June 4, 2010 in City
Big times for tiny Lamont
As town prepares for its 100th birthday, civic leaders work to raise its profile
LAMONT, Wash. – The past few years have seen a revolution of sorts in “the lowly and largely misunderstood town of Lamont,” as the mayor jokingly calls it.
The once- horrible water system has been replaced. Half the tiny town has been paved. A new flagpole has been put up. A dog ordinance was adopted, to no small controversy. And soon, the town will be boast two crucial amenities: a library and, inside that library, the town’s first public restroom.
All this, as the town prepares to celebrate its 100th birthday. It’s a momentous time for the second-smallest incorporated town in the state of Washington – a burg a few miles south of Sprague on the border between wheat country and cattle country.
“Here recently, we’ve had two new – no, three new families move in, with children,” said Dale Windsor, a 71-year-old retired Navy man and welder.
That might bump the population a bit closer to three figures. The official tally here has hovered around 100 for decades.
“Sometimes it’s clear up to 105,” says Betty Stone, a Lamont resident of some 60 years.
“That’s when we start feeling all spunky,” says Mayor Steve Lacy.
Stone, a 79-year-old who moved here when she married the mail carrier, and Windsor, a strapping figure with a bushy white beard and a cowboy hat, are two members of the town council who have been trying to drag Lamont into the 20th century. Now Lacy is trying to drag it into the 21st, with a blog that makes Lamont the setting for some wildly inventive yarns.
Online, Lacy spins some completely tall tales, and some that are only partially tall, all cast in run-on prose that pokes fun in every direction. He has written about the “stunningly decent Town of Fairfield” and its decision not to schedule its Flag Day celebrations to conflict with Lamont’s 100th birthday party. He’s weighed in on problems with seagull guano, and engaged in a tongue-in-cheek rivalry with the town of Long Beach. He finds fodder in the local character and local characters. One headline reads: “Local Rancher With Un-Rancher-Like Name Never Really Accepted by Other Ranchers.”
Lacy, 47, took a voluntary layoff from his job in Anacortes five years ago and went looking for places to live in the Spokane region, finally buying a house in Lamont. He was appointed, then elected, mayor, and has been part of the effort to give the town a polish. He says his blog – The World of Lamont, Washington, at lamont-wa.blogspot.com – is an attempt to raise the town’s profile. It seems to be working, at least on a modest scale, with hundreds of regular readers.
Lacy shares a self-deprecating attitude about the town with Windsor and Stone, but they take what they are doing seriously. Though the population of the town itself has remained relatively stable since the middle of the last century, the number of people living and farming in the outlying areas has dwindled.
Stone recalls that when she moved to town, there were two grocery stores, a bank, a hotel and a gas station. All are gone. Back then, it was common for families to have small farms on a couple hundred acres; today, you need thousands of acres to make a go of it.
“They all are big farms,” she said. “I can’t think of a small farm.”
A few years ago, the town’s deteriorating water system gave rise to jokes that even the houseplants wouldn’t drink the water. A combination of grants and loans helped cover a $1.5 million upgrade four years ago; now a new concrete water tank overlooks the town from a nearby hill, and the town councilors cannot stop bragging on their water.
It was the first big step for those who want to “change the atmosphere” in the town, as Lacy puts it. Next came a $610,000 paving project, paid for with a grant, that brought asphalt and new sidewalks to half the town. Windsor worked some angles to finagle a new flagpole for the park. The town-hall/volunteer fire station got a coat of new paint, and it will be named after Windsor at the centennial celebration.
Soon, they’ll have the library, and – not to be forgotten – that all-important public toilet.
But not everything is becoming citified and modern in now-less-lowly Lamont. Lacy had to interrupt an interview Thursday to solve the kind of problem that may not present itself to Michael Bloomberg: His black cat was stuck in a tree across the street.
Windsor brought a ladder. Lacy climbed it. Hellcat 2000 was saved.
“It’s just a little slice of America,” Lacy said of his adopted home. “Pretty much everything you can learn about the world, you can learn in Lamont.”
Oh, and by the way? The state’s smallest incorporated town? It’s Krupp, aka Marlin, in Grant County. Population: 60.
“We’re dominating them,” Lacy said.
Shawn Vestal can be reached at (509) 459-5431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.