LWV Observer Corp public meetings notes

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 promote public understanding of public policy and decisions. The notes do not necessarily reflect the views of the League or its members.

Port Commission regular meeting of June 14

The Executive Director, Todd Nicholson, is working on designating a signed area for pets. The commission agreed to convert the lease for the Oystertale restaurant to a month-to-month basis.

The original contractor defaulted on the Northwest Hangar Taxi Lane construction project, so they put the job back out to bid. No contractor on the island that can make FAA spec pavement or concrete and material costs increased. MEM will take over the job and meet the required specifications. The commission approved a change order for $865,622.12 with a total project cost of $2 million. The FAA will cover 90% of the increased costs and the surety from the defaulted contractor will cover the rest.

The ED gave an overview of the C Hangar renovation. The Port relocated the tenants and plans to convert it to two commercial-size hangars. Demolition will start in September and the project will be done by spring. The Commission discussed whether to lease the space for commercial use that will support jobs or use it for private plane storage. They could consider long-term leases for tenants willing to invest in buildings or capital improvements. They will advertise the space for commercial purposes first and review it again on June 28. They will discuss details of rates and leases in an executive session.

The commission discussed possible changes to the Summer Staff Scholarship Policy in which students earn college credits and scholarships, possibly by reducing the number of hours required to earn benefits, and adding incentives for returning students and for marine, aviation and specialized trades. The Commission agreed that they would hire a professional architect to evaluate the designs for the new Port Administration building. In the interim, the Port will continue with the current construction plans and apply for permits.

Airport Manager Mike Otis reviewed repair and maintenance projects at the airport. He requested more staff to work on particular projects. Commissioners suggested engaging with the San Juan Island Museum of Art to present art in the airport terminal. Staff would need to help install the art exhibits. The new fuel area at the airport will be finished by the summer 2025.

The Port Auditor reported an audit will start in mid-August and Commissioner Rich Goodheart will join key meetings. Goodheart attended the WPPA Conference and reported on a tax increment financing program that could be a valuable tool for the Port.

SJC Public Hospital District regular meeting of June 19

The June 7 Open House was a success. Several hundred people attended the event held at the PHD office, EMS, and Village at the Harbor.

The transition to the new financial software is going well. A major format change in financial reports provides an overall summary and detailed reports on payroll, expenditures, reserves and income. The Finance Committee, Commissioners Clary and Frazer, review the detailed reports monthly, and both the summaries and reports are available to the other Commissioners.

They hope to move forward with solar grants in February 2025, with The Village the best place for solar installation. On health care housing they are still waiting for Peace Island Medical Center’s (PIMC) letter of intent for a rezoning application, and they are exploring a possible federal grant.

EMS call volumes at normal levels after a high-volume winter. PMIC awarded them a $10,000 grant for the EMS Community Paramedicine Program. The EMT training program produced seven new EMTs.

Home care services (Village at Home) are working on a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program, which will help staff home care services as well as for PIMC. They are exploring Medicaid for home health care but must overcome union entanglements before proceeding. They are working on the transition with the EMS Community Paramedicine program so that the EMTs can connect with additional home care services from Village at Home where a patient’s needs exceed a Paramedicine visit.

The Commissioners authorized investing PHD and EMS funds in the Local Government Investment Pool (LGIP), a state trust fund investment program for government entities.

Friday Harbor Town Council regular meeting of June 20

The mayor hoped that everyone had a chance to reflect on the Juneteenth holiday the day before. The Council passed the consent agenda which included signing a contract with a temporary hearing examiner who will hear the Home Trust appeal on the Holli Walk project. The Friday Harbor Arts Commission introduced newly appointed member David Anderson.

The council approved the request to rezone the plot at 1032 Guard Street from commercial to multifamily residential and /or non-residential and rezone it residential and change its designation on the land use map from non-residential to residential.

The Council opened a public hearing on the Friday Harbor House Development Agreement for a major redesign of Friday Harbor House that will provide underground parking and add seven rooms. The key matters for Council approval in the agreement are deviations of side yard setbacks and lot coverage limits and compensating mitigations, and height. This is not a design approval. Along with the project, the developer will make major upgrades to Overlook Park. The variances are requested to allow a design more in line with the neighborhood. Members of the American Legion opposed the development agreement on the grounds that the proposed expansion on the portion of the land below the Whale Museum will block harbor views from their parking area to the south from their building. In the past the Legion post successfully sued to prevent building on that portion and an agreement was signed with the Port not to obstruct Legion views. The current owner purchased the property from the Port in 2019 and that agreement is not recorded in the title. The Whale Museum expressed concerns about the loss of harbor views from the rear of their building, the reduced visibility of murals on the exterior, and impacts from construction on the historic building and exhibits. The Council continued the hearing to July 18 to have more time to study the issue before further deliberation.

The town superintendent reported that the SJI Fire District will use the town’s historic fire truck in the July 4th parade. The town received one bid on the Marguerite project that came in within the engineer’s estimate. The council will consider the contract at a special meeting on June 27. The town is applying for financing for a fourth water filter. The mayor and council members were given handouts of rules for the town during elections.

County Council regular meeting of June 25

During public comment several residents of Shaw spoke to the county’s planned purchase of land for a public works facility. Two commenters raised unanswered questions about the project with one opposing the purchase without more information. Friends of the San Juans reminded the council of the need for an environmental assessment review before developing the site. Two commenters spoke in support of the project, one of whom read a letter signed by many residents, noting how the inadequate existing facility affects the quality and scope of road and other projects on Shaw. Later the council approved the purchase of 1427 Neck Road on Shaw Island. They have long been seeking a site and appropriate properties are rarely available. The future of the existing site is an open question for community discussion when the time comes.

The council approved an ordinance to update the county code on vehicles and traffic, adopting the model state traffic code, excepting sections that do not apply in the county. The county set a public hearing on changes in the Noxious Weed Control Board Membership Voting Map.

Human Resources briefed the council on equal opportunity statistics for the county and the council adopted an Equal Opportunity Plan for 2024-2025 required under federal law. Women are underrepresented among sworn law enforcement officers, skilled craft and senior administrative positions; the report does not cover elected officials where women are well represented. Men are underrepresented in administrative support positions and black and Hispanic residents are underrepresented across job areas.

The county will form an internal working group on the 32-hour work week to monitor how the new system is working, develop appropriate performance indicators, and seek solutions to address the challenges identified for staff and the public.

Given recent security incidents in the county, the safety committee will look into staff training on de-escalation and dealing with threats. Chair Fuller reported that after the council’s letter to Washington State Ferries, she had several conversations with WSF senior staff to discuss the communications issues that have plagued the ferry schedule task force and to some extent the Ferry Advisory Committee. They have a plan to address the problems starting with the June 26 meeting of the task force.

The new County Manager Jessica Hudson is due to start on July 15.