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San Juan County Council sets 2024 goals including renewal of Land Bank

LWVSJ Observer Corps*: County Council January 22-23, 2024

At the January 22 workshop and 23rd regular meeting the Council conducted a retreat to plan and prepare for 2024. They approved appointments to the SJI Library Board, Lopez Village Planning Committee Human Services Advisory Board, and the Lopez Solid Waste Committee. They approved council members’ committee and board assignments and the 2024 calendar. 

The final 2023 balances closed this week, and the Council will review balances, the 2024-2025 biennial budget, and outstanding budget requests on February 6. The county will need to closely manage the very tight 24-25 budget and limit budget amendments. The county will renew major contracts in 2024 including the Friday Harbor solid waste lease, the Lopez solid waste lease, the Visitor Bureau, and municipal court services.   A working group will track and negotiate contracts.

The county will have a new process to implement plans and projects, align them with policy and include coordination and communication. The county will clarify communication guidelines for staff and members of boards and commissions and improve communication with citizens.

The county building profile will change as it acquires a new building, loses leased space at Orcas Senior Center, sells the Compass Health building, a public works buildings on Spring Street to the Conservation District and on Lopez to the solid waste utility. In 2024, they need to decide whether to renovate or rebuild to address courthouse seismic and safety issues. 

Human Resources will do a compensation study and track implementation issues with the 32-hour workweek. They have seven applications for the Community Development Director job and the County Manager job will be posted soon, as will the process for filling it. Mark Tompkins  and Brandon Cadwell will act as interim county manager and interim assistant county manager.

The county will form new working groups to coordinate key issues including the 2025 Comprehensive Plan Update, Sea Level Rise, and Transportation. The county will do an interim code update to fix conflicting pieces of the building code. Transportation, especially ferries, and broadband access are key issues in regional forums and the state legislature. The council is working with their lobbyist to track and advocate for bills impacting ferries and education in the short legislative session. 

Major initiatives and projects in 2024 include studies on the impact of ferry service disruptions and the possibility of passenger-only interisland service; seeking a federal grant for Agate Beach; a community conversation on Bailer Hill Road and the possible Zylstra Trail; next steps for Killibrew Lake Road; compiling public comment on the Destination Management Plan; renewing the Land Bank and updating its acquisition process; a community health improvement plan; the Argyle Project will move forward with a lease signed soon with the Home Trust. 

*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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