By Stefanie Donahue
Hundreds of Blaine residents responded to a detailed survey that aimed to identify funding priorities for proposed citywide projects and programs.
The 38-question survey was part of the fact gathering process undertaken through the city’s Strategic Economic Initiative, which is being guided by city staff and Tom Beckwith of La Conner-based Beckwith Consulting. The initiative seeks to evaluate city finances, plan for the future and determine which projects suggested by local interest groups and community members should be pursued.
Blaine city manager Dave Wilbrecht reported survey results to city council on October 30. Overall, 270 residents – 12 percent of all households in Blaine – participated. There were 43 action items identified and ranked by priority; most of the items “have everything to do with downtown,” Wilbrecht said.
Two action items involving the enforcement of existing building codes received the “very highest” priority ranking. The items call on the city to demolish vacant and derelict buildings deemed unsafe and to upgrade vacant buildings to meet current seismic, fire and other safety requirements.
In the “high” category, survey respondents prioritized action items calling for the condemnation and acquisition of property whose owners don’t comply with city codes, the establishment of a Main Street program, construction of the Peace Portal boardwalk and installation of wayfinding signs, among other items.
Several of the priorities identified have already been undertaken by the city, such as code enforcement on vacant and derelict buildings, encouraging new business and development in east Blaine and sale of the Gateway property. And while the city has a major role in the initiative, help from the community is crucial, Wilbrecht said.
“It takes effort and work and drive to get things to happen,” he said. “I think it’s going to take a lot of leadership to move forward.”