Peppered with questions and suggestions, county officials came to learn what’s on the minds of Point residents. From right, county executive Jack Louws, public works director Frank Abart, chief engineer Joe Rutan, parks director Mike McFarlane and PRCAC chair Arthur Reber. Photo by Pat Grubb.
Leading a small crew of county officials, a relatively new county executive Jack Louws came to Point Roberts to introduce himself and to hear what local residents had to say. This being Point Roberts, he got an earful.
The town hall-like forum, held June 20, was organized by the Point Roberts Community Advisory Committee (PRCAC). but attracted board members from the taxpayers, registered voters and other Point organizations as well as members of the public.
“I want to hear what your concerns are, what your hopes are for Point Roberts,” Louws said. “You guys are the ones out working, living your lives – you don’t have the time to get involved. I’m paid to come out to these meetings and find out your concerns. As we build the biennial budget, I would like to incorporate what people think is important.”
He followed up with a cold splash of reality: “The fact of the matter is, Whatcom County has no more money. Every year we bring in 2 percent less than what we spend.”
Louws’ remarks were followed in turn by those of public works director Frank Abart, chief engineer Joe Rutan and county parks director Mike McFarlane, all of whom stressed the lack of funds for anything but the most pressing needs. Rutan talked about how the first county engineers built dirt roads in Point Roberts and the rest of the county. “The next group of engineers, they paved those roads. I won’t be building any roads, I’ll be putting shoulders on roads,” he said.
Parks director McFarlane had an easy go of it. After citing recent improvements to the county’s newest park, Lily Point Park, he was able to tell the room that bids would be going out later this year for the dock at Lighthouse Marine Park and that the Point could expect to see a new dock next spring.
If the delegation thought a dose of budget reality would temper requests for various local projects, they were soon disabused of that notion.
What they got was a series of pitches for various projects ranging from trails, shoulder improvements, new library, community center renovation and more.
Registered voters association president Elizabeth Lantz gave an impassioned pitch for the proposed lighthouse project at Lighthouse Marine Park, saying it would be a major tourist draw. Louws, a well-established county businessman replied, “You think there would be an economic benefit?”
Samantha Scholefield pointed out that the community center is the focal point of Point Roberts and said its restoration and repairs should be the highest priority. She was followed by Michael Rosser. “I like all of these projects. We need amenities that will attract people, like artists and young people who can do those service jobs. We have problems filling those kinds of jobs,” he said.
Going for the gusto, Judy Ross suggested the Point could pursue more than one thing at a time. “I don’t know why we have to get into which project is prettier.”
At that point, Louws offered his perspective: “My background is as a business person, but I also served on Lynden city council and was mayor. The projects that get done are the ones that have ground support. This community could emulate the East County Foothills project. You may think that I can get on the phone with the governor and say the people of Point Roberts want this project and get out your checkbook. I don’t have that kind of power.” Groups must come together, work together and come up with a set of projects and get behind them, he said. “The library would have a better chance of funding if it’s presented as a multi-use facility,” he concluded.
His remarks echoed somewhat those of Abart’s: We really need your help. Our problem is, something we really want to avoid, is having to spend $100,000 on designs and then have 120 people from Point Roberts show up at county council and ask, “What are you doing?”