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‘Coupeville is the best,’ mayor proclaims

Mayor Nancy Conard presents the State of the Town at last week’s Chamber meet. - Elisabeth Murray
Mayor Nancy Conard presents the State of the Town at last week’s Chamber meet.
— image credit: Elisabeth Murray

“Coupeville is the best.”

That’s how Mayor Nancy Conard began her annual State of the Town address last week in which she covered topics such as town staffing, the local business environment and plans for the future.

She spoke before an audience of local residents, government officials and business owners at an event hosted by the Coupeville Chamber of Commerce.

She first recognized the townspeople’s volunteer service and commitment to the community, and proceeded to weave aspects of what makes the town great – such as a small, nimble government, commitment to the environment, and a strong business community – throughout her speech.

Work in progress

For projects in the works, Conard talked about the new emergency management plan that will soon be finalized. The plan will help local residents and community leaders be prepared in case of an emergency such as an earthquake or big winter storm.

Conard also shared the progress on developing a master plan for the Coupeville Community Green. The open field behind the library fills with booths on Saturdays in the summer for the Coupeville Farmers Market and also gets used for event parking. Conard said improvements to the green could allow for overflow parking during the winter, when the field is too muddy for cars. Construction of restrooms would also provide welcome relief to visitors.

Conard also reiterated the town’s commitment to the environment with water reuse – an area that elevates Coupeville above its peers, she said.

“We’re not required by the federal government to do any of this,” Conard said. “We are ahead of the curve.”

One project that has been talked about since at least the 1970s would reuse storm water, keeping it out of Penn Cove and instead redirecting it toward farm fields that need irrigation.

The mayor, however, acknowledged that Coupeville is behind the times in one area: a municipal recycling program.

“It is happening in every other community but ours,” Conard said.

The town’s climate-protection plan requires a carbon dioxide reduction of 20 percent in 20 years, and a recycling program will help the town move towards its goal, she said. The town is currently finalizing the contract with Island Disposal to implement recycling services within town limits.

Low staff pay

Conard lauded the quality of workers that the town employs, and said that Coupeville provides a good quality of life for those who choose to live and work here.

“The employees we have are more qualified than we can expect for the pay that we provide,” Conard said.

Within the course of three months, the town will lose 75 percent of its police department. Two of the departing deputies accepted positions elsewhere with higher pay.

The mayor discussed ways to handle the turnover in both the short and long-run. In the coming months, this will involve relying on reserve deputies – police from neighboring jurisdictions covering the scheduling gaps – and switching from 24 hour patrol coverage to a combination of patrols and on-call response.

The council must decide if it wants to maintain the current pay schedule for the deputies, with the risk that they will leave for higher paying jobs elsewhere as they open up, or if they want to have fewer deputies who receive better pay.

Business climate

Despite a sluggish economy nationally, the business climate in Coupeville is very good, Conard said. One key piece of this is tourism, which is up.

“This place has been full,” Conard said. “I can’t say they’re spending a lot of money, but they’re coming.”

Conard said that she has heard businesspeople express interest in vacant commercial space around town – a “sign of a thriving community,” she said. As Lavender Wind Farm and other businesses open shop in space along Coveland Street, tourists will appreciate two streets to peruse.

And the town is still benefitting from a change implemented at the state level in 2008 in respect to how the local sales tax is collected. Previously, Washington retailers collected local sales tax based on the origin of the sale – where it was being shipped from.

The recent switch to collection based on the destination of the shipment has helped boost the town’s local sales tax revenue.

For example, sales tax from products purchased on the Internet and delivered to Coupeville contribute to town coffers.

The mayor urged people to shop in town, but if that is not an option she has a plan on how the local community can still benefit.

If you can’t buy in Coupeville, buy in Island County. If you can’t buy in Island County, buy from Amazon.com, (or some other Washington-based business),” Conard said.

 

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