Masthead
Tuesday September 16, 2014

Apply for Low-Income Housing Grants, Loans by Sept. 30

San Juan County will award grants and loans totaling up to $25,000 in 2013 for projects that help make housing available to local residents of very low income.

The Low Income Housing Fund, created by the state legislature in 2002, is funded by a surcharge on documents recorded by the county auditor’s office. Funds may be used for construction, operation or maintenance of projects that serve families or individuals earning less than 50 percent of the area’s median income.

For a family of four, 50 percent of median income in San Juan County is $32,450.


(Read full story)

Fair Week with the Council

By Council Clerk Ingrid Gabriel - We have a saying at my house, “It’s always either Christmas or the Fair.”  Both events stand out on the calendar of our lives as significant turning points in the year and seasonal milestones.  One closes the cycle of the year and promises the return of the sun to our hemisphere.  The other marks the dwindling of summer and signals that a new school year is on the horizon.  Just as Christmas keeps us spinning outside of our usual routines, the County Fair has many of us baking a tower of pies, brushing our Flemish Giants and putting the finishing recyclables on our Trashion-Fashions.

So, it goes without saying that the Council (and staff) will not be meeting in the hearing room during Fair Week as they will be darting thither and yon (in a Footloose kind of way) along with the rest of the County.  Bob will be spending time at the Fire District exhibit and offering his communications expertise at the CenturyLink booth.  Rick and Ingrid are acting as judges for various 4-H events and the entire Council is traveling to Lopez on Saturday for the dedication of the new skate park (where Bob will demonstrate his kick-flip and an Airwalk Grab).

Updates from the Corner…


(Read full story)

Primary Ballots Due For Voters in the Town of Friday Harbor

Voters in the Town of Friday Harbor are reminded that ballots are due tomorrow, August 6. Ballots must have a postmark by August 6 or deposited in a drop box at the Courthouse or Elections office by 8 p.m. If you are a Town of Friday Harbor voter and have misplaced your ballot, you may call the Elections Office at 378-3357 for a replacement.

(Read full story)>

Ecology Youth Corps Wraps Up a Month of Clean Up in San Juan Count


Ecology Youth Crew (L-R) Carter Fuehr, Christian De La Zerda, Abbie Vogel and Supervisor, Erik Moore
(SJC Public Works News Release) Three San Juan Island Youths have been walking twelve miles a day to clear San Juan County’s roads and beaches of litter and noxious weeds.  The Ecology Youth Corps (EYC) has been working for the past month on all four ferry-served islands.  They conclude their work this week, and as one participant stated “it’s not easy work but it’s been worth it in the end.”
 
The partnership between San Juan County Public Works and the Ecology Youth Corps is funded by the Ecology Community Litter Cleanup Program.  The Ecology Youth Corps (EYC) is Washington State's largest youth employment program. The youths earn minimum wage while gaining job skills, teamwork experience, and safety awareness.
 
The three teenagers hired this year from San Juan Island are Abbie Vogel, Christian De La Zerda, and Carter Feuhr.  Erik Moore, EYC Supervisor, stated,  “we have removed well over a ton of trash, nearly 1000 pounds of recycling, pulled countless hundreds of noxious weeds, cleaned around 100 miles of roadways, and over 90 acres of beaches and parks.”

(Read full story)>

A Goodbye Message from Interim County Administrator Bob Jean

My thanks to the San Juan County citizens, Council members and staff who helped me keep things moving forward this past year as your Interim County Manager. While there are plenty of items still on the TO DO list, we really had a very successful list of goals accomplished:

·  GOVERNANCE TRANSITIONS – With the Charter amendments approved in November, we have now had THREE County Councils! And with the arrival of Mike Thomas, THREE County Administrators/Managers. Somehow we made it through!

·  GROWTH MANAGEMENT ACT COMPLIANCE – For the first time in 21 years, San Juan County achieved compliance from the State with the Growth Management Act, which opens additional State grant and funding options to the County.

·  BUDGET STABILIZATION – Thanks largely to voter approval of the Public Safety Sales Tax, we were able to end five years of major budget cuts and adopt a stable three year budget forecast through 2015.

·  CRITICAL AREAS ORDINANCE – Rejecting a “one size fits all” Federal/State approach the County adopted a site specific approach, trying to balance environmental protection and maximum property rights. While it is complex and challenges have yet to be ruled upon by the Growth Management Hearings Board, the County is committed to streamlining regulations and continuing to seek balance.

·  SOLID WASTE TRANSITION – Moving from a County-run to public-private system has proven more challenging and taken longer than anticipated, but this allowed each Island to come up with its own solution: Lopez Solid Waste District, the Town/County/Lauderback agreement on San Juan, and the expanded ORS service on Orcas.

·  SJC3 COUNTY COMMUNITY CONVERSATIONS – As part of reviewing County services, service levels, and reshaping County government to better meet the needs of residents today and in the future, the Conversations held on Lopez, Shaw, Orcas, and San Juan were a great success. The results provide guidance for the 2014 Budget and beyond
(Read full story).

Congressman Rick Larson Tours Cattle Point Road Project Area


(Left to Right) Council Members Rick Hughes, Bob Jarman, Congressman Rick Larsen, Council Chair Jamie Stephens

On Wednesday, August 28, U.S. Congressman Rick Larsen (WA-District 2) visited San Juan Island for a walking tour of the endangered section of Cattle Point Road in southern San Juan Island. Larsen and his aides were accompanied by County engineers and the members of San Juan County’s Council: Jamie Stephens, Rick Hughes and Bob Jarman.

The planned $6.2 million project will relocate a portion of Cattle Point Road away from an eroding feeder bluff that threatens a 500 foot section of the road. Congressman Larsen has helped secure $5.5 million dollars in federal construction funding for the project.

Environmental impact studies have been completed for the project and final planning and design work is underway. Construction is scheduled for 2016.


(Read full story)

MRC Rain Garden Project Nets Johannes Krieger a “Finee”


Johannes Krieger accepts the 2013 Finee Award, from last year’s recipient, Marta Branch
Johannes Krieger, owner of Crystal Seas Kayaking and active member of the Marine Resources Committee, is the winner of the 2013 Good Village Steward Award for his work establishing the Spring Street Rain Garden. As is traditional, he was presented with the coveted “Finee” by the San Juan Islands Stewardship Network. Johannes was selected for his tireless work to bring about the creation and construction of a demonstration rain garden on the corner of 1st and Spring Streets in Friday Harbor.
 
The Spring Street Rain Garden is a collaborative partnership between the Town of Friday Harbor and San Juan County’s Marine Resources Committee (MRC) to keep pollutants out of the marine waters of Friday Harbor. “While the town operates in an urbanized environment, that is not an excuse for failure to attend to the waters and the marine life that surround us”, says Duncan Wilson, town administrator of Friday Harbor. “We need to find a harmonious balance between the activities of people and business, while preserving the pristine waters that make the San Juan Islands so special.” (Read full story)>

Hepatitis A Cases Traced to Frozen Berries with Pomegranates

Washington Health officials are urging people who may have bought Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend of Frozen Berries with Pomegranates, to discard all unused berries and monitor the health of anyone who may have eaten them.  The product is linked to 30 cases of Hepatitis A in a multi-state outbreak.

Costco has reported that it sold over 1800 units of frozen berries at nearby stores over the last four weeks.  Currently, no cases have been reported in Washington or San Juan County, but health officials say it is still early in the outbreak. 

The Washington State Department of Health advises strongly against eating these berries, even if some of the product has been eaten without anyone becoming ill.

People who have consumed the product in the last two weeks and have never been vaccinated for hepatitis A or had the disease, should contact their health care provider or San Juan County Health Department at 378-4474 to see if treatment is required. People who have already had a hepatitis A vaccination or had hepatitis A in the past, are unlikely to become ill with the disease.

(Read full story)>

Mt Baker Road and Trail Improvements at the Orcas Center in Eastsound

Public Works Dept News Release - On Thursday, May 24, a large Deodar Cedar tree was removed from the Orcas Center’s signed driveway entrance as part of the ongoing improvements to Mt Baker Road.

The tree had not been previously identified for removal but during the course of construction it became apparent that the knoll upon which the tree sits needed to be excavated to accommodate adjacent roadway and storm drain improvements.

When Public Works became aware of this matter in mid-April it was brought to the attention of the Orcas Center’s staff who in turn informed the Board of Trustees. With their approval the contractor was directed to proceed with the work.

In early May, as members of the community became aware of the pending tree removal, it was clear that they did not want this decision to be taken lightly and wanted assurance that all other alternatives were considered.

(Read full story)

Council Selects New County Manager

The San Juan County Council announced their unanimous decision today to offer the position of County Manager to Michael Thomas, currently the City Administrator for the City of Enumclaw, Washington. 

Council member Bob Jarman praised Thomas for his background in economic development and community planning, citing that it will be critical in addressing the land use and planning issues the County faces.  Jarman also said that Mike Thomas will be a great addition to the Council team.
 
Member Rick Hughes spoke of Mike’s experience and familiarity with the laws of Washington State – and said he was very pleased that Thomas will be moving here with his family, including two school age children.
 
Council Chair Jamie Stephens detailed the steps that had been taken in the recruitment process, citing the strong roster of finalists provided by the recruiter.  Stephens thanked the members of the community and staff who participated in the selection process and said he hoped Mike will be able to join the County staff the last week in June.  Stephens said Mike’s collaborative team approach will work well here, and that he appreciated that Mike’s style was to work with councils and department heads to help them get their work done, rather than directing them.

Michael Thomas will be the first regular County Manager under the changes to the County Charter approved by voters in November, 2012.  Bob Jean has been the Interim County Administrator, then the Interim County Manager, since last June. 
There were 44 applicants for the position, with 5 currently residing in the County. 

The recruiting firm of The Prothman Company screened the candidates and presented the County Council with a list of semifinalists.  The Council selected a list of finalists to interview, including one local candidate who then withdrew from consideration prior to the interviews. 

On Monday, May 13th, the five candidates visited County facilities and met with islanders and answered questions at open houses held on Orcas Island, Lopez Island and San Juan Island.  On Tuesday, May 14th, the candidates were interviewed by separate panels made up of County residents, County staff, and the County Council.  The Council then held an executive session on Wednesday, May 15th, to interview the two top candidates. 

The Council met May 21st in executive session to discuss the qualifications of the top candidates and then moved into open session for their deliberations and selection.


(Read full story)

Judge Okays Team Meetings for Critical Areas Ordinances

(From the office of the SJC Prosecutor)  Team meetings of three members of the county council and the county administrator did not violate the Open Public Meetings Act, said Island County Superior Court Judge Alan R. Hancock.  The gatherings at issue occurred during 2011 and 2012 when a Critical Areas Ordinances (CAO) Team met to coordinate work that was coming to the council.
 
The CAO Team met without formal public notice several times in 2011 and 2012, but that practice stopped in April 2012 on the advice of Prosecuting Attorney Randall K. Gaylord.  After Mr. Gaylord’s advice all subcommittees of the county council have met with notice.  That advice was commended by the court, which recognized that it was ”prudent” and  “conservative” advice made with “an appropriate respect for caution and to protect the public interest and assure the validity of actions of the council.”
 
In October 2012 a property rights group from Bellevue, Washington, the Citizens Alliance for Property Rights Legal Fund (CAPR), challenged the CAO Team meetings that occurred without notice claiming they violated the Open Public Meetings Act.  Another group, Common Sense Alliance, used the same arguments before the Growth Board in an effort to invalidate the CAO Ordinances.

(Read full story)

County Transportation Voucher Program Now Accepting Applications

San Juan County is re-launching  its popular Transportation Voucher Program in September and will be operating through June of 2015. While the first round of the Transportation Voucher Program closed this past June, the program is now accepting applications again.

The first phase of the county wide Transportation Voucher Program saw significant use by its participants over its first nine months; every month averaged 160 taxi rides, 35-45 ferry fares, and repairing and making safer 6-8 vehicles. The Transportation Voucher Program served over 180 of the community’s most transportation -vulnerable residents, equal to about 1.5% of the County’s population.


(Read full story)

Council Signs Transfer Station Contract With Orcas Recyling


Council Member Rick Hughes signs the transfer station operations agreement with ORS. Council Member Bob Jarman waits his turn.

The San Juan Council unanimously approved a contract with Orcas Recycling Services (ORS) to provide solid waste and recycling handling services at the Orcas Island Transfer Station.  ORS and San Juan County Public Works expect that ORS will begin operations in September.

ORS will take over all solid waste operations at the transfer station and provide services to both individual self-haulers and the franchise hauler, San Juan Sanitation.  The contract is for a period of five years and can be extended by the County in five year increments for up to twenty years.  ORS is initially offering lower disposal rates, so self haulers should see an immediate decrease in their costs. 


(Read full story)

Recreational Fires Continue to be Allowed in San Juan County

A recent press release by the State’s Commissioner of Public Lands, Peter Goldmark, has created some confusion about campfires.  Currently, throughout San Juan County, recreational fires remain allowable as long as they are within a fire ring, the fire itself is less than two feet in diameter, and the entire fire is surrounded by at least two feet of clear area.  Fires in campgrounds are still allowed, although individual campground operators always have the authority to prohibit open fires on their property at any time of the year.
 
Commissioner Goldmark’s action was taken in response to extreme fire risk conditions east of the Cascades.  San Juan County’s fire officials are monitoring “fuel moisture” on a daily basis.  Throughout San Juan County, the fire risk remains “Moderate”, meaning that extra caution should be used should a recreational fire be kindled.  Residents and visitors alike are reminded that a campfire should NEVER be left unattended unless it is completely out and cold.

(Read full story)>

Fire Marshal: Fire Danger Climbs to "Moderate"

While visitors and residents of San Juan County enjoy the beautiful warm weather, fire officials are keeping a wary eye on the increasing risk of a wildland fire.  Based upon fuel moisture readings observed around our region, all of the County’s fire danger signs now point to the yellow “MODERATE” range. 

Fire officials ask that everyone be very cautious with recreational fires and outdoor barbecues.  Recreational fires must be no larger than two feet in diameter, centered within a six foot diameter clear area. 

Recreational fires must never be left unattended, and should be fully extinguished and cold before leaving the area.
 
Fire officials will continue to monitor the fire risk, and may have to increase the category to “HIGH” within a few weeks if the current weather pattern continues.


(Read full story)

Funding for Cattle Point Road Project Reaches New Milestone

2013 has been a critical year for Cattle Point Road.  In the past six months, the Final Environmental Statement (FEIS) was approved, design funds were identified and most recently, $5.5 million in federal construction funding has been awarded.
 
Last month, both the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the National Park Service (NPS) approved the FEIS by filing the Record of Decision (ROD) in the federal register.  The ROD is the culmination of the process which began in 2004 to analyze the potential environmental consequences of four road realignment alternatives.

A 500-foot stretch of Cattle Point Road is threatened by an eroding feeder bluff which is less than 70 feet from the edge of the road.  Failure of the road would eliminate access to the eastern portion of the San Juan Island National Historical Park at American Camp, the San Juan Islands National Monument (the lighthouse), Department of Natural Resources Conservation Area and 270 residents of Cape San Juan. 

The preferred alternative in the FEIS is to relocate a portion of the road 300 feet from the eroding bluff, up the slope of Mt. Finlayson, to prolong the life of the road by more than 100 years.  The FEIS can be viewed at San Juan County Public Works or online at http://www.wfl.fha.dot.gov/projects/wa/cattlepoint/


(Read full story)

Alternative Travel Routes are Maintaining "Relaxation as Usual"

SJI Visitors Bureau Release - Despite the I-5 Skagit River bridge closure, the San Juan Islands are kicking off the summer season in style, with fun events, great food and spectacular views. On Memorial Day Weekend, a  huge—and playful—humpback whale spent a few hours in Friday Harbor, and humpback sightings continue around the county.

This weekend, the San Juan Island Artists’ Studio Tour will lead visitors through 15 studios around the island, representing 40 artists, the Celebrity Golf Classic and Salmon Barbeque takes place, and a Salish Sea Early Music Festival will be performed on Lopez, Orcas and San Juan Islands.

Resorts, inns and bed & breakfasts have reported little, if any, effect from the bridge closure, since most innkeepers were proactive, making use of phone calls, email and social media to keep their guests informed.
(Read full story)