State of the City Address

Sky Valley Chamber hear about Sultan, Skykomish successes

By Chris Hendrickson

The Sky Valley Chamber of Commerce kicked off the new year with its traditional State of the City address luncheon, as elected officials from Sultan and Skykomish looked back at 2016 and talked about what’s coming up in 2017. 

The meeting took place Wednesday, Jan. 4, at Sultan City Hall, and was sponsored by Community Transit. Mayor Carolyn Eslick presented for the city of Sultan, while Skykomish City Councilmember Henry Sladek gave the address for Skykomish. Due to time constraints, Index and Gold Bar will present during next month’s chamber meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 1.


Eslick began her address with a few financial highlights. The city boasted a balanced budget in 2016, she said, paying off $842,243 is debt and receiving $965,258 in grants. 2017 will see a $93,781 increase in general fund revenues, coming in at roughly $2.1 million. The increase is being driven by increases in property assessments and building permits. The city’s general fund covers public safety, code enforcement, the city council, the city administrator, parks maintenance and more. 

Business and home occupational licenses were up in 2016, a trend Eslick hopes will continue. She stepped out of her role as mayor briefly to talk about her passion for supporting and strengthening new businesses.

“Business licenses have always been very important to me,” Eslick said. “I have an organization called GroWashington, and it’s been in business since 2011. We’re a nonprofit and we are all about helping people start their businesses.” 

She was inspired to start GroWashington after learning the state Department of Commerce was more focused on helping existing businesses grow and expand than it was on helping fledgling entrepreneurs find their footing and become established. In addition to providing a storefront for home-based businesses to create and display products, GroWashington offers guidance on basics, such as how to obtain city and state business licenses, how to develop effective marketing strategies and how to use networking to enhance sales.

GroWashington has locations in Sultan, Snohomish and Everett, she said, and they are working to spread the concept further.

“I am planning to make sure that there are other cities in the state of Washington that have this service,” Eslick said.

Sultan has long been known for its robust level of volunteerism, and 2016 was no different. Every year, volunteers team up to help organize festivals, plan community events, create parks, pick up trash and keep local streets and sidewalks clean. They fill sandbags during flood events, they bring refreshments and snacks to those hard at work and they help build community assets like the Startup Events Center and Sultan’s new Off-Leash Dog Park.

The dog park was built in two phases in 2016, she said, and they look forward to expanding it in 2017.

“From the day we opened the gate it has been used over and over,” Eslick said. “Phase three is going to happen this year.”

Eslick implemented the volunteer program when she first became the mayor in 2008. The city didn’t use volunteers before then, but Eslick had watched volunteerism work in other communities, so she directed city staff to make it happen. It was a successful effort that has gained momentum every year since it was founded. 

“It was important to have the volunteers in place, because we were short of money and we were having problems keeping up with the parks,” Eslick said. “But also, it was part of community building.”

Volunteers dedicated a total of 13,312 hours to the city during 2016, she said, which equates to a value of $385,915.

Other items on the agenda for 2017 include transportation improvement projects along First and Eighth streets, construction of the new Sultan Boys & Girls Club gym, expanded block watch programs, housing development planning, Main Street enhancement and revitalization, a new city website, Skykomish River clean up and planning for the 2018 Sky River Rock Festival, a new community event that will commemorate the historic Sky River Rock Festival of 1968.    


Sladek began his presentation with a snapshot of Skykomish, for those in attendance not familiar with the town.

Skykomish is located roughly 25 miles east of Sultan off U.S. 2, tucked alongside the Skykomish River. It has a population of around 200 people living in roughly 130 households, Sladek said. Skykomish is a town that emphasizes outdoor recreation as its primary economic driver, so existing businesses cater to U.S. 2 travelers and outdoor recreationalists, he said.

The city is governed by Mayor Tony Grider and a five-member volunteer city council. Revenue for the city tops out at roughly $450,000 a year, $150,000 of which is general purpose funds generated by property and business taxes. The balance of $300,000 comes from the city’s water and sewer systems.  

Sladek said the city’s sewer system was a benefit of the massive environmental cleanup that took place from roughly 2006 through 2014. Conducted by Burlington-Northern Railway, the cleanup caused major upheaval in the town, as each structure had to be lifted off the ground to removed contaminated soil. Skykomish was formerly a maintenance and fueling facility for the railroad, resulting in massive amounts of petroleum products being discharged into the ground.

Contamination in the river was identified as early as 1926. 

“Prior to this cleanup activity all of us were on on-site septic systems,” Sladek said. “Now we have a mini sewer system, which is great for development.”

In addition to the sewer system, the cleanup and mitigation efforts resulted in a new park right in the center of town. Continued enhancement of the park is planned for 2017, which includes a mini-railroad attraction that families can ride for free. The railroad project was spearheaded by community volunteer Kevin Weiderstrom, and constructed by volunteers.

It runs every weekend from May through October, Sladek said.

One of the new attractions in 2017 will be the town’s new grant-funded pump track, which is a track designed for BMX and mountain bikes, and uses berms and dirt mounds to propel riders around a circular loop. The idea behind pump tracks is that riders use their whole body to engage in a pumping motion to maintain their speed, rather than pedaling.  Sladek said the pump track broke ground in October, and should be complete by summer.

Other plans for 2017 include updating the town’s Comprehensive Plan, encouraging new lodging and food service businesses and economic development in the downtown core. Community members are excited for the future of the Skykomish Hotel, Sladek said, as a developer is currently in the process of rehabilitating the regal, three-story structure that greets people as they cross the river into town.

For more information about Skykomish, visit For more information about Sultan, visit


Photo by Chris Hendrickson: Sultan Mayor Caroyln Eslick presented the city’s economic development to-do list for 2017 during a State of the City Address to the Sky Valley Chamber of Commerce.


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