Langley may see an improvement in infrastructure within the next six years.
The city is on the hunt to fund three separate infrastructure projects totaling $14.7 million. The three areas include Furman and Decker Avenues, Edgecliff Drive and Sandy Point Road, and Brackenwood/Saratoga Road and Coles Road, and would address basic municipal needs such as improvement to roads, the installation of water, sewer and storm water lines, and building pump stations.
All three, which vary in levels of priority, could also improve urban density and property values, Mayor Tim Callison said.
“It will become a much more desirable place in the city to live and build,” Callison said.
Installing water, sewer and storm lines and repaving on Decker and Furman Avenues have the highest priority, Public Works Director Stan Berryman said. The project would also require infrastructure on Edgecliff Drive, from Noblecliff Place to Furman Avenue.
“To get sewers into Decker and Furman Avenue, you need a sewer line down Edgecliff,” Berryman said.
The combined estimated cost for creating infrastructure on Decker and Furman Avenues and Edgecliff Drive is around $4.3 million, according to city documents.
Storm water drainage is “nonexistent” on Decker and Furman Avenues and “poor” along Edgecliff Road, Berryman said. The pavement on Decker and Furman Avenues is also “pretty well shot,” Berryman said.
Installing a sewer system is also preferred over the area’s current septic system because it is more environmentally acceptable, Berryman said. It could also lead to a boost in development.
“By having a good utility system in there, it would allow urban infill into some of the undeveloped plots,” Berryman said.
Berryman said the infrastructure improvements have been discussed for a number of years, but it wasn’t until a Dec. 19 city council meeting that they were formally introduced. The plans also received an added boost from Councilwoman Dominque Emerson, who requested that utilities be extended to additional areas around town during the city’s budgeting process. Emerson said the city’s utilities will operate at a higher level of performance when more areas around town have infrastructure.
“When you have the whole system in place, it circulates better,” Emerson said.
The other potential projects include a $5.6 million infrastructure project on Sandy Point Road and Edgecliff Drive, and a $4.1 million project on Brackenwood/Saratoga Road and Coles Road. Both would include a pump station.
Finding money for the projects is the biggest question mark, Berryman said. Callison said funding could come from Island County’s rural economic development grant fund, the Department of Ecology and the Washington State Capital Funds, Callison said. He added that it is more difficult to obtain monies from the latter two.
Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson said in a phone interview that the city’s potential infrastructure improvements could fit the criteria for the rural economic development grant fund, which provides monies for public infrastructure and economic development staffing.
“Those are the kinds of projects that we want to see happen, where it could meet affordable housing and other countywide needs,” Price Johnson said. “Certainly there’s precedent for it.”
Langley city leaders sought to acquire $576,000 in development funds to improve its commercial center, economic core and to stimulate tourism in 2016, but the request was later trimmed down to just $90,000. The $90,000 funded small capital items such as improvements to alleyways, lighting, irrigation systems and wayfaring signage.
“There were parts of the Langley application that were not as clearly eligible for these infrastructure projects,” Price Johnson said. “Storm water, sewer — those are clearly infrastructures. Those would all qualify.”
Island County Commissioner Rick Hannold said in a phone interview with The Record that while he applauds the city for making efforts to improve its infrastructure, the projects would not lead to long-range job creation and therefore not meet the “economic development purposes” of the fund. According to RCW 82.14.370, the purpose is to “facilitate the creation or retention of businesses and jobs in a county.”
“If you’re going to use economic development funds to build infrastructure, it has to be something to create jobs,” Hannold said. “And building houses isn’t necessarily long-range job creation.”
Callison said that if the city is unable to get help from the county, it may look toward a municipal bond or borrowing from the state. Drawing from a community block grant could also help alleviate some of the costs for residents with the utilities, Callison added.
“It wouldn’t make sense to put in the infrastructure if people can’t afford the sewer system,” Callison said. “We need to find a way to make it affordable.”