City, county officials discuss problems at Fairgrounds Road

City engineer Ryan Goodman shows fair board chairman Dan Ollis, Mayor Paul Samuelson and Commissioner Phil Bakke the plans for the road. - Michaela Marx Wheatley / The Record
City engineer Ryan Goodman shows fair board chairman Dan Ollis, Mayor Paul Samuelson and Commissioner Phil Bakke the plans for the road.
— image credit: Michaela Marx Wheatley / The Record

LANGLEY — The city’s new connector road across the fairgrounds is really more of a divider — a divider of opinions.

Fair, county and city of Langley officials met at the fairgrounds Wednesday to discuss problems with the road.

Nearly a year after an easement dispute between the various parties was resolved, the road still causes headaches for all involved.

Fair officials recently complained to the county, who owns the property, that the road was not being built the way it was promised in the settlement that ended the 20-month fight over the stretch of fairgrounds land needed for the new street.

While the road has been constructed within the easement given to the city by the county, its path deviates from the original plans, however.

City engineer Ryan Goodman presented an overview of what had been built, what still needs to be constructed and how it was different from the original plans, at a site meeting this week. The audience included Island County Commissioner Phil Bakke, Mayor Paul Samuelson, fair board chairman Dan Ollis, county public works director Bill Oakes, city public works director Challis Stringer, city planning director Larry Cort and fair administrator Sandey Brandon.

“I don’t really know much has changed,” Goodman said.

He explained that once the engineers started work they decided to install three underground filtration units; stormwater will eventually flow into a drainage ditch along Langley Road. Goodman said the road’s location was also slightly altered, but was still within the city’s easement.

Brandon, though, had a whole laundry list of concerns.

She was worried that the fairgrounds could flood with storm-water flowing down the slope of the road. It could be a big concern because of existing drainage problems on the fairgrounds property.

“When it rains, it’s a lake out here,” she said, pointing towards the fairground camping area.

The engineer told her that water runoff was controlled and wouldn’t flood the fairgrounds.

The main concerns of fair officials center on maintaining access to the fairgrounds for the big carnival trucks that come every August, as well as parking.

“I think our fear is to get the trucks in and out of here,” Ollis said. “If not, we’ll have problems.”

Langley’s city engineer noted access onto the property is being improved, however.

“You realize this is wider than when we began?” Goodman asked.

Brandon replied that with the new fencing and the way the road comes off the slope, she wasn’t sure it would work.

Samuelson said the contractor, Curt Gordon of Island Asphalt, had promised that it would.

“He assured me there is absolutely no problem getting trucks in,” he said.

Brandon — who had talked to the contractor in February — wasn’t convinced.

“I got the idea from him it’s going to be problematic,” she said.

Goodman tried to explain that the deviations from the plan were due to bad topography before construction and that the road was actually in a more favorable place under the revised route.

“I was under the impression that if we stay within the 60 feet (of the easement) we would be OK,” Goodman said.

Brandon also wanted to know what happened to a second rock retaining wall that was now replaced by a simple slope. She explained that fair officials had planned to put new restrooms near the wall and that it was hard to plan without knowing the specifics about the road.

“We have two projects on hold until the road is done,” she said. “And the fair is four months away. Just throwing that out there.”

Among them are the bathrooms that are only possible with a sewer hook-up.

The location of the sewer line extension that was also a piece of the joint agreement is not clear yet, because fair officials don’t know where the bathrooms will be put on the fairgrounds.

“It’s like the chicken or the egg,” Bakke said.

Fair officials are also unhappy about the plans for drainage improvements along Langley Road. Fair organizers are worried the installation of a drainage ditch will leave less room for parking.

Goodman said the city wants to dig an 18-inch ditch and it shouldn’t affect parking, but the county public works director saw it differently.

“You’re going to lose parking,” Oakes said. “If we build a swale that meets county standards, it’s not going to work.”

But it wasn’t clear if the stretch of land where the ditch would be located is controlled by the city or the county.

“I think we’re at an impasse on this,” Samuelson said.

Even so, city, county and fair officials walked away with agreements on most issues.

The city will provide information that will show how big trucks will enter the fairgrounds near the new road, and will also stake the borders and centerline of the easement so fair officials can better understand what space is still available to them. They also agreed to adjust the grade of the road to meet county intersection standards.

“We have our marching orders,” Samuelson said.

Both sides are worried about finishing the project, and construction has been at a near standstill for several months.

The contractor has said all he needs is two weeks of dry weather to finish the road, which can be quite a challenge during a rainy Washington spring.

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