Second Street work progresses, Commons struggles

Workers clear dirt and grade the road near the post office and Langley City Hall on Second Street on Monday, Feb. 10.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Workers clear dirt and grade the road near the post office and Langley City Hall on Second Street on Monday, Feb. 10.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

Other than an hour without water at the library a couple of weeks ago, work digging up Second Street in Langley has gone well, city officials say.

The massive redesign project began last month after years of planning and months of public preparation. With a $2.2 million budget, the city plans to redo the street itself and, while it’s dug up, replace storm and water lines, slightly reduce parking, expand pedestrian areas, and create a plaza between Callahan’s Firehouse and South Whidbey Commons.

Langley’s mayor reported that so far, work has exceeded expectations.

“They’re moving almost faster than we thought they would,” Mayor Fred McCarthy said.

Parking along the street, between Cascade Avenue and Anthes Avenue, is greatly reduced. With fewer spots, especially near the library and City Hall, some of the more frequently used spaces left patrons of the popular Useless Bay Coffee Co., Braeburn and Star Store to park elsewhere around the city.

“You can tell that First Street and the on-street parking spaces are filled up,” said Langley Director of Community Planning Jeff Arango.

Water service was briefly disrupted for about an hour a couple of weeks back at the Langley Library. Despite the distractions on the street — bulldozers, water pipes, dirt mounds, orange cones in a labyrinth —Library Manager Vicky Welfare said people are still visiting the library. But she was surprised to find many were caught unaware of the major road work.

“It’s astonishing to me how many people didn’t know this was going to happen,” she said, noting that the city sent out notices and the library even posted a flyer a while ago.

With all of the parking spaces temporarily gone on the commercial stretch of Second Street, city leaders have recommended visitors park at the Langley United Methodist Church and the Third Street lot behind the post office and Langley Village. Useless Bay Coffee Co. recently had a sign on its door and on the front countertop notifying patrons that ample parking is in that lot.

Not all is going swimmingly, however. Leaders of the South Whidbey Commons fear the work and major equipment — backhoes, pavers, graders, storm water pipes — parked in front of the cafe may stymie business at a crucial time for the nonprofit and could be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back.

“We may see the end of the Commons,” said Gloria Sherman, a Commons board member.

The nonprofit’s executive director echoed those worries.

“Right now, it’s looking bleak,” said Cheryl Sagmeister, who was hired as South Whidbey Commons’ executive director a couple of months ago.

Net revenue from January 2013 totaled $6,203.68, compared to $4,009.77 last month.

Before the major destruction/construction project began, the Commons was in trouble financially. On average, the cafe grosses between $250 and $350 per day, a bit below what it costs to run the cafe. 

“This place doesn’t yield thousands of dollars, especially in the wintertime,” Sagmeister said.

Training young people on Whidbey Island in customer service, brewing coffee and even creating a resume and cover letter are parts of what the Commons does for the island’s youths. Sagmeister noted several programs she has planned, such as a partnership with middle school students to tend a produce garden for the Commons and donating day-old pastries and snacks to the homework club, are in jeopardy.

“We’re slimly getting by,” she said. “I don’t have any reserve to implement some of these programs.”

She addressed her concerns with KPG, the company in charge of the construction, and said she was heard by the project’s leader. But Sagmeister said not having a sidewalk or easy access to the cafe has kept people, especially elderly Brookhaven residents, from stopping by and ordering food.

Meanwhile, the Commons’ next door neighbor seemed to have adjusted well to the road work.

Star Store owner Gene Felton said customers were, for the most part, understanding. Felton also praised the construction crew for being courteous of the store owners and customers.

“These guys have been really professional,” he said. “They were in here the first day asking what our delivery days and times were, when our peak times were.”

Connections to the new waterline will begin Feb. 18. Businesses will be notified before any disruption of service, according to an email update from Arango. Disruption was planned in the late afternoon for restaurants and coffee shops with the hope that it will have less of an impact. Direct notice will be given before the service interruption is set to occur.


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