Yakima prepares to bill downtown owners but will they pay? - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Yakima prepares to bill downtown owners but will they pay?

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YAKIMA,Wash- We've uncovered new information about a controversial downtown Yakima program intended to promote business and tourism.  As the city gets ready to begin a new downtown business improvement district, they have nearly $30,000 of unresolved business with the one that ended last year.

Mark Peterson, owner of H & H furniture on Yakima Avenue wasn't happy with the old downtown business improvement district; he grudgingly paid his assessments anyway. But now he's found out that over 50 downtown business and property owners haven't been paying up.

"It's like paying to go to a show, I'm paying to go to a show, there are other people in there not paying", compares Peterson,

Yakima's acting finance director says Cindy Epperson they're treating the nearly $30,000 in delinquent downtown business payments as past due bills.

"All of the older bills that were from the expired assessment were sent to collections", says Epperson.

The expired business improvement district charged downtown owners for maintenance like trash and graffiti removal, and some gardening. Some, like Peterson complain they weren't happy with the work that was done.

"Because you're not getting any service so why pay it, so I totally understand why some people haven't paid", reasons Peterson.

The city doesn't seem to be overly concerned about the delinquent payments, although some are years overdue.

"You're not going to have every bill paid 100%, especially without the hammer of liening the property", explains Epperson.

Yakima can not legally put a lien on a property in this case.  While they'd shut off the water for unpaid utility bills, it's not in their interest to stop downtown maintenance... the entire point of the program is to keep downtown Yakima looking as nice as possible,

"If collections is all they have, it's like an empty threat", says Peterson.  "What's going to make the people that did pay the $29,000 want to pay in the future and for those of us that have been paying, why would we want to pay if there's no problem moving forward?

Despite the objections of Peterson and other downtown business and property owners, the majority of downtown owners agreed to begin another downtown business improvement district.  The city of Yakima is preparing to send out those bills.