League of Women Voters Observer Corps notes on public meetings

Submitted 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 May 29,

Superintendent Fred Woods and other board members recognized Aaron Orozco for his excellent job this year as the ASB representative to the school board. Orozco will be heading to Washington State University in the fall. Orozco reported that it has been a busy few weeks with Prom, Girls State track and tennis and AP exams. School finishes on June 14. Superintendent Woods introduced Senior Mia Germain and Sophomore Vera Schoultz who will jointly represent the student body next year.

Superintendent Woods reported that the Transition to Kindergarten program is on track to begin this fall with 17 kids enrolled. Sarah Werling-Sandwith has been hired to run this new program. Sarah will leave her position directing the Head Start Program and will be stepping down from the school board as she cannot work for the school district and be on the board. A search is underway to appoint a replacement to fill out the term until the general election in November of 2025.

Brock Hauck, Athletics and Capital Projects Director presented a four-year plan for capital improvements at the schools. He discussed two specific projects, siding and painting at the middle and high school and the high school maintenance shed by the STEM building that need addressing in the first year. Assuming successful bids are received both projects would begin in the summer of 2025. Projects for this summer will complete capital spending approved in the prior levy. Hauck also provided a detailed budget for all high school sports in 2024-2025.

The Stocker Foundation has provided a 75K grant for the preschool program for next year. Jose Domenech presented the student enrollment and budget numbers for May, and both are within budget for the year. The 2024-2025 budget will be finished and ready for board review by the June board meeting.

County Council regular meeting of June 4

A member of the public expressed concern about a construction activity taking place in a rural residential area on Orcas Island.

The council held a public hearing and adopted changes to the county code on purchasing procedures. The changes streamline the code to refer to state law so it will update automatically when state law changes and to make small purchases and contracts less cumbersome.

The Department of Emergency Management director Branden Cowan and representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard, the Washington Department of Ecology and the local Islands’ Oil Spill Association updated the council on oil spill response and prevention. The organizations work together regularly on drills and training exercises. In February the Coast Guard started a pilot program that tracks whale locations and communicates the information to shipping traffic. The Coast Guard and Canadian law enforcement post staff to each other’s boats allowing them to do cross border pursuit and enforcement. IOSA now has state and county funding that allows them to have two full-time staff and to train and equip 40 first-tier volunteer responders. The Coast Guard and the Department of Ecology emphasized how cost-effective this has been in allowing faster spill response and more efficient resource allocation. They would like IOSA to become a model for other jurisdictions. The IOSA staff emphasized the importance of their committed volunteers who train each month.

The affordable housing coordinator presented the council with the draft 99-year lease for the Argyle property to the Home Trust to build and manage affordable housing. The lease requires that a minimum of 35 units be built and that 30% be two-bedrooms or larger to provide family housing. The council will act on the lease at the July 9 meeting.

Council Member Minney will be at a community meeting on the shared use trail project on June 5. Council Member Fuller met with Representative Larson during his visit to Lopez and he plans to be on Orcas for July 4. She attended a public meeting about a proposed county land acquisition on Shaw Island for public works. She raised concerns shared by the Ferry Advisory Committee and the citizen taskforce on the schedule update about communication issues with Washington State Ferries.

The council scheduled a mid-year review of the work program for July 8. The June 11 County Council meeting will be held on Lopez Island.