LWV 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.

Port Commission regular meeting of March 8

Erika from Essential Sailing World requested to get on the agenda for the March 22 meeting.

Executive Director Todd Nicholson read an email from Richard Grout opposing housing in the lease that the Port is negotiating with San Juan Island Outfitters at the airport. Nicholson introduced new maintenance crew staff member, Joe Wilson, to the Commission.

The Commission has received the draft interlocal agreement with Port Angeles for the Port of FH to fabricate the dock sections. The document will make clear that transporting the docks is Port Angeles’s responsibility. Two remaining Commissioners signed an amendment to the previously approved interlocal agreement with San Juan County for the Jackson Beach Road easement.

Nicholson presented several options for calculating the rent for the IOSA space. The Commission sought to both support the mission of IOSA and to receive sustainable rental income. They agreed to extend the lease to IOSA with a base rent for the land, and a fixed price for the terminals with a four percent return on investment to the Port.

The Commission reviewed the original San Juan Island Outfitters concept proposal and site plan, less the housing component. Brian Goodremont told commissioners he needed to do more due diligence before moving forward. The commission agreed to grant Brian an exclusive period during which he can take it to the next steps. Nicholson will work with them on the full application to be brought back to the Commission in June. Sites available for concept proposals posted on the Port website by June.

A land planning workshop for airport non-aviation land will take place after the regular March 22 commission meeting. The Executive Director has compiled a list of questions for edits and comments to address during the planning process. There will be maps to illustrate any discussions and to post for public review.

For future agendas, Barbara Marrett asked for ideas for community engagement with the Climate Sustainability Committee. Gib Black would like to pick up the discussions regarding re-envisioning the Netshed Building and its surroundings at Jackson Beach. He would like to see long-term plans include a sailing/kayak/paddleboard center for the island.

SJI Fire District regular meeting of March 19

The Commissioners discussed how to move forward with strategic planning and a decision on whether to put a levy lid lift request on the November ballot. They decided to hold a workshop at a special meeting on Saturday April 13 seeking public participation. The chief will prepare a package information of on district needs and finances.

The commissioners approved staff to prepare a budget amendment with updated budget numbers for June action. The commissioners approved moving from to MS Teams for information sharing to streamline staff workload. The commissioners approved the chief’s request to hire a contractor at a cost of $1000 per month on a month-to-month basis to handle operational and administrative work for the Outer Islands programs.

The Commissioners approved an MOU between SJI Fire & Rescue and SJIEMS that lays out the parameters of their cooperation. They approved an interlocal agreement (ILA) with EMS that covers shared training and services and compensation to fire for certain services. They approved a second ILA with SJI EMS on marine response and support using the district’s fire boat for EMS calls in their service district with shared costs. The draft agreement had included a clause on use of the fire boat for out-of-district calls, but that language was removed.

The Commission had an executive session on potential litigation. Afterwards, the Commissioners approved a settlement agreement with Norvin Collins 2-0 with Commissioner Appleton abstaining.

The financial report for the end of February showed $221k unencumbered in the general fund, $198k in the reserve fund and $40k in LOSAP funds for a total of $478k balance. The chief addressed members at an all-department drill laying his vision for department culture of character, camaraderie, and community. The Other Islands Division will recruit pods of incipient-stage fire fighters, set up equipment stashes and provide radios to communicate information to responding firefighters from SJI. The current training academy will be wrapping up the final classes in the next two weekends. With the commissioners’ approval, they are moving forward with the Washington State Mobilization Commitment.

The San Juan County Chiefs Association will meet quarterly to share information but lay down its 501 (c)(3) status. Chief Monin is president and Chief Butler the secretary. The department has submitted a grant request for possible loan principal relief for the fireboat loan. They have applied for a state grant for Wildfire Ready neighbors and Firewise Ambassadors programs that will provide services for individual homeowners to reduce fire hazards.

Board of Health regular meeting of March 20

County Health Officer Dr. Frank James presented the 2023 annual report and the 2024 work plan. The Covid public health state of emergency ended in 2023, after an extraordinary time when county staff, the business community and residents worked together to achieve one the best records in the nation limiting the impact of covid. James emphasized sacrifices of the hospitality industry, teamwork, and community volunteers. Coming out of the pandemic there are effective new tools for reducing the impact of respiratory illnesses-covid, flu and RSV— but as their distribution shifts to the private sector many of the vulnerable face barriers to getting vaccines and treatment. Other challenges are air quality with the growing threat of wildfire smoke, increasing rates of sexually transmitted diseases, and high and growing levels of alcohol abuse in the county. The Community Health Assessment was a major accomplishment and revealed the challenges faced by the Spanish-speaking community. Local efforts to improve child nutrition and early childhood education were very successful.

For 2024 the key goal is to develop a plan to address issues highlighted in the CHA including low insurance coverage, inequality, and lack of access to care. The county should explore wastewater monitoring to track infectious disease and possibly fentanyl use.

Dr. James is retiring and was thanked for his many contributions to community health.

The three public hospital district superintendents briefed the board. Both the Orcas and Lopez superintendents have been in their positions a little over a year. Those two districts focus on keeping their primary care clinics open and accessible. The Orcas clinic run by Island Health and the Lopez clinic run by the UW; both have improved staffing levels. Lopez passed a levy lid lift stabilizing the PHD finances and offering a chance to increase services. Orcas and Lopez both are looking to reduce the need for off-island trips to access medical services and to help residents coordinate off-island medical care.

The SJI district has four major programs- supporting the Peace Island Medical Center offering primary care and hospital services, providing Emergency Medical Services, running the county’s only assisted living facility, and just now opening the county’s only home health care agency, which is now licensed and testing systems with few clients and providers with plans to op expand to regular service this summer. Looking forward, they plan to expand the assisted living facility and to work with Peace Health to build housing for healthcare workers.

The State Department of Health Regional Medical Director Dr. Herbie Duber explained his role in helping local jurisdictions and tribal health departments access state resources. The Regional Office can help local jurisdictions highlight their challenges and needs at the state level and to coordinate with each other as needed.

Friday Harbor Town Council regular meeting of March 21

Mayor Ray Jackson announced that the council previously had decided to reopen the Holliwalk appeal and variance request but was postponing doing so at the request of the Home Trust. He announced there would be a second executive session in addition to the one on the agenda.

During public access, an SJI resident said they appreciated that the town council was doing some parliamentary training, noting that non-town residents have a lot of interest in town matters and expressed the hope the town would be able to move forward to support the construction of more affordable housing.

Jackson noted that due to a scheduled parliamentary training, the allotted time that day for administrative appeal on San Juan County Fairgrounds water use was brief and the matter would be opened but continued to another date and was unlikely to allow time that day for public comment. They opened the hearing and invited county Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John Cain to present the county’s case. He said he estimated his presentation would take 90 minutes. After a lengthy discussion among the council and between the council and Cain, the council decided to continue the hearing at a special meeting, the date and time to be determined jointly by the town and county, and public notice given when set.

The council then had a training session via Zoom on how to use parliamentary procedures to run efficient, courteous, and productive meetings in local government bodies. Among other things, the training addressed how to properly manage motions and amendments, ensure everyone has a chance to speak their views, how to handle public comment and how to keep order.

After the two scheduled executive sessions, the council approved two motions. The first was to direct staff to engage a hearing examiner of the council’s choosing to consider the Holliwalk appeal and the matter of frontage improvements. The second was a motion to empower the hearing examiner to also hear the Home Trust’s design variance request.

Town Administrator Denice Kulseth reported that she was working with the Small Communities Initiative to seek funding for water and wastewater treatment projects. The engineering firm Brown and Caldwell is also researching potential financing. The town is negotiating the lease renewal with the county for the transfer station. In trying to figure out what to do with the town’s vintage fire trucks, the administrator talked to the historical museum which would be very interested in displaying the trucks and other firefighting history/memorabilia which would probably involve a new building. On April 12 there will be a tree planting in Sunken Park to mark Arbor Day. The Seattle Times published an article that state health statistics report that San Juan County has the highest life expectancy in the state.