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Tuesday, February 28th

Salary Commission Appointments - Who Does What?



Since the passage of the Charter, the new County Council has been struggling with how to set up the Citizens Salary Commission that is required by the Charter. The Commission will set the amount of money the Council earns, and also will set the salaries of the Assessor, Auditor, County Clerk, Sheriff, Treasurer and the Prosecuting Attorney. If the former BOCC members, who are now Councilman, have sometimes seemed to be in a somewhat state of denial as to the sudden lost of their executive powers to a County Administrator, they are also clearly struggling with how the selecting and appointing of folks who will be setting their salary, and the salary of the other county leaders, will proceed.

The problem of who-does-what, has to do with who appoints these people. For the first six members of the commission, there is no argument, as the Charter clearly states these "shall be randomly selected by the County Auditor" who will "provide the names of the persons so selected for appointment..". Simple enough, but "The remaining four of the ten…shall be appointed by the County Council in collaboration with the County Administrator". And then the question becomes, what does "collaboration" mean in this context, and within the broader context of law and accompanying legal precedent?


[more..]


Thursday, February 16th

FH Port Seeks Comment: 6 to 20yr Master Plan



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(L to R: Port Staff Marilyn O'Connor & Steve Simpson. At the table: Commissioners Mike Ahrenius, Greg Hertel & Barbara Marrett at a recent Port Work Meeting on the Master Plan)

Port Commissioners held a work session recently to work on what may be the final details of a long term plan for the Friday Harbor airport and seaplane operations, and now The Port of Friday Harbor will hold an open house and briefing on the Draft Friday Harbor Airport and Seaplane Base Draft Master Plan Update at 5:30 p.m. Thursday February 16th.

The public will be able to ask questions and receive answers about the Plan from Port staff and planners. The event will be held Ernie's Cafe at the end of Airport Circle Drive -which is the first road to the left when you enter the airport (look for signs).

The Master Plan will be presented by planners who were hired by the Port to assist with developing the twenty year plan. The Port of Friday Harbor sponsors the airport and receives financing, guidance and assistance from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The airport is the seventh most active airport in Washington State and is classified as a Primary Airport; which means it is recognized as a significant part of the country's air transportation system.

Additional information may be obtained at the Port Office and by contacting Steve Simpson at the Port of Friday Harbor: 378-2688

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Wednesday, February 15th

Controversial Ranker Visit to PC Meeting



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(Councilman Ranker & Randy Gaylord at Planning Commission Meeting(

Councilman Ranker's decision to ignore the advice of the Prosecuting Attorney, and the Chair of the Council, to drop-in and watch the Planning Commission struggle with the on-going review of the ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit) draft Ordinance, an Ordinance that was sent to them by the Council for their review and input, has resulted in controversy as to the appropriateness of his visit

As the meeting was in session, Ranker strode into the meeting room and sat down next to County Prosecutor Randy Gaylord. His sudden appearance was immediately noticed by PC Chair Agosta, who interrupted the proceedings to announce to the Commission that "I want to point out that Councilman Ranker has joined us", and then addressed Ranker by informing him that it made it uncomfortable for the Commission members to freely express their views when a Councilman is observing. Ranker replied that he was "just a fly on the wall", to which Agosta asked if he was "attending as a Councilman or as a private citizen"? Ranker replied that he was a Councilman, but he was not there to speak, only to listen.

Randy Gaylord told The Guardian that Ranker has asked him if it was alright to attend the meeting, and that Gaylord advised him that while legally he could attend, it was bad form for him to do so, and that it "has always been, it is, and always will be, the advice of the Prosecutors office, that the Council members not attend Planning Commission meetings, so as to avoid any suggestion or hint, that there is an attempt to influence the Commission's deliberations, or the process", and added that "it is important to maintain a separation of powers in government".

When Council Chair Lichter became aware of Ranker's plan to sit in on part of the meeting, he also advised against it, telling him "I don't think it is a very good idea", to which Ranker responded "It's okay, I checked with Randy". The Guardian asked Town Prosecutor Don Eaton what the Town policy was on Council members attending their Planning Commission meetings, and he also said the while it is legal for Council members to attend legislative sessions of the Commission, it would not be legal for them to attend quasi-judicial sessions, but any visits would be bad form, and if there was any action, by body language, uttering sighs, nodding or shaking of the head, that would be very bad form, and not advised, so as to not take a chance of that happening, he has always informed the Council not to attend any Commission meetings.

At one point during Ranker's stint as a "fly on the wall", he vigorously nodded his head in agreement with the direction the dialog was going by the Commission, and when asked by The Guardian if he realized he had done that, he said that he did, and as soon as he did, he caught himself and stopped, but that no one saw him do it, because he checked to see if any of the Commissioners were watching him, and they were not, they were looking at Randy Gaylord -who was sitting directly next to Ranker.

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Windstorm Creates Emergency? CC Says Yes



Brendan Cowan, Director of SJC Emergency Management, submitted a draft Resolution to the CC on Tuesday, that declare a state of emergency within SJ County. According to the Resolution, the emergency resulted from "especially strong windstorms…combined with a high tide and a storm surge to inundate many low-lying coastal areas in the County, and toppled trees throughout the County".

As a result of the storm damage, the Council decided the "resources of SJ County will not be sufficient to meet the requirements of the situation; and may require Statutory emergency powers.."

In other words, there is Federal and State money out there that the County may be able to obtain, if the County can convince the holders of the purse strings that San Juan County is in need of financial assistance.

Director Cowan anticipated that such an action by the Council might cause some questions to be raised by the public as they look around the county for some signs of a emergency, and so has produced a Q & A that addresses some of the most obvious questions that may be asked as a result of the Council action. The questions and answers follow:

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Griffin Bay High School Graduates



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(Cory Cymbalista, Jack McKenna, Quinn Bailey, Rina Tappan, Kim Norton and Sean Byrne celebrate graduation)

Griffin Bay High School held its first Commencement Ceremony on Saturday afternoon,
February 11, 2006 in the Middle School Commons. The four graduating seniors are Quinn Bailey, Sean Byrne, Cory Cymbalista, and Rina Tappan. Quinn Bailey, an accomplished guitarist in classic and modern styles, will pursue a higher degree in music. Cory Cymbalista will tie up loose ends here on the island prior to heading to Hawaii where a construction job awaits. He expects to join the Navy at the conclusion of the project. Rina Tappan will attend Skagit College while considering a variety of career options. Sean Byrne will move to Seattle where he will continue to develop his career as a session drummer and attend North Seattle Community College to take advantage of their program for state-of-the-art studio production.

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Wednesday, February 1st

Impact Fees? New Taxes? Maybe.



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(Joanruth Baumann of Public Works -Si Stephens in background)

For all of the complaining by both the Left and the Right about the GMA (Growth Management Act), there is at least the demand it makes that government plan ahead for the future, and to include in the plan a way of paying for the services and facilities that government is required to provide, and also for any additional services and facilities they choose to offer. On Tuesday a workshop was held by the SJ County Council on a Capital Facilities Planning Workshop. Joanruth Baumann of Public Works gave a presentation that addressed the money side of providing capital facilities.

The presentation reviewed where the County has been, where it is, and some directions it could go, to raise the money necessary to fund current and future growth for a six year period. For the purposes of the workshop, the presentation listed three general areas the Council could look into as possible funding sources:

Increase Existing Rates
● General Levy
● Road Levy (diverted Toad Levy)
● Tipping Fees and Utility rates, etc.

Borrow
● Existing Debt Service Obligations
● Capacity for Additional Debt
● Pay-As-You-Go vs. Debt

Consider New Revenue Sources
● Real Estate Excise Tax, 2nd ¼%
● Impact Fees
● SEPA Mitigation Fees
● Utility Fees

In simple terms, the two general choices given would target new development that are identified as increasing the costs of providing services, or the Council could simply increasing the fees and/or taxes of everyone who uses services. The projected costs of the Real Estate ¼% to the owner of a home assessed at $450,000 would be $1,100.00, and would -best guess- add $750,000 a year to the County coffers.

The presentation moved quickly over the "borrow" option, in that the Council, like the voters, is all too familiar with the concept. The section that got the most attention, and the most questions, was the Impact Fee option, which San Juan County had tried some years ago, but had failed to do their homework to justify the fees, and the fees were struck down by the State Supreme Court. It was readily apparent that Public Works was fully aware that the County cannot simply decide to impose a new fee on development without proving the justification and the need, and also pointed out the fees can only be used for that portion of a capital improvement expense that is the direct result of new development.

Toward the end of the presentation, Councilman Ranker said that he would like "this Council" to be the group that finally addresses the need for improved law and justice administrative and court room space; pointing out that it has been a subject of discussion for years, and nothing has been done to address it. Jon Shannon, Public Works Director, informed the Council that a consultant would be hired to do another study of the problem, and Superior Court Clerk Mary Jean Cahail told the Council that a partnership with the Town of Friday Harbor was still possible. Previous Story

Councilman Myhr said that he believed we live in a beautiful county, and yet we have neglected our buildings, and he would like to see that change. He also said that the County Council should look at a possible combination of funding sources, and that bonding should be a part of that combination. Lichter said he concurred, and Ranker also agreed. It was also decided that the Council would meet again in the near future for another workshop to further explore possible funding sources.

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