Mayor seems optimistic of small growth opportunities coming to Eatonville
While mayors in bigger cities host speeches each year to discuss the state of affairs in their communities, Mayor Mike Schaub instead keeps toiling in his office to help his hometown prosper.
After six years in office, and decades growing up and living in Eatonville, he hasn't seen the town grow much, but it has been doing better.
While Seattle residents, outpriced by a large jump in home prices, start moving south to find housing in nearby cities such a Tacoma and Puyallup, Schaub said Eatonville is staying consistent and is not experiencing much growth.
"It's grown a little over the last four or five years by only a 100 or so people," Schaub said. "It's very minimal growth. We don't have a lot of areas to expand thanks to our geographic areas. There is also not a lot of real estate for sale in Eatonville."
Schaub didn't offer the names of the companies but hinted that a few proposed businesses are looking at opening in Eatonville which could bring some revenue and life to the local economy.
"It could spur more activity while people are headed to the mountain," Schaub said.
The town has also been working with the Mount Rainier Railroad which is looking to expand on some property that could be annexed into Eatonville's town proper.
"If that project continues to move forward, from an economic standpoint, it0 will be an exciting opportunity for the town," Schaub said. "It's a niche business that will bring people into town and will help bring opportunities to small business. Well established businesses will have customers coming in while waiting for the train. It's a real positive thing to be looking at."
This last year had some proud moments, he said.
"One of the major ones is a traffic light," Schaub said. "We installed a new one on (Washington Avenue North) coming through town. We took out a four-way stop ... it's been really helpful for traffic control. Much better than it was."
The traffic light is part of a long-time project to update the infrastructure in town.
Eatonville slated a large road project, which was proposed in 2006 but then the economy took a turn for the worse. Thanks to some gifted monies, the project is back on the town's agenda.
"We had received federal grants," Schaub said. "The majority of the money came from those grants. It was about $1.2 million for the first phase which includes this traffic light and some sidewalk going down Washington."
Schaub is excited because now the city can move to the second phase which will complete the streetscape, including new street lighting, wider sidewalks down Washington Avenue North from the north entrance of town.
"It'll be a big project in the end and it will go out for a funding request again this year," Schaub said. "It's been a project about 10 years in the making. It's nice to see."
The town also was approved for two other grants that will fund street resurfacing and replacement.
Another large item on the agenda for the coming year is to continue to strengthen the town's financial status and to update utilities.
"I think from one standpoint, we've been very good at tracking our expenditures and we definitely have improved in our revenue," Schaub said. "Property taxes going up has helped with that one piece of it. Because we dropped our revenue at the low-point of the recession. About 40 percent of our taxes dropped and we cut back to the bare minimum. Now it's gained back and we've worked on getting some reserve so in the future if we have another downturn we can weather it better. But it's being fiscally responsible for our we view projects, how we use our spending and making sure we spend on projects that will have the biggest impact for the (residents). We are being very conscious of what projects we are doing and when we are doing it. And when you don't have a large budget to be operating out of, there are only certain areas that we can concentrate on."
Some budget items include hiring a new police officer, working with South Pierce Fire No. 23 to make sure the town keeps a high standard of public safety.
Schaub has felt like his last six years as mayor has been productive even if not much has changed in town.
"Since growing up here, it's been a real slow change," he said. "It's not been a noticeable change from what you see on Main Street but I've seen a shift you had more retirement age residents and now we are seeing more families. Over the last 20 years, we've seen a shift of people coming out here to raise families because we have a good school system, a safe community and it's a great place out in the country."