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Capital Improvements: Friday Harbor’s Largest Commitment

  • Written by Duncan Wilson Friday Harbor Town Administrator

Year after year, the services and responsibilities undertaken by the Town of Friday Harbor grow as population and business activity increase. Beyond daily town operations that include administration, finance, and community development, our most expensive and complex duties involve the construction, reconstruction, and improvements related to our capital infrastructure. These costs are vast, and our needs never ending. The Town has finite revenues from which to work, and therefore must prioritize, save, and battle for dwindling grants from state and federal sources. The current cost estimate for capital projects needed in the next 8 years exceeds $40,000,000.

File photo: Installation of round-about

Discussions relating to mandated and necessary capital infrastructure projects will occur more often and the Town will require the understanding and cooperation of our residents and business owners. The need for additional revenue is growing and, unfortunately, is inverse to the availability of grant funding from outside sources. It is important to note that these projects are to benefit the entire community and are designed to make our lives here better.

We have made great progress over the last eight years in tackling the challenges of maintaining and building our streets, water, and sewer systems. Much if not most of this work would not have been possible without dedicated and constant efforts to earn major grant funding.

While many projects can easily be seen, not so obvious are the critical improvements to the underground utility systems that guarantee us fresh water and protect us from disastrous sewer and stormwater events. The following are examples of the work completed throughout Town during the past eight years:

Energy improvements—Street light conversion to LED, energy efficiency upgrades to Town offices and plants, and installation of a large solar array at the wastewater treatment plant.

Pocket Park by movie theater

Parks improvements—Addition of Breezeway (pocket) Park on Spring Street, a tot play lot at Sunken Park, and holiday lights in the elms at Memorial Park. Resurfacing of athletic courts in Sunken and Cahail Parks and a refurbish of Overlook Park.

Water improvements—Complete replacement of the water transmission line from the dam to town, the addition of a water plant emergency power generator, and replacement of a Spring Street water main.

Sewer improvements—Major improvements to the plant’s pre-treatment “headworks,” the addition of tertiary filtration and conveyor belt system, and complete replacement of major sewer mains on Spring and Blair.

Sidewalk on Argyle Ave before it was  widened

Street improvements—Full reconstruction of Blair and Tucker Avenues; roundabout traffic improvement at Spring and Argyle; new sidewalks on Park, Reed, Web, and Nichols Streets and Marguerite Place; widening of sidewalks near the Fairgrounds on Argyle Avenue; improved safety measures at the Spring and Lampard crossing; the addition of flashing light crosswalks and motion-activated speed signs; realignment and improvements of Caines Street and the Nichols and Web neighborhoods; and chip sealing and resurfacing of Argyle Avenue, lower Marguerite Place, Price Street, and Second Street.

Going on now—Road surface improvements on Mullis from Market to Spring Street, the addition of a roundabout at Mullis and Spring, and the final refurbishment of downtown Spring Street including a new sewer main and stormwater improvements.

For the future—The addition of a pocket park by the Grange Hall and sidewalks on Lampard, resurfacing of First Street, extension of Nash Street, replacement of the sewer outfall line in the harbor off Macdonald Street, completion of $14.5 million of upgrades to the sewer plant, and the purchase of San Juan County’s Public Works property on Guard Street.

These are only some of the many capital projects we have completed or are looking to do in the near future. Additional revenues and grant funding will be necessary to continue our efforts to provide high quality, functional infrastructure to maintain the quality of life in Friday Harbor. Recovery from the pandemic crisis that impacted business activities and sales tax revenue, and the approval of the Fire District #3 annexation are just two of the ways the Town hopes to increase funding to meet the demands of these ongoing critical needs. We thank the businesses and residents for their patience and assistance as we continue to make Friday Harbor the best place to live and work in the state of Washington.

- Duncan Wilson Friday Harbor Town Administrator