Jobs boosted by stimulus

Dana Ekberg, 19, hopes to make enough money from his job funded by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act to buy a car.   - Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times
Dana Ekberg, 19, hopes to make enough money from his job funded by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act to buy a car.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times

See the nation’s stimulus plan at work this summer in Oak Harbor and across Island County.

More than a month after Oak Harbor received American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding for temporary summer stimulus-funded jobs, 14 young adults reported to the city’s Public Works Department for training, although the city expected to see 16, and originally hoped to hire 17.

“There were two no-shows,” said Cathy Rosen, director of public works.

But those who showed are excited for the summer employment opportunity that will expose them to the inner-workings of the city’s marina, parks, storm water and waste water department.

“I’m glad to be out here working,” said 18-year-old Sahara Sager as she wielded a weed-whacker at Freund Marsh behind Whidbey Island Bank. Sager will be a high school senior next fall, and she intends to save her wages so she can have her own place after graduation. Then comes college, said Sager, who plans to pursue employment in the automotive field.

Several yards away, 19-year-old Dana Ekberg kept a steady, methodical weed-whacking pace.

“I like physical labor,” he said.

Ekberg, who currently attends Skagit Valley College, hopes to purchase a car with the money he earns this summer. Any kind of car will do.

“I’m not really picky,” he said. “I’ll take anything that gets me from point A to point B.”

Sager and Ekberg spent their first day working with the parks department. The public works program is set up on a rotating basis allowing the young employees to cycle through the parks, wastewater and storm drain divisions, Rosen said.

“It’s so they can get some different experiences,” she said.

The jobs were surprisingly hard to fill despite the lagging economy, although specific restrictions by the city may have been partly to blame, according to Geri Garcia of the state’s WorkSource office in Oak Harbor.

“Stimulus jobs were available elsewhere on the island,” she said. “It was just the city where we were having problems.”

Only applicants between the ages of 18 and 24, who live in Island County, fit specific low-income restrictions and who could pass a background check and have a Washington driver’s license were eligible for the Oak Harbor jobs, she said.

“A lot of the youth that came to us did not have a driver’s license,” she said.

The money allocated for unfilled city positions was used to fill jobs in other areas of the county, she said.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is responsible for 37 temporary summer jobs for youth all over Island County. The city of Oak Harbor, Deception Pass Tours, Whidbey Animals’ Improvement Foundation, the Whidbey Examiner, Coupeville School District, South Whidbey Youth Connection, Port of South Whidbey, Freeland Allstate Insurance, Greenbank Farm, West Side Pizza, Car Quest, Granite Fabricators and Clouds Canine have one or more ARRA-funded youth employees through September, thanks to the 2009 government stimulus.

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