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Public Works nets the lion's share of the county's economic development dollars in 2010

Better lighting in the fairgrounds exhibit hall. Improved stormwater management in Lopez Island's urban growth area. A "Streetscape" plan for Eastsound Village.

Nearly a half-dozen public projects received a shot in the arm thanks to the latest round of awards from San Juan County's public facilities financing assistance program.

In a unanimous decision, the County Council Tuesday backed the recommendation of the program's review committee in divvying up $210,484 in facilities financing and dedicating a portion to help pay for five projects sponsored by the three distinct county departments and the Town of Friday Harbor.

The council also gave tentative approval to committing $25,000 of future financing over a 10-year period, beginning in 2011, for annual payments on a loan that will help finance a $400,000 renovation plan for Odlin Park on Lopez.

More commonly known as the 2260 fund, the public-facilities financing program provides funding for publicly-owned projects that foster economic development in rural counties, such as San Juan. Authorized by the state legislature in 1997, the 2260 fund is fueled by a .09 percent kickback from the state on locally-generated sales tax receipts.

One funding request, submitted by North Lopez Service, Inc., which sought funding for developing water-system improvements in the area of Upright Head, was rejected by the review committee.

The committee, which consists of the county auditor and council chairman, the director of the Port of Friday Harbor, and the Friday Harbor mayor, based its decision on a legal opinion by the prosecuting attorney's office in determining the corporation did not qualify for funding because it is not a public entity.

The 2260 fund didn't go as far this year as it has in the past. Two years ago, roughly $380,000 was available to be distributed thanks to a banner year for sales-tax revenue in 2007.

"We've seen the amount declining somewhat for sales tax receipts, but it hasn't fallen off the edge of the earth," said county Administrator Pete Rose, who noted of the five projects recommended for funding, all had matching funds. "That's not always the case."

Previously, the council allocated $58,400 of 2260 funds to the San Juan Economic Development Council.

Distribution of 2260 funds for 2010 are as follow:

-- The Town of Friday Harbor: $40,250 toward replacement of a 6-inch water main on Front Street. (The town received $47,250 for that project in 2009, which it hadn't spent; the town receives 25 percent over and above project awards because of sales-tax revenue generated within its boundaries).

-- County Fair: $17,471 to upgrade the lighting in the main exhibit hall.

-- County Parks: $50,000 for renovation of Odlin Park. (The County Council tentatively approved a 10-year commitment of $25,000 of 2260 dollars for annual payments on a loan for the park's renovation).

-- County Public Works: $70,763 to increase capacity for stormwater management in Lopez Village.

-- County Public Works: $32,000 for engineering and development of a Streetscape Plan for Eastsound. (The plan will set future street elevations and enable adjoining property owners to be responsible for site improvements).

-- San Juan County Economic Development Council: $58,400 for salary of Agricultural Resources Committee coordinator, expanded hours for EDC executive director, and for operational expenses.

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