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San Juan County Council: Ferries, Fire preparedness, school funding

LWVSJ Observer Corps*: Summary County Council August 22, 2023 meeting

The Council approved adding a brief discussion of ferry issues and fire preparedness to the day’s agenda. The Council agreed Chair Wolfe would draft a simple statement about the importance of refinery safety to air and water quality in the County to support a Friends of the San Juans proposed revisions to Washington State’s Process Safety Management rules.

In public access Justin Paulson, Orcas member of the Ferry Advisory Committee, said a strong message needed to be sent by the County about the lack of Interisland ferry service last week during the fair, which left animals still stranded at the fairgrounds; and that the County should look again at County-provided interisland transport.

The Council approved the 2023-25 three-year collective bargaining contract which covers 70% of county employees with Unit 1849. The contract has a major change to a 32-hour work schedule. Hourly rates will be adjusted accordingly. Organizations making this shift have either no change or an increase in productivity. The contract cost is within budget. Overtime pay will apply only for over 40 hours worked. Cost of living adjustments are 6% for 2023 and 3% for 2024 and for 2025. The Council thanked staff and the union for cordial negotiations.

The Council approved the public posting of the draft San Juan Islands Destination Management Plan in preparation for a six-week public comment period. That will be followed by a tribal nations review. The plan proposes actions on infrastructure and policy in managing the complex array of visitors and the amenities and environment of the islands. 

Before the fair, Council Member Fuller spoke several times with WSF about ensuring the availability of interisland service during the County Fair, so the service failures were deeply frustrating. Councilors Wolf and Minney noted the many letters, meetings, conversations with the Governor, State Transportation Secretary, the Transportation Commissions, state legislators, as well as directly with WSF, that the County undertook in recent years and the lack of improvement. They have explored a county-run ferry, but even a passenger-only ferry is enormously costly and complicated. Fuller will draft a public letter to the most senior state officials for Council approval. The Ferry Advisory Committee is increasing public outreach. 

The Council will have a presentation in October to review fire prevention and preparedness with fire districts and state and federal agencies, and to organize public information meetings. 

Council member Fuller is on a working group to advocate for state action to resolve school finance issues that threaten the viability of county school districts, Lopez most acutely.

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. 


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