Journal Q&A: Fay Chaffee, candidate for San Juan County Council, Friday Harbor

Fay Chaffee ... candidate for San Juan County Council, Friday Harbor - File photo
Fay Chaffee ... candidate for San Juan County Council, Friday Harbor
— image credit: File photo

About this series: The Journal’s series of Candidate Q&As for the Nov. 4 election begins this week with candidates for San Juan County Council, Friday Harbor.

Upcoming in this series: Oct. 1, County Council, San Juan South — Gordy Petersen, Lovel Pratt. Oct. 8, State Senate — Kevin Ranker, Democrat; Steve Van Luven, Republican. Oct. 15, Congress — Rick Bart, Republican; Rick Larsen, Democrat.

About this position: San Juan County Council members are elected by district, serve four-year terms and receive $34,000 a year plus benefits. The County Council:

1. Is the legislative authority of the county.
2. Approves the annual county budget.
3. Is responsible for county property and funds.
4. Considers land-use appeals.
5. Provides for county infrastructure, roads and buildings.
6. Fixes the amount of county taxes according to law.
7. Serves as the county franchising authority.

Fay Chaffee
1005 Park St., Friday Harbor

Q: Should the solid waste transfer station be moved, or can the current site be modified to meet the island’s needs? Which option would be more cost-effective?

A: We have not been given costs that can be compared, one site to another. The cost estimate for the current site is one thing — but if the costs listed for development of the other sites do not include cleaning up the current site, then they are meaningless.

If the current site can be improved at a comparative cost, then my opinion would be to leave it in place, make it safe for users and staff, make it less noisy, and make it clean as possible. This is preferable to creating a brand new site, with all the various impacts to traffic and residential communities.

Q: Which areas of county government could operate more efficiently? Do you see any areas where expenses could be reduced?

A: San Juan County is in financial trouble at this time — we are spending next year’s funds right now. Yet we have recently spent over a million dollars to buy a dock and, in recent years, purchased a large property with no specific use decided upon.

The county should spend more time and energy to function within the budget, growing only when there is a proven need, and when the growth can be afforded.

Q: Some Friday Harbor officials are concerned that the town may not be able to afford the costs of providing utility services for a proposed affordable housing neighborhood near the former gravel pit. Since the town is being required to shoulder most of the island’s responsibility for affordable housing, in what ways could the county and town work together on this issue?

A: I am very sympathetic to the problems facing people here because of the high cost of housing. I am hesitant, however, to place a financial burden on a relatively small group of people, the residents of the Town of Friday Harbor (and I am one of those) to support additional affordable housing.

Mayor Jones’ advice to go slow and know the costs before we commit to a financial burden to be shared by a small percentage of people is good advice. Homes for Islanders, an affordable housing project in Friday Harbor, is not fully occupied. There are numerous rentals listed in the newspapers. The housing problem may be one that is solved by paying wages that are commensurate with the higher costs of living in San Juan County.

Q: Can the island economy be more diverse and, if so, what types of businesses or industries would you like to see locate on the island?

Low-impact industry could find a home here, providing employment while not negatively impacting the environment. The growth of tourism is inevitable, and should be guided to comfortable and enjoyable levels for tourists and island residents alike.

Q: Any concerns — economic, environmental, infrastructure, or otherwise — that you feel need to be addressed? How would you address those issues?

Providing diversity in businesses and light industry will go a long way to helping San Juan County’s economic stability, and I will strive to provide an environment that will attract this diversity.

Certain environmental controls are state-mandated and must be incorporated into our local laws. The challenge here is to meet the mandated requirements while allowing development so that owners can fully enjoy their properties.

Q: What are your priorities if elected?

A: Honesty and transparency are goals I will pursue as a County Council member. It is vitally important that the public have input into council decisions — before those decisions are made.

If elected, I will devote my time and energy to issues that have a direct impact on the Town of Friday Harbor and San Juan County. Environmental issues are looming large in our future, and finding a balance between property owners’ rights while protecting our fragile environment is something I hope to achieve.

Q: How much have you spent on your campaign? Who are your major contributors?

A: To date my campaign has spent less than $1,000, and although I hope to have contributors, to date I have financed these expenditures.

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