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Town digs in, ‘shovel ready’
By Steve Wehrly, Journal reporter
The Town of Friday Harbor at its May 2 meeting ended the brouhaha with Gearhart Construction over who should pay for a sidewalk and stormwater drainage on Blair Street next to Gearhart’s “new Printonyx” and apartment project.
Gearhart pays, but the local developer-builder only has to come up with about $23,000 for its portion, less than half what it would cost Gearhart to do the construction by itself, according to Town Administrator Duncan Wilson. “And we are paying for the street lighting,” Wilson added.
That dispute, though, only concerns a small part of a “town stimulus program” that Wilson and the town council have implemented to improve the “infrastructure” and the flow of traffic around town - and at the same time, get people working.
The first part - the Front Street pedestrian access and beautification project - is finished, taking advantage of more than $200,000 of state money to build new sidewalks, ramps, stairs and planters across the street from the ferry landing.
The first phase of the Blair Street project will be financed mostly by a $600,000 grant from the state Transportation Improvement Board, matched by $73,000 from the town, $25,000 from the school district and $22,300 from Gearhart. The second phase from the U.S. Post Office to Spring Street is scheduled for 2014.
Water transmission projects are the costliest items on the town’s plate, led by an $8 million project to bring a new main supply line from the town’s reservoir to town. Funding will come from a combination of utility bonds, the Public Works Trust Fund, the Drinking Water Fund and a USDA rural development grant and loan - plus about $2 million from reserves put away for this purpose. Planning work by town staff, permitting and engineering are underway and will be finished in 2014, with full construction scheduled for 2015.
A $200,000 “small” waterline project from First St. to Front St. will be accomplished this year, with a segment from Argyle Ave. to Second St. scheduled for 2014 - both paid for from water and sewer capital reserve funds. The Second St. to First St. segment was accomplished after last year’s watermain break in front of Haley’s.
Later this year, a sidewalk will be built on the west side of Mullis Street from the airport to Spring Street; that project will be financed with $138,000 from the Transportation Improvement Board and $15,000 from the town.
Other projects are in the works, including repaving and sidewalks on Tucker Street near University Street and opening up the now closed Nash Street right of way next to Market Street.
But the cherry on the top of the sundae is a big remodel of the old fire house on West Street next to the town hall. It’s a major project that would create a “Fire Department Museum” in half of the truck bay and build a council chambers meeting room in the other half. The present upstairs would provide additional town office space, space that Wilson says is “much needed to alleviate severe overcrowding” in the present town hall.
Wilson ended a recent interview with The Journal by noting that the town council, the mayor, Treasurer Wendy Picinich and he himself spend “a huge amount of our time finding money, managing money, and putting money away. Friday Harbor is a small town with big town issues. Issues that all cost money,” he concluded.