City of Washougal leaders are seeking input from community members on two issues critical to the future of Washougal: the city’s use of its federal COVID-recovery funds and the creation of a long-term strategic plan that will “define the future vision of Washougal.”
The city has created a website (cityofwashougal.us/ARPA) that contains information about the five projects that it’s considering to fund with its $4.5 million American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allocation.
“A survey at the end that asks residents to rank each project in order of priority,” city of Washougal communications specialist Michelle Loftus said. “Results will inform which projects receive funding.”
The results will be posted to the city’s website and social media channels, and presented at a future city council meeting.
The city received about $2.25 million from ARPA, a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill passed by the United States Congress and signed into law by President Biden to speed up the United States’ recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic in the summer of 2021, and expects to receive another $2.25 million this summer.
The city used about $143,000 of its original allotment to purchase a keyless entry system for City Hall, expand the service counter and add a public conference room and mail slot at the city’s permit center, and repair and upgrade the city’s public restrooms last summer.
In July 2021, the city council reached an informal consensus that the remaining funds would best be used for capital projects, which they determined would provide the “most transformative” and “long-lasting” impact for the entire community.
Earlier this year, city officials “assessed community needs, sought guidance from department leaders, and identified areas that would make a long-lasting impact on Washougal,” according to the city’s ARPA website.
The city council’s Public Works Committee then selected five projects: 32nd Street underpass complete design and permitting; 32nd Street (Q Street to Addy Street) safety improvements and treatments; the Washougal Civic Recreation Complex; Schmid Family Park; and biosolids handling facility/anoxic selector/lagoon decommission.
“This is quite a unique opportunity for us as a city,” council member Ernie Suggs said during a workshop session earlier this year. “I think there are some outstanding opportunities for us. Anything we can do to leverage the funding that we have to go forward would just be a boon to our community. I know there are things out there that would be able to get done and appreciated by our citizens, and I think that’s the important part. Onward and forward.”
The ARPA engagement effort “is being done in-house by the city,” according to City Manager David Scott.
“Feedback will be collected, organized and reported out by city staff, including me,” Scott told the Post-Record. “The ranking of the five projects proposed to receive ARPA funds which results from this effort will be one factor that the council will consider in deciding where to deploy the ARPA funds. Other factors the council has discussed include the ability to leverage the ARPA funds as matching funds for grants, to stretch the funding as much as possible, and the effect of the project in making a meaningful and positive impact on the community.”
Community can weigh in on city’s long-term strategic plan
The city has also launched a “social pinpoint” site for its ongoing strategic planning process as part of its community visioning phase.
The site (berrydunn.mysocialpinpoint.com/washougal-wa/strategic-planning-project) provides an opportunity for residents to submit feedback through a survey, post comments on an “ideas wall” and sign up for upcoming community forums.
“Washougal’s next strategic plan … will lay out goals and objectives for the long term,” the website states. “This plan’s success depends on input from people like you, who know and love Washougal, and have a vested interest in making it an even better place going forward. … Everyone in the city will have the opportunity to be involved in the process and provide input in several ways and at different project milestones.”
The city hired BerryDunn, a Portland, Maine-based national consulting firm that provides services for local and state government agencies, to assist with the strategic planning process.
“Our consultant is facilitating all of the various engagement opportunities for the development of the strategic plan,” Scott said. “They will collect, organize, analyze and report out all of the feedback. They will engage with our steering committee and the council in this process. This information will be combined with other feedback we will receive from our biennial community survey to inform the city’s development and refinement of priorities, goals and objectives for the next five-year period. These will ultimately be articulated in the strategic plan that is adopted by the council.”
A strategic plan allows the city to communicate its priorities within a credible, forward-thinking and well-understood framework so it can make effective budget and policy decisions and secure the resources it needs to sustain itself into the future; maintain a guiding “north star,” providing stability and more certainty in the face of election cycles, changes in leadership, economic fluctuations and changes to the state and federal regulatory environments; and make decisions and evaluate its policies, plans, programs, service delivery and processes through a lens of engagement, inclusion and fairness for all Washougal residents, according to the website.
“The strategic plan is a living document that we will use to define the future vision for Washougal,” the website states.