San Juan County council has approved projects through 2024, including planning for a new building, an affordable housing project, a radio system for emergency responders and a park expansion.
On Dec. 4, dozens of potential projects were funded for $43.22 million through 2024. Tasks listed in the county’s transportation improvement plan, which passed in October, are also part of this capital improvement plan.
The county budgeted $500,000 in 2019 and another $2 million through 2023 to plan for a new structure to consolidate county offices. A new building will not be constructed next year, said San Juan County Manager Mike Thomas, but plans will be made to “refine the concept.”
“The intent of the … project is to build a new administrative building in Friday Harbor, housing a majority of the county offices except for sheriff and the courts [which] would remain in the existing courthouse,” he said.
The benefits of housing most departments in one building, Thomas added, include consolidating staff, maintaining fewer buildings and providing easier access for the public.
In 2019 and 2020, county staff also plans to make more payments in the purchase of the vacant 1.77 acres on the corner of Argyle Avenue and Malcolm Street in Friday Harbor. Staff is looking for a nonprofit or private company to create an affordable housing project in that location.
The county land bank sold the property to the county government, as a whole. Thomas said the purchase will be made in three annual installments in 2018 through 2020. Staff budgeted to spend $250,000 in 2019 and $240,000 in 2020 on the property.
“This effort is in its infancy,” said Thomas. “Purchase of the land was the first step in being able to move forward. The county will put much effort into the project in 2019.”
In 2020, the county put aside $2 million to plan for a potential new radio system for all county emergency departments.
County police, fire and EMS departments are separated across the islands and use different equipment to bounce radio signals off of to communicate.
In the new proposed system, all of the agencies would use the same equipment, which would be placed on poles that the local internet service provider Rock Island uses to provide wireless internet and cell phone services. This, said San Juan County Sheriff Ron Krebs, will ensure uninterrupted connections.
“It’ll be much better communication,” said Krebs. “Most dead spots around the county will be covered better.”
In 2022, the county budgeted $900,000 to purchase 5 acres adjacent to San Juan County Park. The potential addition is not currently for sale, but San Juan County Parks and Fair Director Dona Wuthnow said the area needs to expand.
“At 12 acres, San Juan County Park is often over capacity, with parking and congestion issues,” she said.
A master plan for the park will analyze the congestion while making recommendations for improvements. The plan will also review old structures in the park and potential impacts to projected sea-level rise.
To review the capital improvements plan, visit www.islandsweekly.com.