Last summer, Lewis County and the Lewis County Economic Alliance (formerly the Economic Development Council) partnered to create a plan for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds that will go toward infrastructure projects related to water, internet, roads, sewers and more.
During the monthly Lewis County mayors’ meeting Friday, the Alliance held a “stakeholders meeting” update to the project. Legislators of Lewis County also gave an update on the last legislative session and mayors spoke about where they would like to see funds go in their respective towns.
Back in July, Alliance Executive Director Richard DeBolt and Infrastructure Initiatives Program Manager Todd Chaput held a presentation at the Veterans Memorial Museum on their plans to draft and execute a “dig once” policy for the funds. The Alliance plans to create the most efficient timeline possible for the countywide projects in order to get the biggest bang for the bucks.
On Friday, the Alliance presented on a map it is creating in tandem with Lewis County Public Works Director Josh Metcalf to show the nearly 300 different public works projects across the county where ARPA dollars will go. The map was not fully finished as of the presentation.
State lawmakers representing Lewis County, including 19th District Reps. Joel McEntire and Jim Walsh and Sen. Jeff Wilson and 20th District Reps. Peter Abbarno and Ed Orcutt spoke about the 2022 session. The Republican lawmakers detailed what they felt were the successes and failures of the session, the former of which included more funding for early education and some rollbacks on police reform bills, the latter of which were lack of tax reliefs, increases in spending and divisiveness between the parties, especially on the transportation package.
After the legislators spoke, the Alliance gave its update and introduced lobbyist Troy Nichols, who is helping them draft the “dig once” plan. Following the presentation, municipal leaders from across the county had their chance to weigh in on the 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 was bright for her town, but now Centralia needs the housing to match its job opportunities.
Pe Ell Mayor Lonnie Willey spoke about a road project in the West Lewis County town. Vader Mayor Joe Schey talked about money for the wastewater treatment plant. Morton Mayor Dan Mortensen talked about sewage treatment, and Napavine Mayor Shawn O’Neill talked about improvements to Exit 72 along with a park and other infrastructure projects. Mossyrock, Winlock and Chehalis mayors were absent.