League of Women Voters Observer Corps notes on school board, county council and port

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.

County Council meeting Jan. 24

During the public comment period: Mayor Jackson of Friday Harbor made a plea for speed in responding to proposals for the Harbor Townhome Project at Malcolm and Argyle. An Orcas resident asked for attention to the inadequacies of the boat ramp and boat tie-up on Orcas serving Obstruction and Blakely Islands.

The Council discussed a request for a County Proclamation on the Southern Resident Killer Whales. Prosecuting Attorney Amy Vira was tasked to draft a resolution to present to Council. Four citizens spoke in support of the proposed resolution.

The Council swapped dates for future away meetings to May 9 on Shaw, July 25 on Decatur and Sept. 12 on Lopez.

The Council reviewed regional transportation and ferry issues. On ferries, new boats are still five years out, but there is some progress on staffing issues. There is no public road transport in the county, but each island has some private transport options and non-profit Island Rides, which gets some public funding, operates on the three most populous islands. Lopez ferry terminal needs improvements and the lack of reservations for Lopez is an issue. The Council decided to explore joining a regional transport organization.

The Council approved a letter requesting the Skagit County Housing Authority which manages SJC federal housing vouchers, to create a process to reallocate unused vouchers to affordable housing projects.

County Manager Mike Thomas reported that contracts are close with consultants to do a comprehensive human resource analysis and for the courthouse repair project; they are working on a game plan for the Zylstra Trail project; they are meeting to formulate staff recommendations on the Argyle Lots proposals and sea-level rise impact report meetings are ongoing.

The Council appointed Gary Franklin to the Planning Commission.

SJI School Board, Jan. 25

Superintendent Fred Wood presented certificates to all board members celebrating January as official School Board Appreciation month. ASB President Ayana Beruby presented a gift from the students to the school board thanking them for all their hard work.

Woods described recent progress in legislative action to address the problems created by regionalization, levy caps, and underfunding of special education mandates where SJI has a $500,000.00 shortfall that is made up from basic education funds. Focus on teacher recruitment and retention is an important piece of this effort at the state level. Wood asked for the support of HB1244 which would allow our district and others to gradually raise the level of voter-approved funding. The first reading of this bill in the house appropriation committee was Jan. 25 and a second reading will be on Feb. 2. For more information on and what can be done to support local schools, go to www.supportislandschools.org.

A new trail will be built at Linde field. They are going out for bid on STEM building improvements. They are considering using an outside firm to evaluate school building energy efficiency.

They are coordinating with other island school districts on professional education for teachers. Human Resources is reviewing current policies regarding sexual harassment and the reporting process.

Student enrollment should hold steady through the second half of the school year at 778 students.

The budget process for the next school year is now beginning.

The school nurse presented a request to acquire Narcan in the event of a drug overdose. This request was approved.

Friday Harbor Port Commission meeting Jan. 25

An e-mail public comment asked that noise abatement be a consideration in new leases and in support of the Innovation Center proposal.

New staff members in dock manufacturing and capital projects were introduced.

The board reviewed incoming lease proposals for properties in the recent RFP:

Tarragon proposed for three Spring Street lots to build a flexible space for light industrial and warehouse applications. The Commission agreed to hold the property for Tarragon for three to four months to develop a detailed proposal and lease negotiations, perhaps with a different parking, without an additional parcel, and fronting the buildings on Spring Street.

San Juan Outfitters proposed for a one-acre Weber Way lot to build a 4000 sq ft of warehouse space for outdoor equipment storage, a commercial kitchen and vehicle parking. The Commission agreed to enter lease negotiations on a more detailed proposal. They had mixed reactions to adding seasonal workforce housing.

A local coalition that earlier proposed a business incubation/maker space told the Commission the coalition has more partners, including Skagit Valley College and envisions a larger Innovation Center, possibly on multiple port properties, including a three-acre Weber Way plot in the RFP. They asked the Port not to lease any of the parcels until they complete and present a feasibility study. The Commission noted that under their newly adopted lease policy, they would not be considering any other new leases until July, by which time the coalition expects to have its proposal ready.

Commissioners decided not to act on a proposal to compost, grind stumps, and crush glass on a parcel that was not advertised has noise restrictions, and needs a conditional use permit.

At upcoming meetings, the commissioners will review what parcels to advertise for proposals to be considered in July.

Commissioners reported good feedback on the newsletter, and many comments on Jensen/Ship Yard Cove; Opalco wants to talk to the Commission about solar power, and support for the upcoming Tribal Canoe Journey in May. They are planning a Feb. 4 listening session.

Staff reported on the serious flooding effects of the King Tides on Port property with video replay.