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Fairgrounds Road to cost developer upward of $160,000

LANGLEY — Before the first car will ever roll down Fairgrounds Road, the city of Langley is likely going to spend another $20,000 in addition to the $40,000 it has already shelled out for road-related expenses.

The city recently settled the fight over a stretch of the fairgrounds needed to build the street with the county, the owners of the fairgrounds. The dispute had been headed to Island County Superior Court as part of a condemnation lawsuit.

Legal bills in the fight piled up, and city officials said they spent a total of $40,002 between October 2006 and April 2007 on the property battle.

Mayor Neil Colburn offered more details on the city’s legal costs during Wednesday’s city council meeting. He said the city had budgeted $50,000 for the acquisition and legal expenses to get the right-of-way for the road.

The money came from the capital improvement fund, City Administrator Walt Blackford explained.

The city also paid its two lawyers, city attorney Dale Roundy and condemnation specialist Michael Charneski, a total of $32,720 in legal fees during that time frame.

Langley also spent $4,500 on engineering issues, $2,000 on appraisals and $782 on graphic illustrations.

The additional $20,000 comprises outstanding legal bills and city funding for a number of construction-related items in the settlement agreement.

The city will pay for fencing of the fairgrounds and the extension of a city sewer line and other improvements to the fairgrounds in exchange for the easement needed for the road.

Colburn said that the city fared well with the deal compared to what could have happened.

The city had offered the Island County Fair Board, the managers of the fairgrounds, more than $135,000 in site improvements in exchange for an easement across the fairgrounds. The fair board rejected the offer last year.

“I would like to offer the juxtaposition of the $135,000 that we offered them earlier,” Colburn said.

“I am guessing it’ll be up to $50,000 to $60,000 with fencing and everything,” he added.

Langley’s preliminary figures do not include the cost of the time spent by other city employees on the road easement issue. Still, that’s a sore point for city leaders.

“I regret and resent every nickel we’ve spent and the incredible amount of staff time,” Colburn said.

Langley went through repeated negotiations with county and fair officials before talks stalled and the city filed its condemnation suit Oct. 13.

“If we had to do this all over again, I don’t know how we could have done it any differently,” Colburn said.

City officials said that the only way the conflict could have been resolved cheaper and quicker would have been if the county commissioners would have stepped in sooner. The impasse was finally broken after Commissioner Mike Shelton brokered a settlement last month.

Councilman Jim Recupero took issue with the county signing off on lawyer bills totaling $3,179 accumulated by the fair board.

The fair board, an agent of county government, had paid two lawyer bills related to the conflict, with the rest of the legal cost picked up by private donors, after the Island County Fair Association joined the lawsuit as an intervener.

“If the fair board’s attorney fees were paid by the county, shouldn’t we be entitled to some sort of compensation from the county?” Recupero asked.

City officials also said Wednesday that the construction of the road will cost the developer of the Highlands, RDA & Associates, roughly $160,000.

Rick Almberg of RDA said a current estimate is not available because the company has only contracted for the western one third of Fairgrounds Road pending the fair easement being recorded with the county.

“The entire Fairgrounds Road was bid the cost to build the eastern two thirds of the Fairgrounds Road was $155,000. However, this is no longer a reliable cost...and a new agreement will have to be negotiated,” he said.

The new road will connect Langley and Al Anderson roads once it is finished.

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