League of Women Voters Observer Corps notes on Council’s Jan. 9-10 meetings

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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.

This report covers both the San Juan County Council workshop and business sessions that took place Jan. 9 and 10:

Cindy Wolf was elected Chair of the Council and Jane Fuller was elected Vice Chair. The council set the calendar for the coming year and assigned council members to cover boards and commissions. The council approved legislative priorities at the federal and local level for 2023. The council approved the emergency repair of the HAVC system damaged by fire in a country building; Pursuing an EPA grant for composting infrastructure; and the ranking of transportation projects funded by state grants. The three projects are county-managed vouchers for ferry and vehicle transport for people to access critical services and two programs carried out by Island Rides. Island Rides is planning to get wheelchair-equipped vehicles. The council set public hearings for Feb. 7 for Land Bank proposals for a utility easement and lease of Coffelt Farm and for a conservation easement deed for Lopez Hill addition.

A review of key issues coming up in early 2023 included a look at potential budget challenges. The county starts the year with a strong cash balance of $8.4 million and unchanged AA2 credit rating. Challenges include labor contract negotiations, supply chain issues, and a possible slowing economy. The failure of the road levy will mean service going forward will be at a lower level than in past years and will make it difficult to deal with roads already being impacted by rising sea levels. The road levy in the county is the lowest in the state, making the county uncompetitive for state grants.

The county will begin updating the Critical Area Ordinances required by the state. The effort will simplify regulation language and organize it to make information clearer and easier to find.

By February a public outreach and input plan will be ready for Council review. Environmental planning efforts will include a model of sea level rise risk and a climate action plan will begin with a greenhouse gas assessment. The county will look at shifting air quality monitoring to the NW Clean Air Agency instead of DOE.

The Communications Director reviewed the progress the communications strategy including strengthening website usability and improving media relations.

Parks is evaluating a possible acquisition of land on Egg Lake Road for a new public campground on San Juan Island. Federal funding was approved for the Zylstra Lake Trail.