LWV Observer Corps notes on Port, Town Council, County Council and School Board

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.

Port Commission meeting of Sept. 13

During public comment, Greg Hertel suggested the Port keep a supply of Narcan in the admin offices, at the dock and at the airport.

Bob Brunkow presented the Citizens Advisory Committee’s recommendations on Shipyard Cove. The ten members of the CAC have expertise in architectural and strategic planning and economic development. They met over four months, walked the facilities, and examined a wide range of options for the boatyard. The priority is to bring the shipyard to a neutral or positive cash flow with job-creating combined facilities. About 75% of boat repairs go off island and real estate available for the purpose is very limited. One facility land parcel has the potential for an anchor tenant but needs to be managed for revenue. The CAC recommended the Port not engage in the housing business. The committee recommended the property not be a recreational facility due to the movements of heavy commercial machinery and shipyard work.

It recommended improving the barge landing and parking, having an attractive entrance and good signage, a uniform look to buildings, and a financially stable operator willing to take on the challenge.

The Commissioners asked about recommendations for traffic flow and a one-way in and one-way out policy. 80-90% of the shipyard income will be from the marinas so access and parking are important. The Executive Director said a process is in place to find a boatyard operator to manage the operation. The Commissioner suggested there be access to the water for recreational use, acknowledging the need for planning safety issues from mixing the traffic flows. The Commission thanked the CAC for their time and diligence.

The Executive Director updated the Commission on the plan to hire a contractor to remove the surplus portable restrooms and boathouse as they are not structurally sound.

The Commission approved the transfer of Hangar K6A from Benton to Gossom. PlaneView LLC has requested an amendment to their lease for expansion to the hangar and will assume pay for construction. The revised lease will almost double the revenue whether or not PlaneView goes forward with construction. The Commission approved this request.

Executive Director Todd Nicholson reported on the proposed relocation of the weather station that serves the airport. This project will be completely funded by the FAA. The Port will provide the FAA with two or three possible locations and encourage them to choose one that does not interfere with a proposed lease to Fly Guys. It was suggested that a test unit be erected to gauge the effectiveness of the locations.

Commissioner Carlton reported on the WPAA conference he and Commissioner Barbara Marrett attended the on the Commission’s role as a Board and proper management of meetings. The Commission as a Board and proper management of meetings. The Commission will focus on establishing relationships with government and the local tribes, building effective communication, and stewarding taxpayer monies.

Friday Harbor Town Council, Sept. 21

The Council approved shifting the meetings of the Historic Preservation Review Board to Wednesdays before the Planning Commission meetings.

The Council approved a no-cost extension to an engineering contract because the State Department of Health delayed review of the comprehensive water plan update by 90 days.

They amended another engineering agreement to allow work on updated engineering and design standards not to exceed $15k.

The Council reviewed the results of the 2023 pavement ratings and how they compared to 2019, laying the groundwork to update the road project priorities. A section of Mullis from Spring Street will be a high priority. The Public Works director will prepare a recommended road project list for a Council meeting in October for approval by year-end.

The town administrator reported that for the wastewater treatment plant project, she had learned about an EPA-funded group that can provide useful services free of charge to help the town secure funding. An initial recommendation is an income survey. The Council approved the mayor signing an agreement for the survey.

The Administrator will attend a conference to get specific recommendations on funding sources. The Town engaged an attorney to begin to review legal steps to address the town’s water rights needs. New locks have been installed on the Firehall doors. The town will install a no-left turn sign at the junction of Nichols and Argyle.

Those seeking to go south on Argyle will turn right and come back through the roundabout. The proposed Tucker crosswalk will be on the agenda for the next meeting. At some point, the Council wants to discuss plans for the trees on Front Street. Following the joint Town-County meeting this week, the town will request a monthly update from a County Council member and that a joint meeting be held every six months.

County Council regular meeting of Sept. 26

The Council proclaimed September National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Health and Community Services introduced Natalie Miler-Nawn as the new prevention coordinator, taking over from Cynthia Starman, and announced two promotions.

During public access time, a citizen from San Juan Island noted problems with Black Road about which he had not received the required response from the Roads Department. A citizen from Orcas asked that the County include chip-sealing Dolphin Bay Road in next year’s Transportation Improvement Plan. A citizen from San Juan raised concerns about the parking sticker option in the draft Destination Management Plan.

After a public hearing the Council approved an ordinance amending the County Personnel Policy changing the recruiting incentive, including a new Indigenous People’s Day holiday, and codifying the 32-hour workweek for non-union hourly employees, of which there are two.

The Council reviewed the 18 projects in the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP). For 2024 one completed project will be removed and one project, the federally funded Zylstra Lake project, will be added. Other projects remain incomplete and will continue to next year.

Funding for FEMA-financed projects is delayed. In recent years, few county funds have been available for projects in the plan with most financed by state and federal grants, reducing the number of projects planned and completed. There is a line item for chip-sealing gravel roads.

The Council scheduled a public hearing for the TIP on Nov. 7 and will make decisions on which gravel roads to prioritize for chip sealing, including Doe Bay Road, by year-end.

The Council approved a letter to the Trust for Public Lands requesting technical assistance for reviewing potential Land Bank funding sources. This would be a no-cost contract. The Council approved the terms of intrafund loan from the Land Bank’s Steward Management to the Conservation Area Fund.

The Council reviewed their 2023 legislative priorities and noted progress on all four priority areas. For 2024 they anticipate taking achieved items off, reviewing whether to add or reprioritize items and to consider what circumstances would call for a state-level lobbyist.

In updates, Council members discussed the governor’s visit to Lopez, progress on advocating for an Emergency Response Tow Boat to be stationed in the area; a discussion by Orcas boat operators to look at perhaps instituting some kind of scheduled inter-island passenger service.

A planned Washington State Ferry presentation on the Walk-on Study will be rescheduled to a future date.

SJI School Board regular meeting of Sept. 27

In public comment art teacher Anderson said in a recent national art competition a Friday Harbor student had a top-ranked portfolio but did not get a prize because the school has had too many recent winners. He featured the student’s artwork in a presentation for the organization.

The Student Body representative reported that students are preparing for Homecoming on Oct. 13 and getting settled back into school mode. Those attending a leadership class raised $700 to donate to Lahaina High School in Hawaii after the fire.

Superintendent Wood is making the Transitional Kindergarten (TK) program a priority given the great need, with Head Start spots under pressure. He hopes to move the start date to the second semester this school year from Fall 2024. The state will fund the program. State revenue projections are running above expectations so there may be extra funding which could be applied to fully funding special education mandates. He recommended the Board consider a proposal from the Apollo group to seek grant funding for capital projects.

The Board reviewed the 2022-2023 School Improvement Plan and the State Assessment Report Card. In line with state-wide results, although student performance improved, it continued to lag performance from before the pandemic. A committee will review and propose changes to the School Wellness Policy starting Sept. 28.

The Board did a first look at the draft proposal for the February 2024 Capital and Technology Levy which includes key repairs needed for safety reasons. The draft is for a requested $6.3 million, a little below the inflation-adjusted amount of the last levy. If passed the levy would increase the amount paid for an $800k assessed property by $6 from $224 to $230. Some Board members advocated requesting a higher amount, while others felt they should be conservative.

The district had an audit triggered by federal funding of over $750k and came through well with one small ding for lack of documentation confirming contractor status. The 2022-2023 school year budget will break even. Small deficits are projected for the next couple of years, but enrollment is up by 12 over the August projection, partly because issues in the Lopez school district have seen some students transfer to Friday Harbor.

A Board member reported the Washington Association of School Districts approved a change of by-laws that keeps all votes at one vote per School district as opposed to votes weighted by enrollment, a practice that has long benefitted large school districts. The Board agreed to a special meeting on Oct. 11 to hear the Apollo proposal and further discuss the levy.