A Message from Commissioner Bacon

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Island County

District 1 News - December 29, 2023

2024 New Year

Happy New Year, everyone! 

Thank you for reading my weekly newsletter this year. Here are a few highlights from items I shared with you in 2023.

  • The Board of Island County Commissioners committed the remaining $8M affordable housing funds we set aside from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to help fund a number of exciting housing projects (two examples: $3.9M to the Opportunity Council for the construction of an 82-unit apartment community in Oak Harbor, and $1.1M to Goosefoot for a rental project in Langley). We continue to take ongoing applications for affordable housing projects, to be paid for from funds such as the 1/10th of 1% sales tax we approved last year for this purpose.
  • To meet critical human services needs in our community we: hired an Affordable Housing Development Specialist to coordinate a pipeline of affordable housing development projects for a range of income levels and supportive service needs across the county; received two more years of funding for our Veteran’s Services Officer position; and entered into a new contract for our Recovery Navigator Program. In addition, Public Health and Human Services are buying a mobile health unit to take services directly to citizens.
  • We passed an amendment to provide PBRS points for drainage areas and for forest stewardship.
  • We worked with the business sectors and local jurisdictions to write a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) for the County.
  • We held many public meetings on issues ranging from local neighborhood concerns (ex: Brighton Beach shore access) to full county topics (ex: the speed study).
  • We engaged in many conversations reflecting our concerns regarding the quantity and quality of our surface water, and our septic/sewer infrastructure. We asked the 2023 Legislature to fund a septic/sewer solutions study, and received $336,000; we plan to ask the 2024 Legislature to fund a water study. Our upcoming Comp Plan will address both of these concerns.
  • We installed new playground equipment at Freeland Park and at Dave Mackie Park. In 2023 we also made the decision to provide a higher level of service in our County parks going forward.
  • We committed to purchasing a new trash compactor at the Coupeville Transfer Station.
  • We initiated or constructed many new public works projects, such as the Ault Field Road/Goldie Road Traffic Signal Improvements.
  • We received a $1M clean energy electrification grant and are using that plus the $3.5M we budgeted to do a major carbon reduction refit of the County Administration Building in Coupeville (which was built in the 1940’s).
  • We purchased a building in Coupeville to consolidate our Public Works functions, giving more space in the Annex building for Planning and Public Health.
  • We entered into a contract to study our boat launches, and decided we need to build an elevated boat ramp at Robinson’s Beach and take mitigation steps to improve the Utsalady Boat Ramp on Camano Island. Now we’re looking for funding.
  • We partnered with other jurisdictions and local providers to improve our Broadband access on Whidbey and Camano.
  • We decided to fund two Conservation Futures projects: $295,510 to the Whidbey Watershed Stewards for the Freeland Wetlands Preserve Acquisition, and $582,490 to the City of Oak Harbor for the Freund Marsh Acquisition (three parcels). Both projects will provide important wetlands protections for the health and pleasure of our residents on Whidbey Island.
  • The Board oversaw a lot of process improvements in 2023. Permit times improved, and we held a listening session with builders and developers on the County permit processes in order to identify ways to improve them further. We increased our work in our noxious weeds program. Our website was updated, and now includes language access options. The online Budget application continues to improve. We encouraged our advisory committees to change their meetings times to better meet the schedules of all of our citizens and improve participation.
  • We held many discussions and took some action on overnight parking on County roads—some were associated with ways to discourage tourists from parking overnight along our scenic vistas, but most were to help neighborhoods experiencing homeless residents building encampments on County roads.
  • We created a new Emergency Preparation fund in our budget and funded a new training position in our Department of Emergency Management to work with citizens and County employees to prepare for emergencies.
  • We revised our Animal Control (now Animal Welfare) code. These changes will ensure swift and clear response from law enforcement in animal abuse situations, will require kennel licensing for private kennels (10 or more cats and/or dogs) and commercial kennels (5 or more cats and/or dogs for profit), and will require monitoring of these kennels.
  • We passed an Equity Resolution; see https://www.islandcountywa.gov/documentcenter/view/3837.
  • The Board of Health passed a Health in All Policies Resolution; see page 5, here: https://www.islandcountywa.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_12192023-669.
  • These two resolutions, plus the Climate Resiliency resolution passed in 2022 (https://www.islandcountywa.gov/DocumentCenter/View/3844) will be foundational documents for our 2025 Comprehensive Plan update. We held many meetings in 2023 in preparation for the heavy Comp Plan work that will take up much of our time in 2024. Sign up for Comp Plan emails at CompPlan@islandcountywa.gov.

I wish you the best in the coming year. I am grateful for the honor of serving you.