The Langley City Council has decided to accept a loan for an ongoing major infrastructure project.
The decision this week followed a community meeting on Jan. 22, during which city Public Works staff presented three funding scenarios for the Langley Infrastructure Project. Staff identified a budget shortfall and applied for a $3.5 million loan last year from the Public Works Board.
The project is currently funded by a $4 million bond approved by voters in 2019 and a $3 million matching grant from Island County in the form of Rural Economic Development Funds.
Langley Public Works Director Randi Perry explained that without the loan, utility rates will escalate for residents. The scope of the project – which consists of 14 individual projects that would improve the city’s drinking water, storm water and sewer systems — would also be significantly reduced.
During the city council meeting this week, Perry said she received 19 comments from the public that were in favor of accepting the loan, and none that were against it.
The council unanimously approved the acceptance of the loan, with some provisions. Councilmember Gail Fleming wanted to ensure that accepting the loan would be separate from the council’s approval of all 14 individual projects in the Langley Infrastructure Project.
She also wished to clear up some misconceptions that she wasn’t initially in favor of the loan.
“When we were first presented with this opportunity, I was concerned that in order to repay the debt that utility rates would have to go up considerably, and I feel a responsibility to my constituents to not do that,” she said, adding that since then the council has learned rates will increase even more if the loan is not accepted.
Her other concern was that the city would not feel “motivated” enough to pursue further funding from infrastructure grants once the loan is obtained, but that she has been assured that this is not the case.
Councilmember Rhonda Salerno echoed this concern about grants and said she would like it to be a priority for the department. She also expressed support for the loan.
“People need to know we’re not slowing anything down; we’re just trying to make smart financial decisions and be conservative,” she said.