Correction: This article previously stated that the fire district serves all of San Juan Island, except for the Town of Friday Harbor, as they have their own. The fire district actually includes Brown Island, Pearl Island and all of San Juan Island, expect Friday Harbor. The town receives fire services through a contract with the district, meaning the fire district’s property tax levy does not include town residents.
Two days after commissioners received training on Washington laws, a legal mixup on the San Juan County Public Hospital District 1 Board was corrected and long-term goals with the local fire district were discussed.
The recent board appointment of Dr. Warren Appleton was found to be invalid after he was sworn into office on Feb. 8 because he was not registered to vote in the county. He updated his voter registration by the Feb. 28 meeting, and the sitting commissioners voted, 3-1, to re-appoint him. Commissioner Anna Lisa Lindstrum did not vote for Appleton.
Appleton and Rebecca Smith were originally voted onto the board on Feb. 8. Both were sworn in on that day and Appleton was re-sworn in after the Feb. 28 vote.
Commissioner Michael Edwards noted that Appleton’s application stated that he lived in the district for eight months out of the year, so he assumed he was a registered voter. Both he and Appleton apologized for the mishap at the Feb. 28 meeting. The new commissioners replaced Bill Williams, who vacated the board on Jan. 24 for undisclosed reasons, and Monica Harrington, who left on Jan. 25 because she is moving off the island for a new career.
Washington’s legal definitions for government proceedings were discussed by a Bellingham attorney during a Feb. 26 commissioner training. Appleton attended, though he sat in the audience, as he was not a confirmed board member yet.
Edwards told the Journal that new commissioners are mandated to receive training by the state. In addition to Smith’s and Appleton’s recent appointments, Lindstrum started her term last January.
According to the presentation, state law requires meetings of governmental bodies to be done in public with a quorum. A quorum is the minimum amount of commissioners needed to validate board proceedings. Social events that board members may attend, do not constitute as quorums.
This training comes in the wake of rumors that Edwards and Commissioner Mark Schwinge spoke prior to the meeting to select the new commissioners on Feb. 8. Edwards told the Journal they did not discuss whom they would vote for to fill the positions.
According to the district superintendent’s released legal advice on Feb. 12, Edwards and Schwinge could have met prior to voting as the board of commissioners is legally comprised of five seats, so a quorum is met with three commissioners.
The law does not require meetings to include public comment or recordings of procedures to be made, though the district offers both. The presentation emphasized that commissioners should work together, be efficient and focus on the long-term goals of governance, versus the day-to-day operations performed by district staff.
At the Feb. 28 meeting, commissioners continued deliberations on a merger between San Juan Island Emergency Medical Services and the local fire district. The hospital district oversees EMS.
The hospital district and San Juan County Fire District 3 will hold an open, public meeting together, at 3 p.m., Wednesday, April 4 at the San Juan fire station at 1011 Mullis St. to discuss the possible merger.
San Juan County Fire District 3 staff prepared a report on the merger for their board, which can be viewed below, and shared it with the hospital district. Issues involving the merger include combining the districts’ different service areas. The hospital district includes Brown, Pearl, Henry, Stuart, Johns, and Spieden Islands and the fire district includes Brown Island, Pearl Island and all of San Juan Island, expect Friday Harbor. The town receives fire services through a contract with the district, meaning the fire district’s property tax levy does not include town residents. The report also outlines the possibility of a levy increase under the fire district, which the report states can collect up to $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value in the district.
Edwards said that a group called “the white paper committee,” which was writing a research document on the possible merger, will no longer meet or finish the paper. According to Edwards, that group included county fire stations’ staff and retirees, as well as the hospital district commissioners Edwards, Schwinge and Williams, at differing times.
An advisory group of about nine citizens will also be formed to research the possible merger. No one has been appointed to this group yet and the committee will use professionals, like retired Lopez Fire Chief Jim Ghiglione, for guidance, said Edwards.
View the Feb. 28 meeting at www.sanjuanco.com/1076/Hospital-District.
“Talking Points in the Discussion of Fire and Emergency Medical Service Delivery on San Juan Island”: