Although additional funding for the Port of Coupeville is vital for maintaining its two 100-year-old properties, the port’s board of commissioners opted for a public survey instead of a ballot measure in 2021.
The commissioners agreed that the port is in need of more cash during their Nov. 25 meeting but decided 2021 is not the year to ask voters for more amid the coronavirus pandemic and hazy economic outlook.
Port Executive Director Chris Michalopoulos pointed out that 2021 will be a tough year economically due to the pandemic.
“This just is not the right time to seek such an option,” he said.
The proposed levy lid lift would have doubled the current rate Central Whidbey taxpayers spend to support the port. A resolution to put it on the 2021 ballot did not pass. Instead, the commissioners opted to move forward with a survey to gauge how the public wants to see the Coupeville Wharf and the Greenbank Farm used in the future.
Commissioners John Mishasek and Mohammed Mostafavinassab both were vocal in their positions that 2021 would not be the time to ask voters for more money. Mishasek questioned if all alternatives to a levy lid lift had been explored, such as local improvement districts for both the Coupeville Wharf and the Greenbank Farm. Both wanted to do a public survey to gauge public opinion on a potential levy lid lift and how people want to see the two buildings cared for in the future.
It would also give the economy time to recover and have more time to see how the pandemic plays out, they added.
Commissioner David Day said he felt differently and wanted to put the measure on the upcoming ballot.
“Within a couple of years the port needs to find some money or else that structure, the Coupeville Wharf, is going to be in the water,” Day said during the meeting.
“Or the farm is going to be filling with water from above.”
The Greenbank Farm’s to-do list continues to grow, Michalopoulos said. Along with dry rot and pest control fixes, an upgraded septic tank and new roofing and siding are all on the horizon. The pond also needs to be dredged. This is all on top of everyday maintenance required for aging buildings.
“It’s almost like triage. You just have to literally have to be ready for something to happen,” he said.
Although the port said previously it would not need more money after the mortgage was paid off for the Greenbank Farm purchase, Michalopoulos said its maintenance issues demand more funds. He said that the port did not keep up with maintenance costs while it was making $100,000 annual mortgage payments.
“In that time period, all of the maintenance and capital improvements were delayed,” he said, “so we’re catching up on approximately 20 years of capital improvements.”
The Coupeville Wharf also has a list of repairs to keep the century-old structure standing.
The marine environment continues to take its toll and the wharf began the year with a rocky start when a chunk of the dock broke and needed a $22,000 repair.
The $1-million project to fix the deteriorating pier pilings hit a snag recently when the National Marine Fisheries Service told the port it needed to do more in shoreline impact mitigation, Michalopoulos said.
Michalopoulos said he was hopeful the project would start in the new year. Island County’s Rural County Economic Development Grant Program gave the port close to $900,000 for the cap and pier piling project last spring.
The building itself also needs seismic stabilization and a new roof, and the port was awarded a $303,000 state grant this spring.
The total project is expected to cost $2 million. Roof work will probably begin in April 2021, according to Michalopoulos.
A project to give the entrance a facelift began this fall through a partnership between the port and the Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association.
The loose gravel and pavers will have been leveled off and replaced with pressed gravel, which Michalopolous said will be a more solid surface. New benches and rehabbed kiosks will complete the new look.
The work is being support by a grant from the historic waterfront association.
The public survey is tentatively planned to go out in the middle of next year, Michalopoulos said, but it depends on how the economy looks at that point.
“I think we have to watch the landscape and see how this year is going to go — how normal will we be in April 2021?” Michalopoulos said. “We need to be sensitive to the health of our community, both financially and emotionally.
“It’s just a tough time.”
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the amount of the state grant the Port received this spring for updates to the Coupeville Wharf. It was $303,000. We regret the error.