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Bob Ferguson

AGO 1960 No. 114 -
Attorney General John J. O'Connell


A township is not legally authorized to enter into contracts with cities and counties for the purpose of conducting a recreation program under the provisions of RCW 67.20.020.

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                                                                   April 21, 1960

Honorable John J. Lally
Prosecuting Attorney
Spokane County
Spokane, Washington                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 59-60 No. 114

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you requested an opinion of this office concerning a question which we paraphrase as follows:

            May a township enter into contracts with cities and counties for the purpose of conducting a recreation program pursuant to the provisions of RCW 67.20.020?

            We answer this question in the negative.


            Amendment 21 of the state constitution, relating to formation of townships, provides:

            "The legislature shall establish a system of county government, which shall be uniform throughout the state except as hereinafter provided, and by general laws shall provide for township organization, under which any county may organize whenever a majority of the qualified electors of such county voting at a general election shall so determine; and whenever a  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] county shall adopt township organization, the assessment and collection of the revenue shall be made, and the business of such county and the local affairs of the several townships therein, shall be managed and transacted in the manner prescribed by such general law."

            Article XI, § 11, of the state constitution also provides:

            "Any county, city, town or township may make and enforce within its limits all such local police, sanitary and other regulations as are not in conflict with general laws."

            InGunther v. Huneke, 58 Wash. 494, 497, 108 Pac. 1078 (1910), it was stated that:

            "These provisions make it plain that townships as well as counties, cities, and towns are subject to general law, and the management of the business thereof is subject to control by the legislature, which is of necessity supreme, and which may alter or amend at will by general law, either directly or by implication, any general or local law or regulation. . . ."

            The general laws enacted by the legislature granting certain powers to townships are set forth in chapter 45.12 RCW.

            In RCW 45.12.030, the legislature stated that:

            "No town shall possess or exercise any corporate powers except such as are enumerated in this chapter or are especially given by law or necessary to the exercise of the powers so enumerated or granted."

            RCW 45.72.070 provides in part that:

            "In this act the words town and township are used with the same meaning, . . ."

            In looking to the enumerated powers of townships set forth in chapter 45.12 RCW we find no express or implied authority for a township to  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] contract with cities and counties for the purpose of conducting recreation programs.

            Chapter 67.20 RCW expressly allows certain municipal corporations to contract with each other to provide parks, bathing beaches, public camps and other recreational facilities for the general public.

            RCW 67.20.020 provides that:

            "Any city, park district, school district, county or town shall have power to enter into any contract in writing with any organization or organizations referred to in this chapter for the purpose of conducting a recreation program or exercising any other power granted by this chapter.  In the conduct of such recreation program property or facilities owned by any individual, group or organization, whether public or private, may be utilized by consent of the owner."

            The above statute allows such contracts with "any organization or organizations referred to in this chapter" for the purpose of conducting recreation programs.

            We find no mention of townships, in the chapter, as being one of the organizations allowed to enter into such contracts and hence it must follow that they are without this power.  We do not believe it is possible to construe any of the expressly mentioned organizations, e.g., the term "county" or "town", as including townships, since a township has been defined in Great Northern Railway Co. v. Glover, 194 Wash. 146, 150, 77 P. (2d) 598 (1938), as follows:

            "'In this country a township is a territorial district, subordinate to a county into which counties in many of the states are divided, the inhabitants of which are invested with political and administrative powers for regulating their own minor local affairs, such as repairing roads, maintaining schools and providing for the poor.'  1 McQuillin, Municipal Corporations (2d ed.), 237, § 86."

            It is clear from reading RCW 67.20.020 together with chapter 35.27 RCW (towns) that the legislature by the use of the word town was speaking only of 4th class cities.  See, also, RCW 35.01.040.  The terms "town" and "township" are used synonymously by the legislature  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] in Title 45, dealing specifically with townships, only for purposes within that title.  See RCW 45.72.070,supra, and RCW 45.08.020 (Reviser's note).

            Therefore, it is our conclusion that a township cannot enter into such contracts with cities and counties for the purpose of conducting recreation programs pursuant to RCW 67.20.020.  See, also, the three enclosed opinions dealing with powers of a township; AGO 57-58 No. 165 [[to Prosecuting Attorney, Whatcom County on February 26, 1958]], AGO 57-58 No. 174 [[to Prosecuting Attorney, Whatcom County on March 28, 1958]], and AGO 49-51 No. 414 [[Opinion No. 49-51-414 to Prosecuting Attorney, Whatcom County on January 5, 1951]].

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General