A Message From Commissioner Bacon

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Island County

District 1 News - January 6, 2023

Message from Commissioner Bacon

MB pic

Goss Lake, January 2, 2023

Happy New Year! Thank you for reading my newsletter for the 1st week of 2023.

The Commissioners took the last two weeks of December “off” (I say “off” because we scheduled no regular Board meetings, but I attended a couple of other meetings plus spent many hours on the phone and email, and assume the same was true of my colleagues). While we were off, two tragedies hit our County—on Christmas weekend, Sheriff’s Deputies, community animal welfare groups, and many concerned citizens responded to a horrific animal abuse case on North Whidbey; and the following week many of our shoreline communities suffered devastating flooding due to a combination of king tides and low atmospheric pressure. The Board discussed both of these tragedies this week, including next steps for the County, during our Tuesday regular meeting and our Wednesday work session.

    • During the Public Comment section at the beginning of the meeting, twelve citizens spoke about the animal abuse case, and one spoke about the flooding in her neighborhood.
    • The citizens who spoke about the animal abuse case offered a number of suggestions to the County to assist us in avoiding this type of situation in the future. Below are some of the suggestions they offered to us:
    • –that we expand our focus from “animal control” to “animal welfare”
    • –that we hire for the open position plus increase the number of staff people working in this area
    • –that we create a citizen advisory group to work with our new officer once they are hired
    • –that we clarify the legal issues regarding the authority of people who rescue/foster animals
    • –that we update our codes, including adding welfare of animals besides dogs, providing guidelines around what constitutes basic animal care, and establishing protocols for when law enforcement can step in
    • During Commissioners Comments I asked Fred Snoderly, our Deputy Public Works Director, and Keith Higman, our Public Health Director, to speak about last week’s flooding on our shoreline communities, mark 00:59:46 in the above video. I identified issues that I wanted to see addressed during our Wednesday meeting, when we planned to discuss this disaster in greater detail:
    • --I want the Commissioners to have better clarity regarding when we can call an emergency to assist with private property and private roads. I received many emails and phone calls from desperate citizens begging the County to help them with pumping water or piling rock on roads, and all I could do was forward their requests to Public Works to ascertain when a situation was appropriate for the County to step in and when it was not. But because I was receiving mixed information I could never say to someone: “I’m sorry, no, the County cannot assist with this private matter—this is between you and your insurance company.” I do not like leaving people with false hope.
    • –I would like to see a map showing all of the impacted properties from this incident, because as we talk about updating our Comprehensive Plan to address mitigation efforts for sea level rise, this information could be useful in helping us to know which communities will be impacted soonest.
    • –I asked to get an update on Wednesday on how many people had completed the damage assessment form that we need to convince the state that we should receive emergency funding for individuals whose homes were damaged by the floods. If you were impacted but haven’t yet filled out the form, please do so right away:  https://www.islandcountywa.gov/DEM/Pages/Damage-Assessment.aspx.
    • –I also asked Public Health Director Keith Higman, in his last appearance before the Board, to talk about the flooding from an environmental health perspective.  
    • The next regular session of the Board of Island County Commissioners will be held on Tuesday, January 10 at 10 am. You can find the agenda for that meeting, including how to attend virtually, here: https://media.avcaptureall.cloud/meeting/d2c39ca1-1d35-48c2-8567-ac16670a1f77 
  • Resolutions approved this week:
    • C-01-23: Initiating a County Road Project for the 2023 Pavement Preservation Program for Whidbey Island Hot Mix Asphalt Overlays
    • C-02-23: Initiating a County Road Project for the 2023 Pavement Preservation Programs for Camano Island Hot Mix Asphalt Overlays
  • Work Session. You can see the agenda for the Wednesday January 4 meeting here: https://www.islandcountywa.gov/Commissioners/worksessions/2023/01042023%20Agenda.pdf. The audio recording and two “other” documents can be found under the January tab here: https://www.islandcountywa.gov/Commissioners/Pages/WorkSessions.aspx.
    • We received the updates I requested on Tuesday, regarding the flooding last week. You can hear that conversation beginning at mark 00:04:39 in the above audio. The reports we went through can be found in the “other” section for the January 4 agenda.
    • We discussed what projects we will want Merchant McIntyre consultants to seek federal funds for, on the County’s behalf. Mark 00:53:25 in the audio. This discussion will continue at next Wednesday’s work session.
    • As you will recall, the County received $16 Million dollars in funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, and the Board of Island County Commissioners decided to spend most of that on affordable housing projects. We still have almost $8 Million dollars unspent, and on Wednesday we discussed how to allocate those dollars in response to the terrific applications we’ve received. We received 16 applications for $22 Million—so unfortunately we will not be able to fund most of them with these ARPA dollars. You can find that presentation in “other”, above, and hear that discussion at mark 01:13:40 in the audio.
    • At the end of the meeting I asked that we discuss next steps in the animal welfare concerns raised on Tuesday. Mark 02:15:09 in the audio. We agreed that County Administrator Michael Jones will meet with Sheriff Felici and report back to the Board.
    • The next work session of the Board of Island County Commissioners will be held on Wednesday, January 11 at 10 am. You can find the agenda for that meeting, including how to attend virtually, here: https://www.islandcountywa.gov/Commissioners/worksessions/2023/01112023%20Agenda.pdf.
  • We are expecting king tides again during the fourth week of this month. If you live in a flood-prone area, please be prepared. Move your precious things up on shelves or out of your house. Have bottled water ready and your cell phones charged up. Have an evacuation plan for your family and pets. And have sandbags ready in advance. If the storm comes and you don’t have sandbags, contact Public Works and they will help you with sand bags as long as their supplies last. I hate to say this, but don’t expect the County to come in and pump out your water. There is very little we (or anyone else) can do to keep the water out of your home once the ocean has decided to move in.
  • I extend my affectionate goodbyes to my colleagues Wanda Grone, Bernie Upchurch, and Dr. Robert Bishop, all of whom have now retired from their positions as elected officials for Island County. Each was a dedicated public servant, and the County is in a better place because of them.
  • I welcome my new colleagues, Treasurer Tony Lam, Assessor Kelly Mauck, and Coroner Shantel Porter. If you need anything, you know where to find me.
  • Following the pandemic, there has been growing momentum throughout Island County to reimagine tourism to harness its significant contribution and opportunity to genuinely be a force for good. This desire includes a new regenerative tourism plan to improve the lives of residents, enrich visitor experiences, and benefit the natural environment of both islands. Whidbey & Camano Islands Tourism (WCIT) is leading the charge. Together with a dedicated steering committee of local volunteer stakeholders, WCIT, which is our umbrella destination marketing and management organization, has been participating in the Transformational Travel Council's new global Regenerative Destinations Program as a big step toward developing transformational and regenerative travel within our islands. Over 700 local residents recently completed a community survey, and those results are helping guide the new direction. There will be several opportunities for public participation as the new plan rolls out later this year. In the meantime, to learn more visit www.whidbeycamanoislands.com/transformational-travel 
  • I’ll be back with my Monday Tea with Melanie next Monday, January 9, at 3 pm at the WiFire Community Space, 1651 E. Main Street, Freeland. Tea is on me. I will not be there the following Monday, January 16, because the County offices will be closed in recognition of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I anticipate being there on the 23rd and 30th.


“January is the calendar’s ingrown hair.”
~ Stewart Stafford