Nez Perce County Officials worry about the legality of distributing URA tax money

LEWISTON, ID - The City of Lewiston, Nez Perce County and other city entities are headed back to court.

The Urban Renewal Agency previously voted to re-direct money back to the city, Nez Perce County, Lewiston School District and Port of Lewiston in the form of a rebate. But the responsibility of distributing money has fallen into the lap of the county, and commissioners said they're just not comfortable with that task.

"I know that the Urban Renewal did not intend on causing all this problems and all this cost to the taxpayer," said URA Chair, Mary Hasenoehrl.

The Urban Renewal Agency sent the county $377,000 for them to distribute back to the four taxing entities. However the county does not believe that they have the authority to do that.

"I don't think there's anywhere in the statute that discusses distribution of Urban Renewal money back to the taxing entities," said Nez Perce County Commission Chairman, Bob Tippett.

Nez Perce County Prosecutor Dan Spickler said that the only method for re-distributing money back to each taxing entity follows the closing of the URA projects. However since that has not been done the county worries about the legality of the rebate process.

"The requirement for government officials to handle taxpayers money requires a certain degree of caution," said Spickler.

The county will now file a Declaratory Judgment Action in hopes of getting answers as to what their next step should be.

"Asking the judge, now there's the facts here's the statue, now please tell us what we need to do with the money," said Spickler. "And please tell the entities what they can do with the money once they get it."

However time is of the essence since the city of Lewiston is banking on this money for this years budget.

"They're gonna want the distribution as quickly as they can get it and free and clear of legal entanglements," said Spickler.

The money has been put into a trust account until instruction on how to distribute it is handed down by a judge.