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Insider’s view: San Juan County Council in the spotlight | Guest Column
By Ingrid Gabriel
Clerk to the Council
While the feedback to the first Corner has been largely enthusiastic, a few readers have asked, “Is this necessary? What’s the point?” Good question.
I think the work of the Council is somewhat analogous to a duckling on the pond – what appears on the surface to observers is only part of the story. Those little webbed feet are paddling furiously underneath and propel the duckling forward. Likewise, the public has access to council meetings (either in person or via live-streaming), and the meeting minutes relay the council’s formal actions. But there’s a lot of action going on outside of the hearing room that’s worth noting.
For example, the council spent two full mornings in EDEN training with the auditor. EDEN is the software that provides the spine and nervous system for county accounting. It’s considered a good product, but not especially user-friendly. However, the council wants to have a better understanding of how to access financial reports themselves and not take up staff time with requests.
Also, the council and county manager are holding a series of orientation meetings with various departments and touring facilities. About 20 hours of these meetings are scheduled for July and more in August extending to Lopez, Orcas and Shaw. Rick Hughes attended the Salmon Recovery Council meeting in Edmonds. Bob Jarman made a site visit to the Mount Baker road construction project, the Lambiel property, the Deer Harbor Bridge project and Orcas Artworks in Olga to see the fire damage. Bob also met with a local attorney to better understand the process for obtaining shoreline permits from an applicant’s perspective.
These are just a few examples of below-the-surface activity, but, hopefully, readers will find value in the information.
So, updates and highlights from the Corner…
On Monday, July 15, the council met with county staff and county manager Mike Thomas. Director of Health and Community Services John Manning and Parks & Fair Director Dona Wuthnow updated the council on the 2014 Capital Improvement Projects (dedicated funds used for maintaining, improving or building County facilities). After discussion, the council approved an amendment to the CIP budget, adding $4,000 to fund a feasibility study regarding the suitability of the Post San Juan building to be re-purposed as a Parks & Fair administrative building.
The fee for every document recorded at the auditor’s office includes a one dollar charge dedicated to historic preservation projects in the county. The council awards the grants to qualified applicants each year. This year, the recipients of a total of $6,055 were the Friends of Woodmen Hall, the San Juan Historical Society & Museum, the Orcas Island Historical Society & Museum and the Lopez Island Historical Society.
The county charter changes that went into effect after the November 2012 election affected the make-up of several advisory committees. The council moved to direct Prosecuting Attorney Randall Gaylord to update ordinances applicable to the Planning Commission, the Citizens Salary Committee, the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, the Stormwater Committee, the Solid Waste Advisory Committee and the Human Services Advisory Board.
At its following meeting on Tuesday, July 16, the council moved to award lodging tax funds for 2014. The Council accepted the recommendations submitted by the LTAC funding committee.
A proposed ordinance setting fees for services provided by the Community Development and Planning Department was also discussed and is moving forward. Rick moved that the document will include a reduction in the Open Space fee, lowering it from $4,060 to $2,030.
During the Monday, July 22 administrative meeting, Rick thanked the firefighters who assisted in controlling the two Olga fires. Likewise, Bob complimented deputy building inspector and plans examiner John Geniuch on his presentation to the Building Advisory Committee.
Mike reported that staff met with utility providers to discuss right-of-way permits and that building permit amnesty is on the agenda as an informational update on July 30.
Two items are moving forward to a ballot measure: a proposition authorizing the imposition of a one year property tax levy for the Lopez Solid Waste Disposal District, and an amendment of the SJC Charter to the voters in November 2013. A public hearing on an ordinance amending the San Juan Islands Conservation District assessment is set for Aug. 6, at 9:15 a.m.
Schedules, documents and agendas are available on the county website at sanjuanco.com.
Schedules of meetings can be seen on the home page under calendar: Schedule of County Meetings and Events.
Council meetings that have an agenda can be found by navigating the council tab shown on the home page. Call the clerks at 378-2898 if you would like a little help with the website or have questions.