Langley may be a picturesque “Village by the Sea” but underneath the pretty facade is a mess.
A big mess, and one that needs a makeover desperately.
Tuesday, city officials described water pipes springing massive leaks, an ancient network of sewer connections and roads pooled in rainwater as they made their case for a new tax levy to pay for the estimated $7-million municipal infrastructure repair.
Mayor Tim Callison described the project as vital to the future residents of the city and one that’s been “kicked down the road” to the point of a looming crisis.
“We’re just trying to get caught up,” Callison said. About 75 people attended the public hearing.
Most water pipes were installed in the 1950s through the 1970s and have a lifetime service expectation of about 50 years, said City Councilwoman Dominique Emerson, who heads the Langley Infrastructure Committee that’s met for more than a year to develop a plan.
Response from the crowd seemed mostly favorable. Some questioned the project’s emphasis on improving eastside neighborhoods, others predicted the project would cost more than estimated.
Consensus is important because the city is considering placing a levy proposal on the upcoming November ballot to pay for $4 million of the proposed infrastructure improvements; 60 percent of voters need to support a levy in order for it to pass.The cost to a homeowner would be an additional $20 on monthly property taxes for a home valued at $400,000.
Tuesday, the city also submitted a request for $3 million in grant money from Island County’s rural counties economic development fund.
“It looks favorable from the county,” Callison said.
Wrapped into the project are sidewalk improvements and roadway restoration. Bundling the projects saves money and limits disruptions, committee members said.
Overall, about 56 percent of the funds address water, sewer, stormwater and sidewalk improvements on the city’s eastside. Improving stormwater drainage at Edgecliff Drive, including Decker and Furman Avenues, is a priority along with connecting more houses to the sewage system.
“What’s being proposed is a major step to make improvements and solve some of our problems so we can have clean water,” said committee member Jim Dobberfuhl, who lives on the eastside. “It’s a way to get rid of gray water.”
Of 824 utility customers, 496 are connected to sewer lines; the rest rely on septic systems.
“My sense is that the community will respond to the urgency of Langley’s infrastructure needs,” said council member Peter Morton who presented details about the aging underground pipes.
“They have in the past, and I think this generation will recognize both the need and the opportunity.”