Letters to Editor
To Contact the Editor
Wednesday, December 31st
A Flawed Process
By Juniper Maas
I am writing as a community member, lifelong islander, potential neighbor to the Beaverton site, and avid SWAC meeting attendee for over three years. Please educate yourselves to a seldom printed portion of the history and background of this project, The SWAC process, NIMBY'S, and the waste of finite resources (taxpayer's dollars = hard earned money).
Having been a mainstay at nearly all of the SWAC meetings for the past three years it is very clear where the members stand, and all for good reasons some personal, some moral.
George Post (Chair of SWAC) declares that the people who think the site should stay where it is, are saying it for the wrong reasons.
Tuesday, December 30th
A New SJI Dump At A New Location: SWAC
The SWAC (Solid Waste Advisory Committee) plans to formally approve a recommendion to the County Council on January 12 that a new solid waste transfer station be constructed on property already purchased for that purpose next to Beaverton Valley Road on San Juan Island.
The citizens committee passed around a draft recommendation (pdf 678\k file) -no copies were made available at the meeting for the public- that will serve as the starting point for a final recommendation to the County Council; and also as a starting point for at least two minority reports that will take issue with the full committee recommendation.
Health Department Budget Cuts Services
In order to pass a balanced budget the County had to ask departments to cut back on services, and the SJ County Health and Community Services Department was hit with a bigger percentage of dollar budget cuts than any other department.
Its overall 2009 budget is $189,211 smaller than its 2008 budget by 14%. “These are very, very difficult cuts to make,” said Department Director John Manning. “They directly affect the public health and safety and the welfare of the most vulnerable members of our community.
“We are working hard to find grants and alternative sources of funding, but the reality is: these cuts are going to hurt,” he added.
The Department runs dozens of programs, and one of these, the Community Services budget, was cut by 22%, about $83,000 less than the budget request. Manning said the lower funding level forces reductions in a number of community services programs, examples are:
Monday, December 29th
SWAC Works On Dump Site Recommendation
The bill to study where a new transfer station should go is now past $600K, and counting.
SWAC (Solid Waste Advisory Committee) met Monday morning to continue their Dump Site Selection recommendation (11:45 AM - 1:45 PM Mullis Fire Station). At the last SWAC meeting no public comment, either before or after the meeting, was allowed.
Gordy Petersen recently pointed out in a recent Column that Public Works has spent $518,142.48 on studying if they should move the current transfer station, or improve it where it is.
The County has now sighed a Contract.pdf (554\k file) with the same consultant for an additional $143,939.00 to do a final environmental impact statement once public comment has been completed on where they think a transfer station should be located.
In the meantime the SWAC may decide today (12-29-08) where they think it should go, but as noted in a previous story , the SWAC is not in agreement as to how they should make a decision, let alone where, or if, the transfer station should be moved.
Public Comment Meetings On County Housing Needs
"By 2025, the minimum of an additional 2,248 housing units will need to be constructed to house the projected population increase. Of these units, approximately 1045 must be affordable to households earning $100,000 or less (1 ½ x median household income)"
-CD&P Housing Assessment
A series of 3 public meetings have been scheduled to discuss and take public comment on the updated draft San Juan County Comprehensive Plan Housing Element and Housing Needs Assessment
The Contents of the Housing Element of the Comprehensive Plan has profound implications for the future of the San Juan County Community!
The meetings will be held on Lopez, Orcas and San Juan Islands during the first full week of January, 2009 to discuss a draft update to Section B, Element 5; Housing element in the SJ County Comprehensive Plan, and the associated Housing Needs Assessment.
Sunday, December 28th
Diane Timm Retirement
(L to R: Diane Timm with Auditor Milene Henley at retirement party)
If you have recorded a legal document at the Auditor's office, you were likely assisted by Diane Timm. After ten years with the County, one of them pushing a broom and nine of them recording legal documents at the Auditor’s office, Timm is retiring. While all who know her will miss her smile and helpful ways, all wish her the best, and bet retirement is just another word for staying busy and helpful.
Under the “it’s a small island” heading; shortly after moving to San Juan County, Diane took her dogs to be boarded at Animal Inn and met then-owner, Milene Henley. 22 years later Henley was elected Auditor -and became Diane’s boss.
Saturday, December 27th
2009 Leadership SJI Class Selected
Leadership San Juan Islands Class V Begins January 2009 Leadership San Juan Islands selected twenty outstanding, diverse individuals from the island community for the 2009 class.
San Juan Island: * Kristy Ayers * Kiara McLauglin * Bettye Hendricksen * Katie Loring * Barbara Marrett * Tracy Roberson * Angie Attwell * Brian Windrope
Orcas Island: * Margie Doyle * Louise Carnachan * Owen Cheevers * Ethna Fianagan * Steve Gresham * Barbara LaBrash * Learner Limbach * Marta-Maria Nielson
Lopez Island: * Claire Nollman * Lou Pray * Cheryl Harlan * Suzi Marean
These individuals come from the health and social services, business, education, government and nonprofit sectors and bring with them an outstanding background of community service.
Friday, December 26th
Loss Of Money To Impact Parks
In order to balance the 2009 budget, the County Council made program cuts, and one of those was from the San Juan County Parks Department. The Council had been warned by County Park and Recreation Director Dona Wuthnow that the cut of over $108,000,00 could result in putting a chain across the driveways to county parks and the closing of public restrooms, if forced to operate on a new budget amount of $ $660,981.00
When the threat of closing the parks was made, there was confusion as to why this would have to happen, after all, the parks were there and open long before there was a department with a large budget. Why not use volunteers, it was asked. Wuthnow said for the same reason the parks would to be closed without staff : insurance liability issues.
But the solution was obvious to many, and over 100 local citizens quickly volunteer to help do what paid staff had been doing. Wuthnow said “Unfortunately we can’t have a volunteer coming in with a chainsaw to clear a trail,” but staff will now use some of their time to oversee the use of volunteers.. Volunteers will be asked to sign a contract, receive safety training and will be required to useappropriate equipment.
Volunteers have been the backbone and the main source of labor for many departments, from fire departments to libraries, and the Land Banks also uses them, as do the Beach Watchers, to name but a few.
Thursday, December 25th
Only Rain In The Forecast
(Mary Kalbert photo)
With only rain and warming weather in the forecast, the Christmas snow of 2008 will soon be gone. It was fun and attractive in the beginning, but many are now more than ready to go back to a more traditional northwest winter of rain.
Tuesday, December 23rd
Beth Hudson Sustains Serious Injuries
(11:45 a.m) San Juan Island resident Beth Hudson’s injuries from a Sunday Accident are tragic.
Sheriff Bill Cumming reports that her “right leg [was] amputated below the knee; left leg stabilized and surgery is scheduled on Thursday to repair the leg; broken ribs; lacerated liver; bruised pancreas; broken bones in right shoulder.” Cumming stated “the family reports that Beth has responded to conversation and some commands.”
A Medical Fund for Beth Hudson has been opened at Islanders Bank Friday Harbor branch. Any donations can be made at any Teller's window and Drive-up at any Islanders Bank branch.
As part of the ongoing investigation, search warrants were issued for the vehicles involved in the accident, as well as interviewing any witnesses to the accidents.
Don't Forget To Feed The Birds!
Keep feeding the birds over winter: that's the message from research by a University of Exeter scientist from the Tremough Campus Penryn. (Published 6 February 2008 -Editor) in prestigious journal Biology Letters, the study shows for the first time that the extra food we provide garden birds in winter makes for a more successful breeding season in the spring.
By providing some birds with extra food,** such as peanuts, and leaving others to fend for themselves, the team was able to compare productivity between the two groups. Those that were given extra food laid eggs earlier and, although they produced the same number of chicks, an average of one more per clutch successfully fledged. Although it was well known that garden feeding helps many birds survive the winter, this is the first time that the benefits to spring breeding and productivity have been shown.
Dr Stuart Bearhop of the University of Exeter's Tremough Campus, corresponding author on the paper, said: "Our study shows that birds that receive extra food over winter lay their eggs earlier and produce more fledglings. While this research shows how the extra food we provide in winter helps the birds that take it, it is still unclear whether this has a knock-on effect on other species. This is something we are keen to investigate, but in the meantime I will certainly be putting out food for garden birds for the rest of the winter."
US and UK households provide over 500,000 tonnes of food for garden birds each year. Despite this, there is a debate on whether we should continue feeding birds in the spring, when natural food sources become more readily available. This research shows, for the first time, that birds will continue to benefit from winter feeding well into the breeding season, which starts in April for most song birds in the UK.
Dr Dan Chamberlain of the British Trust for Ornithology, a collaborator on the project, adds "These results demonstrate that feeding birds in gardens over winter can be vital to their breeding success. It is highly likely that the benefits of extra food continue year-round, so don't just stock your bird feeders in winter if you want to do the best for the birds in your garden".
Now that the research team has shown the long-lasting benefits of supplementary food for garden birds, they are keen to investigate exactly what is happening in terms of nutrition. Dr Stuart Bearhop of the University of Exeter continued: "The extra food we put out for birds contains fat, protein and carbohydrates, which may make the female bird stronger and more able to produce eggs. Foods like peanuts and bird seed also include vitamins and minerals, which can also produce healthier eggs and chicks, and we currently have a research project looking at the role of energy versus vitamins in explaining these effects."
The £100 million Tremough campus is a Combined Universities in Cornwall initiative of which the University of Exeter and University College Falmouth are two of the founding partners. It is funded mainly by the European Union (Objective One), the South West Regional Development Agency, and the Higher Education Funding Council for England, with support from Cornwall County Council. Set in 70 acres of countryside, but close to the waterside towns of Penryn and Falmouth, the campus offers a lively student community. The University of Exeter now offers degrees in Biology, Modern Celtic and Cornish Studies, English, Geology, Geography, History, Law, Mining Engineering, Politics and Renewable Energy on its Tremough Campus, which has expanded rapidly as part of the Combined Universities in Cornwall initiative.
The study was carried out by the University of Exeter, Queen's University Belfast, Central Science Laboratory, the British Trust for Ornithology and the University of Birmingham. Food and nestboxes were provided by Gardman Ltd.
Monday, December 22nd
Serious Accident On SJ: Woman In Surgery
(Updated 12-22-08; 10:15 pm) Snow and ice on roadway resulted in serious injuries to San Juan Island resident Beth Hudson on Sunday when her car was struck by one car, that in turn was struck by other vehicles. The multiple vehicle accident started at approximately 11:00 p.m.
The problem started when a car was seen on Portland Fair road having a problem due to the ice and a second car stopped to give assistance. The driver and passenger of the car were attempting to help the woman when a third car came over the hill and struck the two young men and the driver of the original car.
Butterfly In Trouble Without Safety Net
(the Island Marble butterfly photo by Robert M. Pyle)
The island marble butterfly lives on San Juan and Lopez, but it faces multiple threats from development, road maintenance, invasive plants and severe weather events. Can more be done to protect it? Yes says the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation
In 2006 a “Parks Service Accused of Destroying Rare Butterfly Habitat” story stated the mismanagement of its habitat at San Juan Island National Historical Park American Camp, where the only known viable populations reside, is the biggest current threat to the butterfly
Concern remains how a butterfly found on San Juan and Lopez can continue to languish without a protection net, even though it may be on the brink of extinction.
This butterfly historically lived along coastal grasslands and adjacent prairies in British Columbia on the Gabriola and Vancouver Islands, and on the San Juan Islands. It was thought to have gone extinct in the early 1900s, but was rediscovered in 1998 on San Juan Island.
SJC EMS Adds Six New EMTs
Six San Juan County residents have completed their training and certification as Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) and are serving with San Juan and Orcas Island EMS.
“We are very excited to have these new EMTs serving EMS,” said SJIEMS Training Officer Weyshawn Koons. “They all worked diligently to develop their new EMT skills and will also bring a variety of personal capabilities and experiences to the team.”
Sunday, December 21st
The Swans & Ducks Otter Be Careful
(A river otter checks out the swans and ducks on a San Juan Island lake. -M. Kalbert photo)
The river otter is related to the cute little otters bobbing in the water on their backs while eating a clam (or whatever), but their northern cousins are meat eaters that are aggressive fish and bird eaters, and whatever cuteness they may possess is not what is noteworthy if you are ever unlucky enough to have one move in under your house.
All that aside, it is a great picture, and the swans and ducks are not unaware of their furry little friend and his intentions.
In The Spirit Of The Season
By Chris Sly-Prochnow
‘Tis better to give than to receive”…an extension of the Pension Protection Act of 2006 was passed recently and direct distributions from an IRA can be made to certain charities without it counting as taxable income.
In the past the IRA owner had to recognize the distribution from the IRA as taxable income and then received a charitable deduction for the contribution to the charity. Under this law, while the IRA distribution will not count as income under the new provisions, there will be no charitable deduction allowed either. This provision extends to tax years 2008 and 2009.
What are the requirements?
Orcas Fire & Rescue Kept Busy
By Max Jones
December 10 to the 18th was a very business week for Orcas Fire and Rescue. It began with an assist for transport by the Sheriff’s boat the Guardian for early child labor call
Fire then responded to down wires at the base of Flaherty’s hill. Eastsound Station responded with both Rescue and Engine then requested a response from the Eastside to keep traffic away from the safety hazard. The road was blocked for over an hour while Opalco worked to correct the problem.
Saturday, December 20th
Santa Claus In Friday Harbor
( Ernest Pugh, one of Santa's storybook readers, starts the evening off)
Everyone was invited to a holiday festivity in Friday Harbor on Friday, but really it was for the kids to sit next to Santa and have their photo taken, and in spite of the cold and snow, folks showed up and stood in line (see photo below). For those who missed it, they can still e-mail Santa at Santa@rockisland.com
Santa had beautiful teddy bears for every boy and girl….young and old, and elves and nibbles on home-made cookies. There were also decorations to make and trees to decorate.
Friday, December 19th
County Fined $10K For Open Sewage Dumps
(Sewage lagoon on Lopez -SJC photo))
Even after warnings and threats of fines, San Juan County failed to properly close open sewage dumping sites on Lopez and Orcas. The county was required to complete the closure and plant vegetation at two lagoons on Lopez Island, and remove sewage from two lagoons on Orcas Island.
Now, six years later, the county has been fined $10,000.00 by the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology)
Why now, one might ask. After all, citizens had complained for years that, at the very least, the one on Lopez was a danger. There was a gate, but anyone, human or animal, could walk around the gate and follow a path down to what appeared to be a shallow flooded area, that was in fact a sewage lagoon.
The lagoon was used to dump the contents of pumped out septic tanks. And who knows how many dogs and cats stuck their nose into it before going home, and may have licked an owner on the kisser.
Governor Scuttles Sidney Ferry Run? Maybe.
The Governor’s proposed budget cuts out the Sidney ferry run, and the potential impact on the tourist economy good be significant. The budget proposal would save the state over $9 million dollars -or would it?
Making the cut would hit San Juan County, but some say the hit to the state as a whole would have even greater consequences, and could be a false savings.
Senator elect Kevin Ranker has repeatedly stated the Sidney, and the San Juan ferry runs, are a strong draw to those planning summer trips to the northwest, and the loss to the state wide economy would be “huge.”
The Sidney route has been in place since 1920, but in recent years it has been a financial drain on the operation budget of the ferry system.
In any case, the Governor’s budget is a draft, and even in final form the State Legislature is bound to make some changes. One thing is sure, and that is the push to retain the Sidney run will now increase. Budget highlights here
Thursday, December 18th
Christmas Band Will Play On
The Friday Harbor Strolling Christmas band, which has appeared on Spring St. for most of the past 20 or so years, is scheduled to stroll and play Christmas Carols from 1 to 2 pm, or so, on Saturday, December 20.
The band will play on the Spring Street corners -and in any store that will have them. These 6 brass musicians love seeing the shoppers' faces light up when they hear the music.
Wednesday, December 17th
Winter Wonder Land & Swans
Mary Kalbert, intrepid traveler, and columnist for the Island Guardian, did not have to travel far for the photo shot above.
Mary and husband John live next to a large lake on San Juan Island, and each year pairs of Trumpeter Swans winter over; and of course there are their little ducky friends that seem to follow them around the lake.
Storm Returns With Snow
(Storm damage to dock on Orcas. Portions were torn off later in the day)
The warming weather of Tuesday has been replaced by a new snow storm that slid into the county early Wednesday morning, covering the roads with snow, and providing new challenges both on land and sea.
“At this point, we’d really like to encourage drivers to stay off the roads if at all possible.” said County Public Works Director Jon Shannon. “Our crews have been working hard, and will continue to do so, but at the rate the snow is falling right now, it’ll be tough to keep some island roads from being very, very slippery. The more cars on the road, the harder it is for us to keep them clear.” explained Shannon.
Gail warnings for boats have been posted for for rest of the week, citing northeast winds of 30 to 40 knots and wind waves of 4 to 7 feet, and gusts up to 30+ mph on land.
As of Wednesday morning the predictions are for improvements by Thursday, but falling snow again this weekend.
County Council Call-In
(Councilmen Rich Peterson & Howard Rosenfeld in person, Knapp, Lichter, and Myhr represented by microphones and name plates -S. Matthews photo)
The County Council held their meetings on Monday and Tuesday by telephone. San Juan Island Council member’s Rosenfeld and Peterson showed up for work, while Orcas members Gene Knapp and Alan Lichter stayed home, and along with Lopez member Bob Myhr called in on an all-day conference call.
After checking with Prosecuting Attorney Randy Gaylord, the council conducted County business, made motions and voted on action items. Gaylord told them that as long as they stated their names when making motions and voting, it was legal to proceed.
As for Councilman Kevin Ranker, he was excused from meetings this week. It was not clear for what reason, but in any case the question was purely academic, since he will be out of County office in January, when he takes on his new position as a State Senator.
County Administrator Pete Rose reported that only eleven county employees failed to show up for work due to the storm.
Tuesday, December 16th
The Southern Resident Orca Population Crashes In 2008: Starvation
By Mark Anderson
The plight of our resident killer whales has become as simple to understand as is the most likely means of saving them. After years of argument driven as much by money as by science, we have suddenly, unfortunately, reached a moment when the causes and remedial actions are relatively clear.
I am writing this in the aftermath of a rather successful meeting organized by Puget Sound Partnership on the subject of “What is killing the whales, and what can be done about it?” This Friday Harbor Labs gathering inluded William Ruckelshaus, chair of the government-mandated study group, and representatives from National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA, other scientists, and interested NGOs such as The Whale Museum and Orca Relief. Joe Gaydos, head of SeaDoc Society, moderated.
The meeting was called in the wake of the loss of seven orca during the 2008 season, including two breeding females. The primary question of the meeting, reconciled rather quickly, was answered by general agreement that the proximal cause of the orca deaths was starvation.
So, here is the first of three key points that local residents will want to understand:
Monday, December 15th
Winter Storms & Your Water System
Here are some thoughts from the EWUA (Eastsound Water Users Association). but it is good advice for everyone in the county regarding efforts people should be taking to minimize the consequences of this extended period of winter cold weather.
• Keep a supply of water set aside in pitchers, coolers, milk jugs and such. There have been multiple reports of freezing water lines, and you want a back up supply of water prepared should your lines freeze.
• If your home has a history of freezing water lines, it might be wise to keep the faucet furthest from your incoming water line dripping to keep the water moving in the pipes. This reduces the risk of freeze up. A drip is all that is needed, just a drip. One faucet dripping hot water, another dripping cold water is best. Perhaps you only need to have the water dripping at night when it is coldest.
Sunday, December 14th
Icy Roads, County Open on Schedule
More snow in the forecast, with the National Weather Service forecasting more snow Tuesday night & into Wednesday. High temperatures at or below freezing through the end of the week.
Long term weather models saying it might stay near or below freezing until the end of the year.
The District Court, Auditor’s Office, Treasurer’s office and Assessor were all staffed by 8:30 a.m. Monday, though a few employees were delayed by slick roads -and in one case- a downed tree blocking a driveway.
Some accommodations were made - Council Members Gene Knapp and Alan Lichter of Orcas, and Bob Myhr who lives on Lopez, all participated in the Monday Council work session via conference call, rather than travel to Friday Harbor.
The Solid Waste Advisory Committee (SWAC), cancelled it’s 11:45 a.m. meeting. SWAC Chair George Post said he would reschedule the session for later in the month -if possible. The committee has been working long hours to produce a recommendation to the Council on a site for the replacement of the San Juan Island Transfer Station.
Public Works Operations Manager Russ Harvey said that County road crews worked late Saturday and all day Sunday sanding priority areas and clearing fallen tree limbs. “Conditions are pretty consistent county-wide,” he said. “We have compacted snow and ice on most roads. People need to drive carefully.”
Sheriff Bill Cumming reported surprisingly few weather-related problems. “We’ve had a few people slip off the road, but no serious accidents. For the most part people are paying attention and driving slow and carefully.”
Brendan Cowan, Director of Emergency Management, said it is worth taking a moment to reminder islanders of a few key things:
Ice On the Roads
Be careful out there, reports coming in of trucks and cars sliding off of the road. As the snow is compressed by traffic, it quickly becomes ice. Some of the roads have small markers on white posts that turn blue when the tempture falls to below freezing (photo above). Watch out for those shaded portions on any of the road that can stay iced even after the sun comes out.
The Big Storm passed us by, but an inch or two dropped to remind us it is in fact winter. Depending on who is predicting, we have a 70% chance of more snow today, but there seems to be a consensus the first part of the week will be snow less, but by Wednesday one forecast shows "Snow Likely", with a low of 24 F.
Saturday, December 13th
And Speaking of Storms...
The County Council is seeking volunteers for the Citizen’s Storm Water Advisory Committee. The purpose of the committee is to provide advice to the County Council and make recommendations on matters pertaining to storm water including capital facilities, projects, priorities of projects and other policy matters related to the operation of an effective stormwater utility.
Seven members will be appointed, one from each Council member district, and one member at large. Each member shall be appointed for a term of four years, the dates of which shall coincide with the full term of the respective Council member district.
Those interested in volunteering on this committee may email firstname.lastname@example.org or call #378-2898.
The Christmas Spirit In FH
Holiday cheer was recently shared by the 3rd grade classes from the Friday Harbor Elementary School with the residents of the Islands Convalescent Center on San Juan Island.
The kids shared bulbs they grew into flowers, handmade holiday cards and the requisite songs of the season. Ms. deGavre, Ms. Harley and Mrs. Clark's classes were introduced to the residents; and the students learned that some of these seniors were oceanographers, librarians, and music composers in their careers.
It was a magical time for all involved! Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!
Friday, December 12th
Bike-Crosswalk-Car = Accident
(First responders attend to accident victim in Friday Harbor)
Early morning darkness, rain, and riding a bike in a pedestrian cross-walk led to an accident in Friday Harbor on Friday Morning.
A witness to the accident said a young girl on her way to school rode her bicycle into the side of a car that was in the act of crossing the intersection of Spring Street and Blair. The witness said the car was leaving the intersection when it was struck in the rear section by the bicyclist crossing in the marked cross-walk.
The car stopped at the moment of impact and Witnesses rushed to the aid of the girl. First responders were quickly on the scene. The accident is under investigation by the Sheriff’s office.
The cross-walk in question is the newly installed one that resulted in some controversy when it was installed.
Sunday: "Who Dunit?" On Lopez
On Dec 14, there will be a fundraiser at the Lopez Center for Community and the Arts (www.lopezcenter.com) starting at 5 pm. The benefit is to raise funds and awareness for the land adjacent to Odlin Park on Lopez Island known locally as Odlin south.
The land was recently inspected by Rep Morris and Quall, both of whom pledged to work toward helping to protect the land from future development.
This event is sponsored by the Lopez Center for Community and the Arts and the Lopez Artist Guild. Tax deductible donations for Odlin South Preservation Project are being accepted by the San Juan County Land Bank.
Thursday, December 11th
State Auditor Nixes FH Stop Work Payment
Noise, dirt, and most of all, the blocking of parking places, has upset some of the business owners in Friday Harbor as work crews move slowly though town installing a new sewer line.
If the shop keepers were concerned in the early fall when work started, they have become down right grouchy as the Christmas shopping time arrived, So what with a lousy economy, off island competition, and now blocked off streets and stores, and no place for parking..well, what to do?
CC Considers Hiring Lobbyist For $3,000 A Month - Lichter & Myhr Opposed
At the County Council work session last Monday, Councilman Kevin Ranker formally introduced Richard Little, a contract Lobbyist for the City of Bellingham, to the council members for a presentation of how he could aid the council in the “advancement of legislative priorities” in Olympia.
Some of the council members had already met with Mr. Little, and in response to a question from Ranker as to what their impressions had been, Chairman Howard Rosenfeld said “He gives the impression of being very confident, and would be an excellent choice;” but added that “the question for me…is this something we can afford; it’s three thousand dollars a month.”
30 Years & Counting
(Council Chair Howard Rosenfeld congratulates Carol Legate for 30 years of Service as [L to R] Gene Knapp & Rich Peterson watch -photos S. Matthews)
Each year at about this time the County honors employees at an awards ceremony at a regular County Council meeting. At its meeting Tuesday, the San Juan County Council recognized 16 employees for their service to the county; for periods ranging from 5 years to 30 years.
Carol LeGate, office manager for the Health and Community Services Department, recalled that she was asked if she could come work, “For a year.” That was in 1978 she said.
Ms. LeGate and the other employees were each presented with a certificate of appreciation, a service pin, and a personal thank you from each member of the Council.
List of the employees honored and additional photos:
Wednesday, December 10th
$51+ Million County Budget Passed
$51,592,880.00 county budget was approved and passed by the County Council on Tuesday. The good news? That is a $16,738.00 decrease over the budget amount presented at the past public hearing on the budget; but the bad news is the County reserve (money to pay the bills at the end of year) is now less than the County Administrator, the Auditor, and the rest of the Budget Team had recommended.
There was -in the words of Councilman Kevin Ranker- a request in the eleventh hour and fifty-nine minutes, for $25,000.00 to be added back into the budget.
Turtleback Plan Passed With Council Review In Six Months
The County Council held a public hearing Tuesday (December 9) on a Turtleback Management Plan, (story) but no one from the public showed up to testify.
Normally this would have meant a quick approval of the Draft Management Plan pdf (1094\k file), but that was not the case on Tuesday.
A problem for the council was they were not happy with the lack of a clear public use plan, but they are not allowed to change what is presented to them by the Land Bank, they can only approve it or reject it, so in order to have some control over details, the council voted to pass the Plan, but required the Land Bank to “come back in six months with a progress report of how it is moving ahead with this plan.”
Council Will Hold Special Meeting To Pass Revised Ord Increasing Weed Tax
The county council will hold a special meeting (Monday January the 5) for a pubic hearing to receive public input on a revised ordinance.pdf (6\k file) to increase the tax for the Noxious Weed Board.
The decision was made at the regular Tuesday council meeting. Neither the ordinance nor the subject had been on the agenda for the Monday council meeting, but at that meeting the new ordinance was discussed, and it was decided to place the matter on the agenda for the meeting on Tuesday. ( Related story on Original ordinance )
United Way Of SJC
For more than a decade, United Way of San Juan County has worked with local programs in the county to make a significant community impact; helping hundreds of individuals, children and families throughout the county.
United Way states the will provide essential support to more than thirty human services programs in 2009.
The United Way Board is made up of local professionals who carefully screen how donations are spent in order to make certain that real changes come about because of your investment.
Tuesday, December 9th
Turtleback Revised Draft Plan Ready For Comment
The County Council will hold a public hearing today (Tuesday, December 9) on a Turtleback Management Plan. While the plan is pertinent to Orcas, the Council will hold the public hearing on San Juan Island (2:20 pm in the Legislative Bldg. Hearing Room across from the courthouse).
Councilman Kevin Ranker recently cast a lone protest “no” vote on a Land Bank project, not because he was opposed to the project, but as a way of getting the Land Bank’s attention on the proposed controversial restrictive public use of land on Turtleback.
Noxious Weeds Tax Sprouts Up Again
The County Council voted at their Monday work session to review a new proposed ordinance that will increase the property tax that is dedicated to the noxious weed board.
When the County Council held a public hearing last October on increasing the property tax for the SJC Noxious Weed Board, there was a large turn out of citizens, that were not in favor of the increase, but supportive of the program as it was, and is. The council failed to pass the ordinance, then continued the hearing to a future date.
Later in October at the second go at passing the ordinance, Councilman Ranker realized the votes were not there to pass the ordinance, so he suggested they put off voting on the proposed ordinance until Councilman Alan Lichter (a supporter of the increased tax) returned from an excused absence. There was much discussion, but to the later surprise of some of the members, Chairman Rosenfeld did not in fact quite get around to calling for a vote on a continuance of the hearing,
At the council’s Monday work session (December 8) the weed board members were back for a discussion with the council on a new pruned down proposal for an increased tax.
Monday, December 8th
5.66% Increase In Dump Fees Approved
The County Council pass an ordinance adopting a 5.66% increase in fees for solid waste services.
A staff report (pdf (24\k file) by Public Works Director Jon Shannon gives the background and the reasons for the proposed increase:
Saturday, December 6th
County Housing Needs Assessment Ready For Review & Comment
CD&PD (Community Development & Planning) has just made available for review the 2008-2025 Housing Needs Assessment.pdf (287\k file) for San Juan County.
There are three options given at the end of the study: 1. Do Nothing; 2. Plan for a work force that does not live in the county, and 3. Develop an effective response to a shortage of housing.
The Housing Element of the SJC Comprehensive Plan is required to have "an inventory and analysis of existing and projected housing needs that identifies the number of housing units necessary to manage projected growth," and the new assessment study was done as a part of producing the other released document, the draft Housing Element.pdf (122\k file); which will update the Comprehensive Plan
The study is full of interesting facts, some of which contradict some of the standard understandings of our local economy and our housing needs.
One example is "the percentage of total personal income that comes from transfer payments such as interest, dividends or rent." Not tourism, not construction. "Currently approximately 46% of total personal income in the county is derived from investments while only 27% is derived from wages."
Public meetings on the Housing Element will be scheduled for January, and the Housing Needs Assessment and the Draft Comp Plan element will be reviewed by the Planning Commission at a public hearing on December 17 (Islander’s Bank Annex) for their consideration and discussion.
Election Cycle Complete
By Milene Henley
With the requested recount now complete, the San Juan County Elections Office has completed the 2008 election cycle. And what a year it was! Starting with a Presidential Primary in February, continuing with the first ever “Top 2” Primary in August, and culminating with a historic Presidential race in November, it was definitely a year for the history books.
The Presidential race, which captured more attention than any in recent years, drove high voter registrations and even higher voter turnout. Statewide, Washington voters turned out in higher numbers than ever before, 84.61% of registered voters, voting in November.
Friday, December 5th
Lion's Club Shopping Spree at King's Market
(John Towson hands Kathleen Marshall the winning ticket -picked at random by the helpful hand of young Evyn Johnson)
The Lion's Club held its annual Thanksgiving Shopping Spree by selling raffle tickets at King's Market and Market Place. On Sunday, November 23, 2008, the Lions enlisted the help of 5-year old Evyn Johnson of Friday Harbor to draw the winning names.
The winner of the shopping spree was Ann Walbert, who graciously donated her winnings to the Food Bank. The Lions Club collected $480 worth of groceries during the four-minute run through the store, filling approximately 5 shopping carts. Kings donated another $50 worth of meat.
Three runners-up won turkeys: West & Sue Davis, Debbie Cutting, and Tony Vivenzio.
Thursday, December 4th
How NOT To Win Friends & InFLUence People
//Spread the word about the influenza vaccine, not the virus//
If you’ve ever had influenza, or “the flu,” you know it is far worse than the common cold. And while you lay in bed, exhausted, suffering from fever, body aches and terrible congestion for a week or so, you probably wondered who to blame for your illness and plotted revenge against the person who passed the flu on to you.
But you may not realize that you were one of the lucky ones. Each year, on average, 36,000 Americans die of complications from the flu, and more than 200,000 are hospitalized.
This year, take action:
Local Teacher Achieves Recognition
Beth Spaulding has met the rigorous National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), and The San Juan Island School District is very proud of this fact, not the least of which is the fact she is the first to earn such certification in the District.
The NBPTS certification is not awarded, but earned by proof of ability in one’s profession. The NBPTS -an independent, nonprofit, and nonpartisan organization- was founded in 1987 to create a system of advanced certification for teachers. National Board Certification is a voluntary assessment program designed to identify, recognize and reward accomplished teachers who are able to meet high and rigorous national standards.
Saturday FH Breakfast with Santa
the 7th annual Breakfast with Santa in Friday Harbor is this Santurday, Dec 6th, at the Mullis Center.
The breakfast begins at 10:30 AM -Tickets are $15.00, and In addition to a a delicious breakfast, there will also be Face painting, Holiday music, and the play "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas", all performed by members of San Juan Pony Club.
A professional photographer will be there with SANTA, and for an additional $10.00 a photo will be taken with you and Santa. This popular San Juan Pony Club fundraiser supports the local chapter of the International Pony Club, which feeds many eventing riders into the Olympic horse events and Rolex championships.
This year, the National USPC Championships will be help in Western Washington, and a local group hopes to attend -Tickets available at Downriggers, Pony Club members, or call Deb Eshelman at 370-5957-
Wednesday, December 3rd
Orcas Recount Finds No Errors
The San Juan County Elections Office accepted an application for a manual recount in the San Juan County District 4 County Council race. The request was submitted by Mindy Kayl, who lost to Richard Fralick in that race. In the final count of the 1,921 ballots cast, Fralick received 947 votes, Kayl received 827 votes, and there were 12 write-in votes and 136 undervotes.
The recount was completed December 4, and the results were found to be the same as the original count. Because the vote was not close enough to trigger a mandatory recount, Kayl will be required to pay for the cost of the re-count.
CC Returns Some Budget Cuts
The County Council held a public hearing on the 2009 budget, and after hearing testimony from elected officials, department heads, county employees, and members of the public, all of whom were opposed to the cuts in the budget, the Council voted to “reinstate” a number of the cuts they had previously made.
The original cuts were made to balance the budget based on having a projected budget reserve -the money needed to pay the bills at the end of the year- of $1.5 million. The ending reserve was reduced to $1.3 million by the reinstatement of programs
Adding To Odlin Park
(L to R: Rep. Jeff Morris; Councilman Bob Myhr; Rep. Dave Quall, and Councilman Alan Lichter -followed by Council elect Lovel Pratt- in Odlin Park)
It may be wet, and it may have been logged in 1990, but the San Juan County Land Bank and representatives of Odlin Park are joined by many in an effort to obtain land from the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) to increase the size of Odlin Park on Lopez.
The Land Bank has printed and distributed a brochure.pdf (2914\k file) on their desire to “purchase this land from the DNR with private and public monies for public, for nonmotorized recreational use by all.”
Tuesday, December 2nd
Fee Increases Passed for CD&P, Fire Inspections & Parks
The County Council approved rental subsidies for seniors, and a new 0.1% tax for mental health programs (stories below), and then increased the fees for Building and Planning (CD&P), for inspections by the Fire Marshal, and fees for the Parks department.
the fee increases will result in increased revenues of about $70,000 per year for CD&P; $10,000.00 for the Fire Marshall, and $15,000.00 per year for Parks; but the most controversial aspect of the proposal was an increase in the usage fees for the Eastsound Village Green site, which are projected to be an increase from 40 to 100%; "depending on the season and commercial or non-commercial status of the event."
The joint staff report (43\k file) by CD&P, Fire Marshall and Parks lays out the reasons for the increases.
0.1% Tax Passed By County Council
The County has passed a proposal to impose a one-tenth of one percent (0.1%) sales and use tax to fund a therapeutic court -which they understand may not be needed- and to deal with mental health and chemical dependency treatment services. However, the money can be used for prevention programs in the schools, and in the event that a therapeutic court is found to be needed, the money will be in place to start it.
Current funding from the state is currently $700,000.00, with local support limited to approximately $79,000 each year. According to a staff report, this not sufficient, but passage of the new tax will result in an increase “as much as $357,000.00 each year.”
Council Member Rich Peterson cast the dissenting vote, citing the County’s budget problems, and suggested the matter should be put to a vote of the people, since it is new tax, albeit it a small one.
Council Member Gene Knapp supported the proposal saying, “It’s one of those things where you pay a little bit now or more later. Financially it’s smart . . . but primarily it is the humane thing to do.”
Council Members Lichter, Myhr, Knapp, Ranker and Council Chair Rosenfeld supported the measure.
Low Income Seniors To Get Help
“Shall the San Juan County Homeless Plan be revised to include rental subsidies for
extremely low income seniors for the purpose of preventing homelessness?” The answer is “Yes.”
The Council received testimony on the subject from the Housing Bank Commission at a public hearing, and then moved the question to action by use of the Consent Agenda -that is, they agreed to proceed, and have now adopted the change.
Annual funding for this program is limited to 50 percent of the revenues collected from the previous year or $37,000, whichever is greater (balance is currently $124,058).
The staff report states “The maximum rent levels allowed are defined by the Washington State Housing Finance Commission’s published maximum rent levels per unit type with 40 percent set-aside, which is currently $487 for a one bedroom.”
The report indicates the “ historic rent levels are reviewed to assure rents are not increased unreasonably to take advantage of this program. If a property’s historic rent levels have been at the published 30 or 35 percent levels, the lower level will be used to determine the subsidy.”