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Projects vie for public works funding

Several island municipalities are facing stiff competition for grant funding from a state agency.

The Port of Coupeville, the town of Coupeville, the city of Oak Harbor, the Port of South Whidbey and South Whidbey Parks and Recreation submitted nearly $3.8 million worth of grant proposals to the state Public Works Board Small Communities in Rural Counties Grant Program. They are some of the more than 200 grant applications being considered for the $9.5 million pot of money.

The money funds projects that will help increase jobs in the identified 32 rural counties scattered throughout the state.

The Port of Coupeville submitted a $1.9 million grant proposal that would fund construction of a new multi-purpose building at the Greenbank Farm, while the town of Coupeville is looking for $540,000 to fund a project connecting the town’s new well near Keystone Hill Road with a treatment facility near Fort Casey. The city of Oak Harbor wants $300,000 to extend a water line.

The Port of South Whidbey and South Whidbey Parks also submitted proposals, each seeking $500,000.

This is the first year the Public Works Board is administering the Small Communities in Rural Counties grant program. The state agency managed the Public Works Trust Fund for the past 23 years. The fund had $400 million available for low interest loans, but the money was a budget casualty in the most recent legislative session. Steve Dunk, client services representative for the Public Works Board, said he expects that funding to return in the next biennium.

In its place is the rural grant program and an Urban Vitality Grant; each program has $9.5 million available. The agency also administers an emergency loan program, Dunk said.

He said staff is still sorting through more than 200 grant applications that came in before the Sept. 8 deadline.

Among other things, the grants will be judged on the ability to create jobs and the ability to complete the project, Dunk said.

Once staff has rated and ranked the each application, a decision will be made on which projects receive funding. Dunk said he hopes the grant winners will be announced sometime in the middle of October.

A new, 10,000-square-foot, multi-purpose building at the Greenbank Farm will include space for an indoor farmers market, a commercial kitchen, learning centers and public restrooms.

“This is part of a long-term project to make the Greenbank Farm pay for itself and become a source of revenue for the port,” Executive Director Jim Patton said.

The port and the Greenbank Farm previously lobbied the legislature during the last session, but no money was approved.

Patton said the port has already allocated the 10,000 square feet needed for the building and there is also a potable water system, a septic system and paved access available for the new building.

The port has been looking at ways to bring in more revenue to help pay off bonds for the Greenbank Farm. In addition to the building, the port unsuccessfully tried to run a levy lift last year and officials are currently sorting out a conservation easement that would place another layer of protection on the open space at the farm. That easement would be paid for through county Conservation Futures Funds, which in turn, would allow the port to pay off the bonds.

Patton said he submitted the multi-page grant application the first week of September. However, he doesn’t have any idea whether the new building will receive funding.

“I don’t know if we have a chance or not, frankly,” Patton said Wednesday. Should the port not receive funding, then Patton said he would lobby legislators during the next biennium.

The town of Coupeville is looking to connect its newest well to the water system.

“It’s as shovel-ready as it could get,” Conard said, adding the project has been designed and the permits have been approved.

The town originally installed the new well off Keystone Hill Road last year, but it didn’t have the money to connect it with the rest of the system.

Once it’s operational, the new well will replace several older and less productive wells at the Fort Casey well field. Conard said the new well would pump 250 gallons a minute while several of the older wells pump 15 to 30 gallons a minute. She also added the Keystone well is also at a better withdrawal point which will improve water quality.

The city of Oak Harbor submitted a $300,000 application to pay for a water line extension that stretches from the intersection of NE 16th Street and Regatta Drive north to Fakkema Road.

On the south end, the Port of South Whidbey is seeking $500,000 in funding to help pay for installation of a new 400-foot breakwater at the Langley Harbor. South Whidbey Parks and Recreation is seeking $500,000 to pay for utility installation at a community recreation center.

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