What does the City of Montesano need to do to grow?
That’s the question Mayor Vini Samuel posed to the city council during the Aug. 9 council meeting.
The question preceded a short presentation by the mayor. Few council members jumped to answer and Councilman Tyler Trimble, after a brief moment of silence, said, “I’m trying to come up with something, but I honestly would say that I need to think about it… It’s something we’ve needed to talk about, and now it’s on the agenda as something for us to talk about, and we need to move forward. Now I can brainstorm a little bit harder.”
Councilman Dave Skaramuca, while also noting empty retail space, said the city should focus on what it has.
“We’re a bedroom community — I heard that 30 years ago, and I didn’t understand what that meant,” Skaramuca said. “That’s what we have to offer and we should promote what we have to offer.”
Councilman Ian Cope agreed saying the city should figure out a way to attract the people passing through Montesano on the way to the national park or the beaches.
“We sit right at a fork in the road between people coming in from the I-5 corridor going out to the beach, or turning south and going down to Pacific County… the development we’ve seen down at Monte Square is a good step (to take advantage of that traffic), with the RV park going in and the restaurants going in,” Cope said. “Those are the kind of businesses you’re going to see in Montesano. We don’t want to have a big manufacturing presence here, but to have those small businesses, that’s kind of the sweet spot for Montesano.
“It’s not particularly glamorous, but it’s what we do well.”
Councilwoman Nikki Hutchinson-King suggested the city should research additional signage to attract travelers.
The city, Councilman Dan Wood said, already owns four properties which could be potential locations for billboards. A property near Swiss Meadows, some space at both Highway 12 exits at Devonshire Road and the Marys River or water treatment plant properties along State Route 107.
Wood said he’d like to see a conversation with more than just city officials.
“What I would like to do is to have a summit. Pull together the bankers, the (real estate agents), the homebuilders, people from all sorts of industries and professions, and citizens who are interested and ask what we have for ideas from everybody about the empty retail locations,” Wood said.
That’s where the discussion segued into Samuel’s presentation.
The Mayor said she believes the city has three options for bolstering the local economy — festivals, tournaments and a rest stop.
Festivals are arranged and on their way, including a salmon bake and brew festival planned for October, intentionally coinciding with the fall salmon fishing season.
Tournaments, too, may be on tap with the pending construction of new soccer fields at Beacon Park, and other ongoing athletic programs in the city.
The third option, Samuel said, was the point of her presentation.
“I have explored making (the park and ride) into a rest stop with the Department of Transportation and the funds it would take to do that,” Samuel said.
It would be the only rest stop for westbound traffic from at least Seattle to Montesano.
The route of the rest stop would direct the traffic off the highway, and right onto Main Street heading north and then turning right onto East Wynooche Avenue. The route then would wrap around Thriftway sending traffic north along South Sylvia Street, then west on East Pioneer Avenue. Traffic then could take Main Street back to the highway onramps.
Ideally, a small portion of those vehicles will venture off the rest stop route and spend money at Montesano merchants.
“We have 6 million people going to the Washington coast, and one percent of that, you’ve got 60,000 people, and if 60,000 people spend $50, you’ve got $3 million,” Samuel said. “That’s not tax revenue, but that’s actual cash revenue into the city… $3 million into the economy would be a significant increase, and that’s less than 1 percent, because I’m not even counting the numbers for the Oregon coast.”
The Mayor said she hopes to submit a request for funding to the 2017 capital budget.
“Right now the total (state) budget is $2 billion. Our expected ask right now… well, I don’t want to tell you until we fully develop it, but it’s a descent ask,” Samuel said. “But it’s well within what we could do.”
A similar idea had been suggested in the past but never came to fruition. The initial funding request would include a feasibility study. The rest stop is part of an overall plan to better the local economy, the mayor said.
“Each activity that we do is just one more layer,” Samuel said. “The Wi-Fi is a layer, the billboards will be a layer, the festivals are a layer — every single thing we do, we want to double up, triple up.”