Letters to Editor
To Contact the Editor
Monday, January 5th
Keep The Dump or Move The Dump??
How would you vote on the question of building a new transfer station? Upgrade and keep it where it is, or build a new facility on a new site? Whatever site is selected, the cost will be paid by all county property owners.
Send an email to Editor, and state your vote in the Subject line by typing in either: “KEEP IT” or “MOVE IT”
To have your vote counted, you must include your name, and your address , so we have a record that you are who you are, and are not someone voting using your name.
Read Letters on Transfer Station Issue; and email your own letter to the firstname.lastname@example.org And, if you wish, also email a copy to email@example.com
We will tally the total votes, post them on the front page, and forward them to the County Council members.
The County Council will make the decision, not the voters, but that does not mean the voters cannot be heard. The only chance voters on San Juan island may have to vote on the island dump issue is to vote on the Island Guardian.
This may be the only time you can vote on this important -and expensive- proposal that will have an impact on San Juan Island -and the county as a whole- for decades to come.
Health Department Budget Cuts Services
//12/30/2008// 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:
Loss Of Money To Impact Parks
//12/26/2008 // 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.
CC Considers Hiring Lobbyist For $3,000 A Month - Lichter & Myhr Opposed
//12/11/2008 // 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.”
Noxious Weeds Tax Sprouts Up Again
//12/09/2008// 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.
Transfer Station Choice Delayed
11/25/2008 The SWAC (Solid Waste Advisory Committee) met Monday at 11:45 at the Fire Station on Mullis Avenue to continue a discussion on site selection for a new transfer station on San Juan Island, but were unable to reach agreement.
They did agree to hold another meeting (same time, same place) on December 15th to continue working on choosing a new site, or approving the existing site.
The County Council has been waiting for a recommendation from the SWAC as to which site would be the best location for construction of a new transfer station on San Juan Island.
On Monday the SWAC made a list of the pros and cons of the three sites that are on the list of potential sites, but were unable to reach a clear indication as to which is the committees’ choice.
So far the SWAC has been unable to make a selection, in part due to a lack of complete information upon which to judge the various sites presented to them by Public Works as candidates.
CC Rejects New Weed Tax
//11/19/2008 // Expressing concerns that now is not the time to spend $186,992.31 in additional funding for the weed board, The County Council voted down a proposal for additional staff time and associated costs.
Councilman -and State Senator elect- Kevin Ranker was supportive of the proposal because -in part- of the possible job losses involved. The proposal would add over $130.00.00 to the budget to fund a field coordinator and an assistant coordinator.
In the discussion period the council was told the weed board spends 30% of their time as advisors and giving technical support to the Land Bank and to Public Works, but only the Land Bank has paid them for their services.
Council Passes Critical Aquifer Ordinance
//11/19/2008// In a split vote, the County Council voted Tuesday to designate all of San Juan County as a CARA (Critical Aquifer Recharge Area).
There was very little support for the ordinance at the first public hearing, and a concern by the Council that the proposal had not been well publicized, so it was decided to delay making a decision until additional information could be received (see: "Critical Area Designation Delayed"), but by Tuesday the Council was ready to vote on the matter.
Councilman Alan Lichter was not present, but councilmen Knapp, Rosenfeld, Myhr and Ranker voting for it, while Councilman Rich Peterson voted against.
“There is a common sense test that it does not meet. Calling the entire county a CARA is simply not correct,” he said.
Peterson suggested that the rules be passed, but that only those areas known to have critical areas -and need to be so classified and adopted as such in order to reach GMA compliance- be included.
Staff said that could be done, and could do so without going back for new public hearings.
Councilman Bob Myhr said including the whole county was “the best way to go right now.”
Ranker moved for adoption with a two year sunset clause so they could take a second look at it at that time.
Motion passed with Peterson voting against.
Essential Public Facilities Ord Moved Forward
//11/06/2008 Making some changes recommended by staff, the Council voted to hold another meeting -and will allow public testimony- November 18th, on the revised EPF ( Essential Public Facilities Ordinance).
While Prosecuting Attorney Randy Gaylord had expressed concerns about the changes made to the ordinance when the Planning Commission had made ( Previous Story ) their recommendations, Council members had concerns that a EPF could be added to the list without Council review.
Staff said that there would be a new process to add or remove what would appear on an approved list of what is an EPF.
Councilman Bob Myhr said it would be a “really bad policy” if the council could not rule on what appeared on the list.
Gaylord said the current process will remain as is, which gives the council that power, and that will not change.
Additional discussion resulted in minor changes. Gaylord said they would “make the changes you approve, and re-published this prior to the next meeting.
Peterson moved to move the ordinance, with the changes, to a public hearing on November 18th,
Alan Lichter amended the motion to include a requirement that the council receive the revised ordinance one week prior to the meeting.
This final point was intended to send a message to staff that the council did not want to be rushed into having to make a decision, without receiving all the information, and in time to review it.
Bob Myhr decided to abstain from voting, not because he was opposed to the ordinance, but because he was “not happy with the process.”
Once the revised ordinance is made available, it will be posted on the Island Guardian and on the county website.
CC Cuts Stormwater Fee 90%
//11/05/2008 // Citing concerns that now is not the time to impose new fees -or raise taxes- and after reducing the Capital Service Charge fees by 90%, the County Council passed a storm water funding ordinance on Tuesday.
The ordinance does retain a base fee of $22.97 that everyone will pay, but the fees to fund actual projects (capital improvement) was reduced (as shown below)
The new ordinance is the result of a years work by the three member council sub-committee of Gene Knapp, Rich Peterson, and Howard Rosenfeld. The new ordinance replaces the one the voters rejected last year in the county’s first referendum.
Only two members of the public showed up for the public hearing on Tuesday, and both spoke against the ordinance as proposed.
Essential Public Facilities Ord “Not Legal”
11/04/2008 A public hearing today ((Nov 4, 2008 at 2:00 p.m) on a proposed amendment to San Juan County’s Comprehensive Plan To Allow For EPF (Essential Public Facilities) has got off to a rough start (Related Story).
County Prosecutor Randy Gaylord and staff members of Public Works have questioned the legality of the PC (Planning Commission) recommendations that limit where EPFs can be placed without a full review, and “a standard is proposed for future siting regulations which would likely have the effect of indirectly precluding” where an EPF could be placed.
PW (Public Works) had objected to the PC members that PW needed to have a free hand when it came to placing and designing EPFs, examples of which were included in a list that PW wanted approved included barge landings and dump sites.
"Old" Regulations May Not Stop A New Dump
//11/03/2008// The County Council held a public hearing Tuesday to present AN ORDINANCE Amending San Juan County’s Comprehensive Plan To Allow For EPF (Essential Public Facilities) that may solve the problem of siting such things as dumps and barge landings in areas that would normally prohibit them.
According to the Staff Report, it is the legal opinion of the County that “Regulations may not preclude the siting, expansion or operation of Essential Public Facilities" and it is not necessary to mitigate negative environmental impacts, since only "reasonable mitigation of adverse impacts" is required.
Peterson: “Stormwater Fees Counter Productive”
//11/04/2008 County Councilman Rich Peterson has had second thoughts on the wisdom of moving forward with the new proposed Storm Water Funding Ordinance. Peterson has sent a memo to the Council stating that he had conducted research that lead him to withdraw his support for any fees other than a “base fee” to fund the stormwater ordinance that is up for a Public Hearing today (Nov 4, 2008) at 2:00 p.m.
Peterson told the Council that he had received requested research that indicated San Juan County is one of 9 counties that are non-compliant, and 14 of the 39 counties in the state are “eligible for a 3-year extension” to meet GMA (Growth Management Act) storm water compliance..
A ”Stormwater Ordinance Brief” sent to the Council by Communications program manager Stan Matthews states the "most urgent GMA compliance issue is the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board’s order of June 2006 concerning non-compliance in Eastsound.”
CC: Need More Info On New Housing Program
//10/29/2008// A staff report and presentation by SJC Affordable Housing Coordinator Angela Lausch (photo rightwas discussed by the County Council on Tuesday. The Staff Report (70\k file) in support of a Housing Authority summed of the need as resulting from the large number of low paying jobs.
The report states that “local businesses (and government) already place high housing costs as their greatest obstacle to recruiting workers and that with an aging workforce this problem will only grow worse.”
While the Council has been supportive of affordable housing, they did not great the idea of a new program very warmly. Councilman Gene Knapp said “I think we have ample government at this time.”
Critical Area Designation Delayed
10/28/2008 A public hearing on Monday (see related story below) to designate San Juan County a Critical Area Resource Area (CARA) drew a standing room only crowd, and all who testified agreed aquifers need to be protected but -with one exception- they also objected to declaring all of San Juan County a “critical” aquifer.
Senior Planner Shireene Hale, and Vicki Heater from Environmental Health department, (photo above) gave an overview of the proposed ordinance, and answered questions from the County Council.
Hale said that only minor changes were made in the existing ordinance to both update it to be in compliance with the law, and to make some changes that would make it easer for businesses to comply.
One other important advantage she said, is a change that will allow sewer and water to be extended outside of an Urban Growth Area (UGA), without having to apply for a variance.
There was testimony -and follow up questions from the Council- as to why it is necessary to declare the whole county a critical aquifer, if there are already controls and regulations in place to protect the aquifers.