Oak Harbor pier grant surrendered, dream lives on
By JUSTIN BURNETT
Whidbey News Times Staff reporter
September 27, 2011 · Updated 1:38 PM
When asked to drive home the final nail in the coffin for Oak Harbor’s Municipal Pier Project, the city council responded with a resounding “no.”
Last Tuesday, the council said it was unwilling to scrub the project for good and voted unanimously to keep it on the books. There may be no money to pay for it now but that doesn’t mean it should be abandoned.
“I don’t think we should ever give up on the dream of the pier,” City Councilwoman Beth Munns said.
The council did agree to drop a plan to build a related $1.4 million multi-modal facility at Flintstone Park and rescind a federal grant that would have paid for a portion of the facility. The building would have replaced the existing picnic shelters and bathrooms with a 2,325 square-foot multipurpose building, a 525 square-foot picnic shelter, plaza, trail improvements, paved parking and a circular drive.
The proposed facility came out of the larger project to rebuild the historic Maylor Dock, which was destroyed by fire in the 1960s. In its place would be a municipal pier focused on passenger ferry service.
The city began working on the project more than 10 years ago but it never materialized largely due to a lack of funds. However, the city had acquired several grants. One was a $836,000 Federal Transportation Grant, which required a $210,000 city match.
Although there was no hard deadline of when the 2005 grant had to be used, the awarding agency asked the city to relinquish its claim on the money if it wasn’t spent by the end of 2011. It was a reimbursable grant, so no actual funds need be returned.
Although the pier project wasn’t going anywhere, city planners wanted to spend the money on the new building. However, questions about the grant deadline, and other expenses for the project, resulted in the city council unanimously voting in July to reject a shoreline development permit needed for the multi-modal facility.
Development Services Director Steve Powers came back to the council Sept. 19 seeking direction. He proposed three ideas: dismiss the shoreline permit and future plans for the new building, give back the money, and alter long-term city planning documents that include the pier.
While several council members voiced support for all three measures, though they said they still want work done to existing bathrooms as they are in exceedingly poor condition, City Councilman Danny Paggao made it clear he believes a pier should remain in Oak Harbor’s planned future.
It’s part of the “big picture” and its importance is made clear in the Waterfront Redevelopment, Branding and Community Development Plan, commonly referred to as the Windjammer Plan, which was approved by merchants.
“I think the Windjammer project is not really dead,” Paggao said. “It’s hibernating.”
His argument was enough to sway the rest of the council and it unanimously voted to retain long-range plans for the municipal pier.
Contact Whidbey News Times Staff reporter Justin Burnett at email@example.com or 360-675-6611 ext. 5054.