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PRCAC talks funding for community projects

Published on Fri, Oct 28, 2011 by Meg Olson

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The Point Roberts Community Advisory Committee (PRCAC) is positioning itself to take the lead getting funding for capital projects in the community.

“Maybe we need to look at it as creating a community improvement fund,” committee member Jennifer Urquhart said at the group’s October 11 meeting. “It’s easier to raise $2 million than it is to raise $200,000. The other reason is that as a group we’re a stronger force.”

Committee chair Arthur Reber called the meeting to discuss funding options for three large projects that have been on hold due to a lack of funds: rehabilitation of the community center, the renovation of the Julius fire station as a new library and a real lighthouse at Lighthouse Marine Park.

“These three big projects really need to be done,” Reber said. “They are critical to the quality of life here.”

Reber said he had been investigating funding sources for these projects, including private foundations and federal or state grants.

“The most interesting lead right now is the Paul Allen Foundation,” he said.

The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation is committed to strengthening communities in the Pacific Northwest and supports libraries, youth programs, emergency relief and other asset building.

Reber felt this was an opportunity to reach out to legislators as a group. “I think a lot of worthwhile projects get done because of pork,” he said. “The problem is that it gets abused.”

Reber gave an estimated budget of $500,000 for each project.

Some committee and meeting attendees questioned whether the committee was pursuing the right priorities.

“I’m not particularly in love with the Julius fire station as anything more than the garage it was always intended to be,” said Heather McPhee, who represents the chamber of commerce on the committee. “Maybe we should look at building a new library like they did in Kendall.”

Elizabeth Lantz pointed out the parks department, which owns the Julius fire station, also owned 70 acres at Baker Field, where the primary school is already located. “Think outside the box,” she said. “A new facility could accommodate a library as well as a coffee shop to generate income for community projects.”

Others wanted to see the library in the old fire station. “I really like the location right next to the community center,” Heidi Baxter said. “With the plans we have it would be basically a new building.”

“All options should still be on the table,” parks district commissioner Linda Hughes said. She said the same architect that had drawn up plans for the renovation of the Julius fire station had also looked at the possibility of expanding the existing community center to serve the library’s needs.

“It came to $190,000 to effectively lose half the building to the library,” she said, which was why the parks district had looked at moving the library out of the community center. The historical society continues to be interested in space for a museum, she added, which could be in the space currently occupied by the library if another facility were built.

Renée Coe and Henry Rosenthal pointed out that other organizations have looked at the Julius fire station for their own purposes. The historical society had drafted plans to convert it to a museum, and the food bank and Point Roberts Emergency Preparedness currently use some of the space for storage.

Reber said he envisioned accommodating the needs of all groups in one compound. “It’s all right here in one place, linked together,” he said. “All we need is vision and money.”

Proponents of a lighthouse at Lighthouse Marine Park presented a more concrete vision of their project, complete with a model lighthouse and an agreement with the U.S. Coast Guard, which will provide and operate the light. They are ready to move forward with ground studies and engineering once they have a signed memorandum of understanding with Whatcom County. At that point, fundraising for construction will begin.

“It is coming along, finally,” Frank Addison said.

Coe suggested they needed to add another project to the priority list: parking at Maple Beach. “It’s a public beach with no parking and the county needs to come up with a solution.” Urquhart suggested this might be an appropriate use for local gas tax funds.

Baxter said there needed to be a strong community component in raising funds for local projects.

“We need to do our own bit, sell bricks,” she said. “People working together to make it a real community project.”


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