A proposed multimillion dollar infrastructure improvement plan in East Langley drew more questions than consensus at a Langley City Council workshop Monday.
This was to be expected.
Bringing water, sewer, stormwater and asphalt to Edgecliff Drive, Decker Avenue and Furman Avenue would more than likely require residents citywide to pay for some of the combined $4.274 million cost. It was also the first of what will likely be several meetings that will iron out what citizens are willing and not willing to help fund.
Consensus is important because the city is considering a voter-approved levy to pay for part of the proposed infrastructure improvements, which aims to address basic municipal needs in the area. Sixty percent of voters need to support a levy in order for it to pass.
Grants are being pursued to lessen the overall bill, which drew concern from some of the roughly 40 people in attendance of the meeting held at the South Whidbey Community Center on the campus of Langley Middle School. Early estimates indicate the project could begin sometime in 2019 or 2020.
“I would say that it was a lot of questions, principally around cost,” Mayor Tim Callison said. “But, there was a general willingness to engage in conversation with the project. They just wanted more information.”
Documents provided at the meeting showed a breakdown of costs for each street. Water, sewer, storm and asphalt costs range between $250,000 and $800,000, depending on the street. Edgecliff Drive has the most expensive price tag, totaling $1.78 million, while Furman and Decker avenues are $1.372 and $1.122 million, respectively; Decker Avenue already has water lines on its street.
City staff in attendance could answer some of the questions posed by participants, but not all.
Still unknown is the exact burden of cost for residents if there is a levy. Callison and Public Works Director Stan Berryman could not readily answer Decker Avenue resident Kathy Kaufman’s question because the figures haven’t been ironed out yet. More consensus and direction is needed before they are determined.
The general idea is that by hooking up more people to more utilities, it will lessen the overall cost for citizens.
“It will be spread out across the entire city,” Callison said. “We’d form a (levy) for the entire city, so the city would help pay for that.”
The cost and clarity of the project could be a deal breaker for Furman Avenue resident Kent Ratekin.
“I’m way likely to vote ‘no’ if it’s confusing,” Ratekin said. “I’m real likely to vote ‘yes’ if I know exactly what it’s going to cost me and what I’m saying yes to.”
“Mostly, I’m leaving this meeting thinking I’m going to sell my house. I try not to be fear-based, but for some of us, it’s a lot of money,” he added.
Callison said staff is working on cost estimates and will have more details to share down the road. He added that to help alleviate concern, the levy could be contingent on the city funding 60 percent of the total cost.
Sewer lines and sidewalks on Edgecliff Drive received push back from some attendees, while stormwater lines were met more positively. Callison said the city is willing to adjust its proposal to fit what residents want.
The city could also improvise and combine the stormwater lines projects with other infrastructure improvements in a different part of the city to make a grant application would be more appealing.
“We would tailor our work activity to match what the neighborhood wants and try to wrap it into a bigger project,” Callison said.
Jim Dobberfuhl of Edgecliff Drive advocated for better stormwater management and opposed sewage on his street to preserve the bluff. He was also concerned the costs for sewer lines would be far too high and that it won’t solve excessive stormwater runoff flowing into the bluffs.
“I understand the city council has to try and spread that (cost) around the rest of the city, but any sort of mitigation in terms of lowering costs is not going to offset those tens of thousands of dollars that each household is responsible for,” Dobberfuhl said. “That’s why I’m concerned. The fact is that I’m losing huge sections of my bluff, my neighbors homes are in danger of going over the bluff because we’re not managing stormwater runoff, but we are trying to hook up sewers in this area so we can spread the cost for everybody. This is not really a tenable situation.”
Kimmer Morris, an Edgecliff Drive resident, asked if voters can express which aspects of the projects they do and don’t want and if each neighborhood could have its own voting mechanism.
“I think we could probably divide the project up into sectors and then have a discussion with those individual neighbors before we got to the big vote,” Callison said.
Sixth Street resident Sharon Emerson asked if there are any drawbacks to doing some of the improvements, but not all. Berryman said there are benefits to doing them in tandem.
“It’s difficult to say in terms of percentages, but if it’s all done at once, you’ll have a definite payback,” Berryman said. “The stormwater, sewer and water can all be put in independently but then asphalt has to come last. You don’t want to do asphalt and then cut the asphalt and put in the stormwater.”
Callison added that it ultimately reduces engineering, mobilization and construction costs.
Langley’s Urban Growth Area, determined by Island County, gives the city a framework for its responsibility in providing infrastructure. If residents from the three proposed areas continue to push back against sewers, Saratoga Road will likely be the city’s next target area.
“We’re going to try and look at those pockets that are underserved today and try and service them,” Callison said. “If it’s going to be a citywide (levy), I would try and get the city to agree to pay for as much of the things that are going to happen in my neighborhood as possible, rather than have to come back later as an individual neighborhood and form it and try to find the funding to do it.”