ARLINGTON — The Stillaguamish Valley Pioneer Association’s 101st annual “Pioneer Picnic” on Sunday, Aug. 18, recapped the city of Arlington’s past year while offering promises of what its citizens could look forward to in the year that lies ahead.
Arlington Mayor Barb Tolbert delivered her second State of the City address to the Pioneer Association, summarizing the city’s progress on transportation, business, the economy and quality of life, starting with the recently half-completed 67th Avenue project right outside the Pioneer Hall’s doors.
“At five to six months in, we’re 50 percent done, so you can start to see what those improvements will look like,” said Tolbert, who forecast that repaving of 172nd Street between 43rd and 67th avenues would occur next. “It’ll be a bit of a rough ride, and there will be detours and noise at night, but the good news is that will only be a 30-day project.”
With voters passing the Transportation Benefit District by 66 percent, Tolbert explained construction will begin this summer on fixing the 126 failing and near-failing segments of Arlington’s 255 roads, funded by a new sales tax of 20 cents per every $100 spent in the city. She also touted the continuing work to extend 51st Avenue to provide a congestion-easing north-south connection between 172nd and 188th streets, and praised city Stormwater Manager Bill Blake for the number of fish that had to be relocated to install new culverts along 67th Avenue, citing it as evidence of successful environmental restoration efforts.
Tolbert likewise expressed pride in the 31 new business licenses the city has issued this year, bringing its total business count to 844, but she explained the challenge of retaining research and development businesses that had previously preferred to use Arlington as a testing incubator for their manufacturing practices before moving elsewhere.
“We weren’t educating enough manufacturing-savvy youth to be ready to be employees for these companies,” said Tolbert, who credited former Mayor Margaret Larson as an inspiration for the partnership that developed between Everett Community College, Washington State University, Economic Alliance of Snohomish County, the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee and the Arlington School District in establishing an advanced manufacturing academy at the upgraded machine shop of Arlington High School. “The next step is to integrate that training into our high school curriculum.”
Tolbert also reported the addition of 300 jobs this year at AMT, up from the 200 that the aerospace technology manufacturer added last year, and noted that the cities of Arlington and Marysville are seeking grants for a long-planned manufacturing industrial center to which Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring has also reiterated his commitment over the years.
Tolbert acknowledged the difficulty of reducing the city’s staff last year, but emphasized the necessity of rebuilding the city’s reserve fund and “living within our means.” Although the city has seen a slight increase in retail growth since, Tolbert will be selling state Legislators on the importance to the city’s business climate of widening 172nd Street, especially since it remains a state road until Arlington’s population hits 20,000.
“This year’s construction on 172nd will just repave the road, not expand it,” Tolbert told Pioneer Association member Dick Prouty, in response to his question. “Our population is still at about 18,000, so we don’t own that road yet. It’s one of the top 10 transportation programs in Snohomish County, but the state only has funding to cover two such programs.”
When asked if the speed limit could be reduced to avoid accidents in areas such as the turn-in for the Stillaguamish Athletic Club, Tolbert relayed that the state had denied this request three times, “but we might see some headway on the fourth time.”