportunities for review by the taxpayers who are paying the bills.”Seubert, who is seeking his second term, said he has the experience to continue work that’s in progress, such as building a new jail and overseeing the county’s budget. After studying how the process works during his first term, the incumbent said he’s prepared for all of the challenges in the coming years.
“I have enjoyed working with and learning about all of the different departments and pieces that make Asotin County run efficiently,” Seubert said. “I hope to have the opportunity to continue on that path for the next four years. It’s been an honor to serve the county, and I would really like to continue my work.”
As a commissioner, Seubert serves on a variety of boards and committees at the local and state level. Listening to different points of view and making sound decisions are part of the job, he said.
Seubert said he has an open-door policy at his office in the annex and welcomes interaction with his constituents.
“Everyone has their own positive pieces that they can bring to this position, and I think that one of mine is the ability to relate to a wide variety of people,” Seubert said. “I truly enjoy getting to know and developing relationships with the people of Asotin County, as well as its employees. Over the past four years, I’ve found that to be an asset.”
In addition to the District 2 race, incumbent Brian Shinn is squaring off against challenger Brad Gary in District 1. Commissioner Chuck Whitman is running unopposed in District 3. Whitman was appointed to the commission in May following the resignation of Jim Jeffords, who died in July.
Contested races for Superior Court judge and an Asotin County Public Utility District commission seat also will appear on county ballots, along with emergency medical service levies in the city of Clarkston and rural areas outside of the Asotin County Fire District.
Ballots are being mailed to registered voters in Asotin County today, and must be returned to the auditor’s office on or before Nov. 3.
Sandaine may be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 848-2264. Follow her on Twitter @newsfromkerri.