League of Women Voters Observer Corps notes on public meetings

Submtited by the League of Women Voters Observer Corps

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.

SJI School Board regular meeting of Jan. 31

The governor proclaimed February as School Board Appreciation Month. The ASB representative for the high school, the middle school principal and an elementary school team of students presented cards of appreciation. Fred thanked the board for all that they do.

Student Activities: The Eco Club recently went to Olympia to support Re-Wrap Day. The students asked legislators to pass a bill making plastic packaging producers financially support recyclable packaging. A team of Friday Harbor High School students was one of 60 winners nationwide in the NASA TechRise Challenge. NASA will provide funds and technical support for their radiation shielding experiment. Students have just completed finals. The band raised about $5,000 selling Krispy Crème donuts. FH boys’ and girls’ basketball teams defeated Orcas.

Superintendent Fred Woods reported the Transition to Kindergarten (TTK) program for 4-year-olds is going forward with classes to be filled by May and starting in the Fall. The pre-K program began with 7 students. Over the MLK break several pipes broke at the elementary and high school. Emergency repairs were done, and insurance claims have been filed. The District made Levy presentations to the public. Voting will end on Tuesday, Feb. 13. Folks are encouraged to turn in their ballots. The District is seeking funding for one day of teachers’ training in the fall before school begins.

Faith Knight presented the results of the annual Sexual Harassment Review. There were no new recommendations. The Board approved a three-year extension to Supervisor Woods’s contract. Student enrollment remains steady, and the budgets are on plan.

Superintendent Woods, and board members John Kurtz and TJ Heller went to Olympia Jan. 28-29 to address school funding issues, asking our legislators to revise the current restrictions on accessing funds approved by voters. SJI School District is capped at a much lower funding level than the voters have approved. The Board will continue to lobby to more equitably apply the regionalization formula that affects our schools.

The Washington Association of School Districts will hold its April 27 meeting in Friday Harbor.

County Council regular meeting of Feb. 5-6

On Feb. 5, Architects Miller-Hull presented a preliminary proposal showing the possible size, footprint and fit of potential new and renovated buildings to deal with serious structural and safety issues of current buildings, centralize services, and provide space for staff to serve a growing community with purpose-built buildings that meet modern code standards. Three main components would be a Justice and Public Safety Building, an administrative office building, and a renovation of the historic courthouse. They will provide cost estimates in two weeks. The Council may decide to go forward with some or all elements of the plan. More detailed design concepts would require public input before development. The sites of existing buildings potentially could be redeveloped for workforce housing.

The Orcas Recycling Center updated the Council on their operations, which have had a major shift toward more recycling and less landfill. They will continue the trend with a new bailing machine and perhaps community composting. They will do a large solar installation in 2024. They seek Council approval of increased hauling rates, with rates falling to zero for separated glass and cardboard.

On Feb. 6, several citizens spoke in favor of selling a Conservation Easement on Cady Mountain to the Preservation Trust, which the Council then approved. The Council approved an ordinance to amend personnel policy on vacation allocation. The Council approved an amendment to the County Manager’s contract to bring it in line with personnel policy.

The Northwest Clean Air Agency gave a presentation to the county about its services overseeing state and federal clean air rules. San Juan County was a founding member, left in the early 1980s, and now is exploring rejoining as air quality issues are demanding more county staff time. The annual cost would be about $36-40k, and more cost-effective than adding staff to manage this in-house. The Council asked staff to draft a letter to the agency expressing interest in rejoining.

Molly Foote gave a budget update on the 2023 budget closed on Jan. 23. With the final numbers in, there is an additional $785k available to allocate in the 2024-2025 budget. The budget team will prepare a list for the Council of items cut from that budget to meet limits and critical items still needing funding including the Critical Areas Ordinance update.

The Council approved a project extension for the Fisherman’s Bay sewer district. The Council approved signing on to a letter drafted by the Puget Sound Regional Council in support of the Governor’s budget request for Washington state ferries.