By Isabel Vander Stoep / [email protected]
Last summer, Lewis County and the Lewis County Economic Alliance (formerly the Economic Development Council) teamed up to create a plan for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds that will go to infrastructure projects related to water, internet, roads, sewers and more.
During the Lewis County Mayors’ monthly meeting on Friday, the Alliance held a “stakeholder meeting” update on the project. Lewis County lawmakers also provided updates on the last legislative session and mayors explained where they would like to see the funds go in their respective cities.
In July, Alliance Executive Director Richard DeBolt and Todd Chaput, Infrastructure Initiatives Program Manager, gave a presentation at the Veterans Memorial Museum on their plans to write and execute a “dig once” policy for the funds. The Alliance plans to create the most efficient schedule possible for countywide projects to achieve the best value for money.
On Friday, the Alliance featured on a map it is creating in conjunction with Lewis County Public Works Director Josh Metcalf to show the nearly 300 different public works projects across the county where the dollars of ARPA. The map was not completely finished at the time of the presentation.
State lawmakers representing Lewis County, including 19th District Representatives Joel McEntire and Jim Walsh and Senator Jeff Wilson and 20th District Representatives Peter Abbarno and Ed Orcutt spoke about the 2022 session. Republicans detailed what they thought were the successes and failures of the session, the first of which included more funding for early education and some rollbacks on police reform plans, the last being the lack of relief taxes, the increase in expenses and the division between the parties, in particular on the transport package.
After the legislators’ speech, the Alliance took stock and introduced lobbyist Troy Nichols, who is helping them draft the “dig it once” plan. Following the presentation, municipal leaders from across the county had the opportunity to weigh in on spending.
Mayor Kelly Smith Johnston of Centralia said she would like to see money for “anything related to housing.” Smith Johnston noted that the economic future is bright for his town, but Centralia now needs housing to match his job opportunities.
Pe Ell Mayor Lonnie Willey spoke about a road project in the county town of West Lewis. Vader Mayor Joe Schey talked about money for the sewage treatment plant. Morton Mayor Dan Mortensen spoke about wastewater treatment, and Napavine Mayor Shawn O’Neill spoke about improvements to Exit 72 as well as a park and other infrastructure projects . The mayors of Mossyrock, Winlock and Chehalis were absent.