Editorial: Great asset, minimal cost

Mayor Nancy Conard and the Coupeville Town Council did something almost miraculous these days: They saved an old building and in the process provided a fine home for the Chamber of Commerce and much-improved public restrooms, and it didn’t cost them a cent.

Coupeville put town’s old fire station up for bid, but with conditions: It had to be renovated within 90 days and ensure the restrooms remain public.

Fortunately for the town, the Ware family of Mount Vernon took up the challenge, offering $1,000 for the building and promising to follow the conditions. It turned out to be a great deal for everyone involved. The Wares created a downtown business area to lease and an upstairs living area to rent out, and renovated the public restroom area. It’s a win for the Ware construction family, a win for the town and a win for visitors to Coupeville.

The town no longer owns the historic building, but it was remodeled to look more like a fire station than it has in years. Imagine the alternative to the private/public process adopted by Coupeville. The town could have raised taxes, borrowed money or used reserve funds to remodel the building, but then would be become landlords and responsible for keeping the occupants happy. Now the Wares are the landlords, the city is out of the business, but got everything it wanted in the way of historic restoration and public restrooms -- plus a new source of property taxes from the now privately owned building.

The beautified restrooms will be a great benefit to tourists this spring and summer. Nothing makes a town as friendly and thoughtful to its visitors than clean restrooms easily accessed from the main shopping area of town. Langley has something similar. Oak Harbor needs to improve its downtown restroom situation. Improvements are expected when and if phase one of the pier park project is undertaken, but the restrooms on Bayshore still seem too far away from the Pioneer Way shopping area. Perhaps in the future Oak Harbor can follow Coupeville’s example and find a private partner to help fill a public need at little cost to the city.

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