Langley mayor makes pitch

City applies for grant to fund utilities project

The City of Langley is asking for $3 million from Island County as part of a large infrastructure improvement plan.

Mayor Tim Callison told county commissioners last week about plans to expand utilities to the east part of the city.

The city was one of three governmental entities that applied for the 2019 Rural Economic Development Infrastructure Investment Program, which provides grants for facility projects that help create and retain on-going “family-wage” jobs. The county administers the grants.

Development in the area of the city is limited by septic capacity, Callison said in a presentation to the county commissioners last Wednesday.

“The improved housing capacity will promote economic development,” he told the commissioners. “I can say that with almost certainty.”

The added density will facilitate more affordable workforce housing, which will help local businesses that have been struggling to hire employees because of the lack of housing on the South End, the mayor said. The service expansion is part of a package of improvements planned in the city, which is expected to cost a total of $7 million, he said.

Port of Coupeville Executive Director Chris Michalopoulos made the case for $870,804 for pier repairs at the wharf. The caps and piles supporting the structure in the water are rotting and aging, causing the building to flex.

It’s “phase one” in a planned complete renovation of the wharf, Michalopoulos said. He said the repairs will support the businesses inside the building and downtown because of the visitors the historic structure attracts.

“It’s a cultural landmark,” Michalopoulos said.

Commissioners Janet St. Clair and Jill Johnson said they both support the project but hope the port would also consider outside funding sources, including from the state historic preservation office.

“I’m not interested in preserving another log building when we have another vital economic resource that these funds could be used for,” Johnson said.

The port also applied for $5,667 for a feasibility study on installing high-speed fiber-optic internet infrastructure. The money would be added to a $50,000 grant from the state Community Economic Revitalization Board, $5,000 from Oak Harbor, $5,000 from Whidbey Telecom and $1,000 from Coupeville.

Oak Harbor is asking Island County for money to purchase a boat repair and storage facility for its marina.

The city requested $630,000 to purchase and develop Mariners Haven, which currently provides dry-boat storage. The city plans to re-establish the service and maintenance aspect of the business, said Oak Harbor Development Services Director Steve Powers. He told commissioners that officials haven’t decided if it would be best for the city to run the business or to lease it out to a private enterprise.

“I am going to have some philosophical struggles over if creating government jobs is job creation,” Johnson said at the meeting.

Johnson said she wasn’t necessarily saying “no,” but she also wasn’t sure creating public sector jobs aligned with the goals of the grant program.

The city also submitted an application for $560,000 to extend Fakkema Road to seven parcels of commercially zoned land. The area is currently only accessible from Highway 20 by a private driveway that doesn’t meet proper access standards.

Commissioners can distribute about $4 million for this grant cycle. They will discuss which projects to choose at a future work session meeting.

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