Editorial: Langley infrastructure measure holds water

It’s a lot of money, but dealing with Langley’s crumbling infrastructure in the current whack-a-mole fashion would be more costly — and frustrating — in the long run.

Voters in the Village by the Sea should vote in favor of a proposition that would have the city borrow $4 million to fund a range of improvements to the city’s water, sewer and stormwater systems. It would increase property taxes by an estimated 58 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, or $19.33 per month for a $400,000 home.

If the measure passed, Island County will provide another $3 million in Rural Counties Economic Development funds toward the effort.

The city won’t get a better deal.

The systems are in a state of disrepair. Water sprays from a main in the middle of the street, pipes corrode, large puddles form, and on and on. Water pipes are leaky, losing as much as half the water or more. The city responds to each in emergency fashion, which is the least efficient way to solve the larger problem.

With a planned approach, the city will be able to install multiple systems at once, instead of digging up the streets each time something breaks.

In addition, East Langley residents are on septic and lack stormwater facilities. The measure would fund both of these things in much of the area but wouldn’t force people to hook into the city sewer system unless there’s a septic failure, major construction or the sale of a house.

The critics have strong feelings about the measure. They don’t like that the plans are very preliminary, they feel it’s too expensive for a small community, and they worry that it could lead to development that’s out of scale or character for the charming city.

These concerns ignore some basic issues. The city won’t have funds to do an engineering study for a large project without the passage of the measure. Even if it did, it wouldn’t make sense to spend large amounts of cash on a project that won’t necessarily happen.

With the county matching funds, the measure is the smartest decision financially. And the city can’t keep its utilities substandard just to prevent development.

Residents shouldn’t flush this opportunity down the drain.

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