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San Juan County receives 38 applicants for county manager position

LWVSJ Observer Corps summary of San Juan County  Council March 12, 2024 meeting

The council approved support letters for projects seeking state or federal funding: the Pea Patch Campus and Eastsound Wastewater Facility Upgrade on Orcas, the Lopez Island Food Center, the Puget Sound Partnership, and an SJI sewer system replacement project at the Home Trust Sunrise site.

In public comment a citizen requested the Council to delay the recruitment of a new county manager until after the elections this fall and to appoint a citizen commission to play a role in the process. 

The council held an executive session with the PA’s office on litigation or potential litigation from which council member Fuller recused herself.

The Council reviewed the first proposed budget amendments for 2024. The amendments will update the budget to reflect actual end-2023/beginning-2024 balances, leaving roughly $722k in available cash. Other amendments will remove canceled projects, add new revenue and spending not in the original 2024 budget. The council reviewed required items, unapproved 2024 budget requests and items cut from 2024-2025 budget and determined at this point there were only enough available funds for the required items which included Department of Community Development (DCD) needs left out of the original budget and Sheriff’s Guild back pay. They will review the amendments again on March 26 and set a public hearing for April 16.

The Council approved DCD plans to update the code for Eastsound lighting standards in line with similar standards adopted for Lopez Village. They approved adjusted solid waste disposal fees on Orcas. They extended two LTAC grants and one historical preservation grant. They appointed members to the Eastsound Planning Review Commission, the Civil Service Commission, and the Clean Water Advisory Board.

The SJI Visitor Bureau reported recent county tourism trends. San Juan County is the 11th most popular destination for state citizens, well behind the Pacific Coast, Leavenworth, and Lake Chelan. Numbers have not recovered to pre-covid levels. In 2023 visitor numbers began to drop off in June and fell sharply in August and the Fall due to concerns about the ferry reliability.

The county has the highest level in the state of tax revenue from tourists at $290m in 2022 but it fell 1-5% in 2023.  So far 2024 summer bookings are running behind 2023 and some whale watching is shifting to Anacortes and Port Townsend.

The Visitor Bureau is working with WSF communications to improve the tone of San Juan ferry press releases.

The Council plans to invite 40th district legislators to a county council meeting and for a town hall on ferry issues. The county manager will start meeting once a month with the Friday Harbor town administrator. There were 38 applicants for county manager, and they will look at how to include a public role in the hiring process.


*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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