fiber

Andrew Entrikin, manager of SkagitNet (second from right) speaks to Gov. Jay Inslee (far left) and others May 28 at a fiber-optic internet switching hub at the Port of Skagit.

A panel of Skagit County officials, staff and members of the business community heard pitches Monday from those vying for grant money for economic development projects.

This year, the county has access to $2.5 million from state sales tax that it can distribute to projects that retain or create family-wage jobs, interim County Administrator Trisha Logue said.

A total of about $6.3 million was requested by cities, towns and other public agencies for 15 projects.

As in the past several years, fiber optic internet projects represented a large portion — $1.1 million — of the funding requests.

Andrew Entrikin, manager of SkagitNet, brought forward two projects that he said would bring reliable high-speed internet to Hamilton and Concrete. SkagitNet requested $1 million for the projects.

Increasingly, commerce and education depend on having internet access, and these areas of the county are underserved, Entrikin said.

“We are ready to, with your funding, take the projects out to bid and begin construction by the end of this year,” he said.

Burlington staff requested $100,000 to expand its municipal fiber-optic network to more businesses in the city.

Also, Burlington Public Works Director Marv Pulst spoke about building a new road from South Burlington Boulevard at Costco Drive to South Walnut Street.

Called the East-West Connector Road, Pulst said the project would open up 150,000 square feet of commercial property for development. He said the city is requesting $430,000, the last of the funding needed for the project.

Other infrastructure projects included improvements on Commercial Avenue in Anacortes from 11th Street to 13th Street.

Eric Shjarback, a civil engineer with the city, said this project would be the first in a series of safety improvements for pedestrians and cyclists as it would add a protected bike lane and improved crosswalks to the area.

He said the city is requesting $500,000.

Both Mount Vernon and La Conner requested $500,000 for library projects.

Skagit Valley College also made an ask — $500,000 to go toward construction of a new early learning and childcare center.

Brad Tuininga, director of philanthropy for the college, said the project would expand availability of early childhood education in the county, and characterized the project as a investment in the workforce of the future.

Shelley Kjos, housing resource coordinator with Skagit County Public Health requested $300,000 to help subsidize the development of affordable housing by paying for impact and utility hookup fees for about 120 affordable housing units.

The panel hearing the proposals evaluated them after Monday’s meeting, and passed a recommendation on to the county commissioners.

Logue said she expects the commissioners to make a decision next week.

— Reporter Brandon Stone: bstone@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2112, Twitter: @Brandon_SVH

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