League of Women Voters Observer Corps notes on public meetings

Submitted by LWVSJ 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.

Board of Health regular meeting of May 22

Some Accountable Communities for Health partners will present to the board on their local projects later this year. The ACH is still waiting on details of how the Medicaid waiver will affect care coordination. Mark Thompkins will present at a conference on equity in Atlanta in August. The Community Collaborative Committee gave an additional $5,000 grant to the foodbank where members learned demand goes up in the summer as seasonal workers use services. The Mullis Center is creating a caregiver list. The North Sound Behavioral Health ASO will have some contingency funding available and will hold a retreat on June 3.

Kyle Dodd presented the annual report on Environmental Health activities. The Department issues permits and does inspections for on-site sewer systems, solid waste, drinking water, pools and spas, and food safety. They test local waters for shellfish safety, investigate animal bites and zoonotic disease outbreaks. They have seen a drop in sewer and well permit requests in 2023 vs. 2022. They investigated 16 animal bites including one from a bat that was positive for rabies. They implemented a new online system for managing sewer system inspections. They continue to offer training for homeowners to do their sewer inspections themselves.

Housing coordinator Ryan Page and SAFE San Juans Director Dave Dunaway reported on the Rapid Re-Housing Program that Safe San Juans runs for domestic violence victims. Funds for the program first became available in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 epidemic and continue to be offered by the state. The funds pay for temporary housing for victims of domestic violence and their children, while they seek permanent safe housing and get medical care and support services. With no shelter in the county, such funds have made a huge difference in ensuring that survivors do not return to their abusers. In 2023 Safe San Juans assisted 112 people experiencing domestic violence and 28 experiencing sexual assault.

The board gave approval to Mark Thompkins to explore the possibility of sharing a county health officer with Whatcom County and to begin work on a job description to recruit a new county health officer in the wake of the retirement of Dr, James. There will be no Board of Health meeting in June.

SJC Public Hospital District #1 regular meeting of May 22

Superintendent Nathan Butler told the commission that bringing finances in-house has impacted cash flow. The district receives tax revenue about a month later than in the past since the county must transfer the money rather than simply credit it to the PHD ‘s county account. The finance committee will meet in June. EMS call volume that ran above normal in the first quarter was back to usual levels in April. A new class of EMTs have completed their training and are working on state certification. The PHD’s candidate did not get admitted to this year’s MedicOne program but has commitment for a slot next year. The relationship with the SJI Fire District under the new agreements is going very well.

A team from the Village at the Harbor reported that things are going very well there with staff turnover down, the renovations complete, and residents all have regularly updated care plans. The Village at Home homecare program is doing its soft launch with a couple of clients and will be focusing on Certified Nurse Assistant training. New Medicaid rules may make it viable for home health care sooner than anticipated.

The commissioners set up an ad hoc committee to get informed about a possible change in how Peace Island Medical Center staffs the Emergency Department. There was a discussion about looking at how proposed capital projects including the expansion of the Village at the Harbor, staff housing, and an EMS building expansion would impact finances and staff workload. The EMS project would probably be put on hold. The commissioners also will look at two proposals to add solar panels and storage batteries to increase the resilience at EMS and the Village at the Harbor. Finally, as the county looks at providing reproductive health services and Planned Parenthood faces staffing issues, commissioners want to see what budget implications there are for the hospital district’s support for reproductive health services.

Mailers have gone out to SJI residents for the Public Hospital District’s Open House starting at 2 p.m. June 7 to thank the community for all their support for the district’s initiatives. The event will kick off at the Village at the Harbor, but will include the EMS building, The Village at Home, and the PHD administrative offices.

Friday Harbor Port Commission May 24

The commission approved an Interlocal Agreement between the Port of Friday Harbor and the Town of Friday Harbor to provide each other support in engineering and public works projects at cost pricing. The commission switched the agendas of the July meetings. The July 12 meeting will be bill pay only and July 26 will be the regular commission meeting.

Executive Director Todd Nicholson presented updated plans for the new Administrative Building on Port property near the airport. The building will be energy efficient and include solar panels on the roof. Nicholson will bring some sample materials and further plan details to a future meeting.

The Port will apply for an $11 million federal Port Electrification Grant to cover costs to redo the electrical system in Shipyard Cove and Friday Harbor marina to accommodate the demand from electric vessels. While it is a long shot, Port will work with outside companies to present a strong project proposal.

Commissioner Rich Goodhart reported on his attendance at the Spring meeting of the Washington Public Ports Association. He will compile his notes and circulate them to the commissioners along with the presentation from the meeting.

Goodhart also reported that he was very impressed with the selection of the new County Manager, Jessica Hudson. He said it would be important that the port has a seat as a stakeholder in this in the county’s upcoming revisions to the Growth Management Act. The economic development portion of the comprehensive plan facilitates the application for certain grants and other funding sources. A plan that includes a clear path for project approval such as the one in Chehalis would be very welcome.

Commissioner Barbara Marrett reported on the success of the May 22 celebration for the restoration of the house poles. It was well attended and a beautiful ceremonial observance for the Indigenous tribes who gave blessings and showed gratitude for the acknowledgements.