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Federal Way urges legislators to fix liquor tax, copper theft

On Dec. 17, the Multi-Service Center in Federal Way reported that unknown suspects wrecked the HVAC system and cut and stole all the copper pipes and wiring. - Courtesy photo
On Dec. 17, the Multi-Service Center in Federal Way reported that unknown suspects wrecked the HVAC system and cut and stole all the copper pipes and wiring.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Federal Way announced its annual wish list to 30th District state legislators.

The 2013 legislative agenda declares Federal Way's priorities for state funding and related legislation. Agenda items include copper wire theft, liquor taxes, tourism, sewers, a performing arts center and freeway construction.

Newly-elected State Reps. Roger Freeman (D) and Linda Kochmar (R), along with State Sen. Tracey Eide (D), participated in public discussions Tuesday with Mayor Skip Priest and Federal Way City Councilmembers Jeanne Burbidge, Jim Ferrell and Susan Honda.

Liquor money

Federal Way is calling on legislators to restore liquor excise tax revenue sharing.

In 2011, voters privatized liquor sales in an initiative that overhauled the way liquor revenues are doled out to cities and counties. The money primarily goes to fund public safety. In 2012, the state House passed a bill (ESHB 2823) that diverts liquor excise taxes to the general fund.

As a result, Federal Way loses about $450,000 a year, which equates to the cost of employing four police officers, the city reports.

On that note, the privatization of liquor has led to more liquor-related crimes, particularly with theft. Federal Way supports a proposal by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs that establish requirements for retailers to report liquor theft along with the quantity of liquor that was stolen.

The goal is to reduce the burden of liquor-related incidents on police and retailers. In the upcoming legislative session, Sen. Eide said she expects a similar proposal from retailers regarding liquor theft.

Copper wire theft

Federal Way reports a loss of $110,000 last year because of copper wire theft.

Despite metal theft legislation in 2007, 2008 and 2012, theft has increased along with prices for scrap metal. The stolen metal is difficult to track, and organized crime rings may be involved.

City officials are pushing for legislation that strengthens enforcement and prevention, whether through tougher penalties or higher license fees for metal recyclers who pay by the pound.

Metal theft victims come from both the public and private sectors. Last August, a large quantity of copper wire was stolen from lighting installations at Celebration Park. Damage was estimated between $15,000 and $30,000. The park was hit by metal thieves three times last summer, with the August theft nearly leading to the cancellation of a soccer tournament.

The problem isn't limited to Federal Way. In May, thieves stole nearly 4.2 miles of copper wire from Sound Transit's Link track in Tukwila.

State Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland) is expected to propose legislation to create a blacklist of those who sell stolen property.

(Pictured: The 2012 U.S. Olympic Diving Trials, held last summer in Federal Way, generated about $2.3 million for the local economy)

Tourism funds

The city is concerned about losing money for tourism promotion. Legislation regarding the use of hotel-motel tax revenues will sunset on June 30.

Federal Way receives about $190,000 annual in hotel-motel tax revenues, the city reports. The money enables the city to support and recruit sports tournaments, festivals and other events that generate tourism dollars. A key example was the 2012 U.S. Olympic Diving Trials, which brought hundreds of visitors and about $2.3 million to the region last summer. Sen. Eide said she is confident that legislators will maintain the provision that allows the current use of hotel-motel tax revenues.

Sewer construction

The Lakehaven Utility District is planning a $6 million project to upgrade sewer capacity in Federal Way's downtown business core. The original sewer line was built in the 1970s.

In 2012, the Legislature allocated $2.5 million toward the Lakehaven project. The Legislature must re-affirm a portion of that money this year so that construction can begin. Sen. Eide said the money would remain in the capital budget.

Performing arts center

Federal Way seeks $5 million in the ongoing effort to build a performing arts and conference center (PACC) downtown.

In October, the city picked Seattle-based developer Lorax Partners to create a design for the former Toys R Us site on 20th Avenue South near the Federal Way Transit Center.

The project will cost an estimated $25 million to $30 million. The city reports that it has identified $20 million in "available capital funds and other likely sources of funding from partners and sponsors," and needs $5 million in state money to fund the gap.

City officials say the project will "catalyze redevelopment of the city center" and provide a much-needed cultural venue, which would feature a 550- to 700-seat theater along with space for conferences, seminars and meetings.

Transportation

Federal Way supports the remaining phases of the Triangle Project, which addresses the interchange between I-5, SR 18 and SR 161.

The first phase of construction was completed in 2012 with the opening of new flyover ramps at I-5 and SR 18, along with a new exit ramp at SR 161.

With an initial price tag of $114 million, the second phase of construction will further address freeway access at South 356th Street, along with congestion relief and improved safety for motorists.

Federal Way also supports transportation investments, such as the Triangle Project and inclusion of I-5/320th Street and I-5/SR 509 improvements in any transportation package, according to the city.

 

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