League of Women Voters Observer Corps notes on County Council and Hospital District meetings

*The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan organization encourages informed participation in government. The Observer Corps attends and takes notes at government meetings to expand public understanding of public policy and decisions. The notes do not necessarily reflect the views of the League or its members.

County Council regular meeting of March 21

Three members of the public spoke in support of the one-10th of one percent tax sales tax for affordable housing. The Council established an internal workplace Safety Committee.

The Council adopted specific changes to the County Code to bring it into line with the updated Comprehensive Plan; 1) amended the definition of “affordable housing” to match state language; 2) allow existing schools as a permitted use of land designated as rural farm forest or natural resource land 3) allow subsidiary housing attached to a commercial, industrial or institutional entity in land designated as Island Center, 4) increase the number of allowed units in rural clusters from 8 to 12, 5) for affordable housing incentives increase the maximum of moderate income units from 25% to 50%. The Council did not adopt the proposed change to remove the requirement for an expert opinion on 20-year commercial viability to request a Mineral Resource Land Overlay designation for existing mining operations.

The Council approved $65,000 to start an internship program to help recruit future county staff. and to lease an apartment as temporary housing for new hires while they locate permanent housing. Staff occupying the apartment will pay the rent.

Faith Van De Putte, Agricultural Resources Coordinator reported on the farmer Listening sessions that asked what works well, regulatory barriers, infrastructure barriers and solutions. Top positives were good support from County Programs, Food Customer Support and Food Access. The main regulatory barrier was confusion about unclear, overlapping and conflicting regulations especially around land use, food regulation, permitting and composting. Key infrastructure barriers were dry and cold storage, distribution, lack of compost, and housing and labor shortages. Solutions included creating Food Centers and less regulation of small-scale processing.

The Council decided to seek broader public input for further consideration of the 1/10th of 1% tax sales tax for affordable housing during Council discussion at the April 4 Council meeting. The presentations on the Argyle proposals is now scheduled for April 4. The County approved a resolution making public a detailed breakdown of the Equipment revolving rental expense and approved Council’s vote for the upcoming election of SWISS five-county coalition.

Council Member Fuller informed the Council that Washington State Ferry Staff would be available to brief the Council on WSF issues at the April 18 Council Meeting.

Public Hospital District #1 regular meeting of March 22

PHD commissioners met for the first time in its new office and meeting space at 535 Market St., Suite E.

Supervisor Nathan Butler reported that the new office space is set up with multiple cameras for hybrid meetings, and designed for multiple uses. There are two new PHD hires: Oswyn Eshelman as a finance specialist to assist Finance Director Steve Wambsganss; and Josh Blain as a maintenance technician. Eventually, the Finance Department will take over finances from San Juan County. Supervisor Butler plans to make a new hire by June for a home care coordinator/trainer and will have home care policies and procedures in place.

HR specialist Hannah Johnson will handle public works compliance for the Village expansion, and there will be a project manager. There is a need for a pickup truck to handle maintenance and equipment transfer needs. The Village is coming close to receiving its Medicaid license. Once licensed, the Village has five rooms currently that meet Medicaid ADA compliance that can be filled as they become available. The expansion will add more Medicaid beds.

Peace Heath has subcontracted its ED operations management to a third party. The Commissioners agreed that the Peace Health contract should be reviewed in light of this change.

Old Business:

Commissioner Chair Anna Lisa Lindstrum informed the board that the code of ethics update will be reviewed by the PHD attorney. The Board scheduled a strategic planning special meeting in May.

New Business:

Captain Weyshawn Koons, in recognition for her exemplary 30 years of service with San Juan Island EMS, has been honored with a national award for outstanding paramedic service.

The Board tabled approval of the fee agreement with the Sheriff’s Office for dispatch services, pending receipt of further information. They approved three resolutions regarding financial authorizations and to join the MSRC roster to access MSRC’s list of public works-qualified contractors and vendors.

The Board discussed the funding request from the Family Resource Center to fund certain medical services for underserved community members. They will invite Jennifer Armstrong to speak at the April meeting.

Friday Harbor Port Commission, regular meeting of March 22

Members of the public commented on the proposed totem for the deck at the Spring Street Landing, reading a declaration asking for dignity for the tribes and giving voice to one of the local bands. The Marine Project Manager for San Juan County confirmed they communicate with all the federally recognized tribes and carefully consider all differences in working towards building solid long-term relationships. The Port and County have the responsibility to work together to ensure all approaches are aligned. The Commissioners agreed that bringing people to the area to create an interactive experience would be a good outcome. The Port will put a more rigorous process for accepting artworks on a future agenda.

The commission needs to decide what level of solar panels will be required for lease renewals. The current proposal is for 30% of panels on the best sun-facing slope. Todd Nicholson, Executive Director, is working with OPALCO on next steps as plans going forward will require infrastructure upgrades. For the Port to qualify for the energy improvement funding needed, an energy study needs to be undertaken.

The commission is considering renewing the Sky Trails Hangar lease for another 10-year term with upgrades to the roof and siding being a priority. The viability of the roof to support proposed solar panels and upgraded infrastructure need to be planned.

The questions around the transfer of moorage with vessel sales was presented to the commission with public comment about the fairness of the waiting list policy that is currently in place. The Jensen’s covered moorage differs from other port properties and requires its own policies. The commissioners ask that changes to the current policy be made in clear language and added as an action item for the next meeting.

The decisions on the future of the aquarium at the Spring Street Landing will take into consideration the expense of refurbishing the existing structure and the possible future inclusion of an interpretive center at that location.

The response to the Citizens Advisory Committee has been very positive and there have been 17 responses to date with 8 people on the original committee willing to serve again. The Executive Director will review all applications and letters of interest and will present the final applicants to the commissioners. The committee’s first task will be to provide analysis and recommendations on the master plan for Jensen’s, Shipyard Cove and land use.