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City may pursue development funds

Island County holds more than $1.5 in taxpayer dollars to pay for everything from sanitary sewer facilities to buildings. Most of that money, however, may never reach South Whidbey.

Since 2002, Island County has received rural economic development funds earmarked to boost business.

The money comes from .08 percent in sales and use taxes paid in Island County that is rebated by the state. Those funds come with strings attached: The money must finance business-boosting projects, such as bridges and sanitary sewer facilities.

With few projects meeting that criteria locally, however, little of the money may come into South Whidbey.

Neither Island County nor the Port of South Whidbey plan to pursue money from the state-rebated funds. Only the city of Langley might make a pitch for money, which would be used to help pay for the city’s marina.

Langley Mayor Neil Colburn said because of the city’s small staff size, city officials will consider the idea before taking the time-consuming step of applying.

“The city has not made a formal decision yet,” he said. “(But) we probably plan to put an application in.”

Langley must submit an application for the funds by Aug. 1. The Board of Island County Commissioners and the Island County Council of Governments, which is composed of city mayors and other government officials, will then screen all applicants before releasing funds.

The selection process considers several things: Does the facility promote and retain jobs in the area, will the project lead to a large economic impact and does the facility enhance other goals of a jurisdiction’s comprehensive plan.

Although Langley may be the only local jurisdiction pursuing funds this year, Freeland remains a prime candidate for future funds.

Freeland’s subarea plan calls for a community-wide sewage system as part of its future growth plan for higher density within the unincorporated community.

Island County Commissioner Mike Shelton said the county does envision using economic development funds to help pay off bonds needed to finance the system.

Until Freeland residents vote to pay for a portion of the sewer project, though, the county does not want to commit funds to Freeland, Shelton said.

The port may also bring funds into South Whidbey in the upcoming years.

Lynae Slinden, a South Whidbey port commissioner, said the port plans to apply for 2006 economic development funds so the port can partner with Langley in the development of the Langley Marina.

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