A Message from Commissioner Bacon

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Island County

District 1 News - February 16, 2024

sunny smile

Thank you for reading my newsletter for the 7th week of 2024.

Next Monday the County offices are closed, including our Solid Waste facilities, in recognition of Presidents’ Day. I am also taking the day off and will not be hosting any of my usual Monday meetings.

  • Regular Session.  The agenda and recording for the Tuesday February 13 Regular Session is here: https://media.avcaptureall.cloud/meeting/f478c16f-7c3b-43c8-ab92-5d848e9b2b82.
    • We heard public comment about Crawford Road, mark 00:11:47 in the video recording.
    • We held a public hearing on a few minor amendments to our 2024 – 2029 Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP). You can access the document by clicking on the link in the agenda above; the discussion begins at mark 00:18:25 in the video.
    • The agenda for our Tuesday, February 20 regular session is here https://www.islandcountywa.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_02202024-710. There is nothing scheduled on the Regular Agenda, so unless there is a lot of public comment it should be a pretty short meeting.
  • Other Upcoming Public Hearings (held during Tuesday board meetings, beginning at 10 am):
    • March 5: PSE Franchise PW2023-0127
    • March 12 (pending BOCC approval of date): Marshall Drainage District Assessment
    • March 12: Franchise Renewal Saratoga Shores
    • March 12: Franchise Renewal Juniper Beach
    • March 19 (pending BOCC approval of date): Compost Procurement Ordinance
    • March 19 (pending BOCC approval of date): New Franchise 58 W Camano
    • March 19: SMP, Public Hearing deliberation continued from 2/6.
    • March 26 (pending BOCC approval of date): Countywide Planning Policy
    • March 26 (pending BOCC approval of date): Franchise Renewal Whidbey Country Club
    • March 26 (pending BOCC approval of date): Franchise Renewal Saratoga Beach
    • April 16 (pending BOCC approval of date): a water system approval
  • Work Session.   The agenda for the Wednesday, February 14 work session is here: https://www.islandcountywa.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_02142024-702. The recording is here: https://www.islandcountywa.gov/DocumentCenter/View/6388/02142024-WS-Audio. The two presentations can be found here: https://www.islandcountywa.gov/DocumentCenter/View/6387/02142024-WS-Presentations.
    • I have to say, this work session was one of the most valuable policy discussion days of my tenure so far as County Commissioner. If you’ve ever been tempted to listen to any of our work session discussions, I think you’ll find one or both of the two I list below really interesting.
    • We started with a discussion-based exercise on our County’s actions in case of a significant emergency. The scenario was: an earthquake has occurred along the Southern Whidbey Island fault zone. What do County employees—starting with County Commissioners—do? We spent a lot of time talking about our communications challenges. This discussion was the first item on our agenda, and lasted over two-and-a-half hours. There’s a period of time beginning around mark 1:48:50 when you might not be able to hear much; three people “injured” in an earthquake were brought in for assessment and treatment, so our discussion flagged during that time. But at 1:58:14 the table conversation resumes, beginning with getting a couple of minor issues out of the way so we could get back to the emergency discussion.
    • The second significant conversation of the day was a discussion with our Long Range Planners on the values that citizens identified during our Comprehensive Plan public meetings, with an opportunity for the Commissioners to add our own values to the mix. It was, believe it or not, a profound and lovely conversation which can basically be summed up like this: Island County is a magical place to live, and we need to identify what makes it magical so that we can take the necessary steps to protect and enrich those qualities even in the face of adding 15,000 new people into the mix over the next 20 years. It felt very appropriate on Valentine’s Day to talk about how much we love this place. You can hear that conversation beginning at mark 2:49:27 in the recording; the presentation reporting on the community’s values begins on page 18 of the presentations link above.
    • This is the agenda for the Wednesday, February 21 work session: https://www.islandcountywa.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_02212024-709. This will be an important work session—the agenda includes discussion of a jail feasibility study; consideration of the formation of a Jail Replacement Steering Committee; follow-up on our Shoreline Master Program (SMP) public hearing discussion; Road Closure for Baker Way Landslide Slope Stabilization Project; a petition to Open an Unopened County Right-of-Way on Camano; and the 2024 Rural County Economic Development (RCED) Report
  • Because we have changed the proposed method of assessment for the Marshall Drainage District (now focusing on amount of impervious surface rather than simply acreage), we are holding another public meeting for the effected community to ask questions and make comments before the March 12 public hearing. This public meeting will be held the last day of this month, Thursday February 29, at 4:30 pm at the Clinton Community Hall.
  • Last Sunday I attended the celebration of the pool bond’s passage. More than 62% of South Whidbey voters voted ‘yes’ on the Pool Bond in November 2023, and the goal is to open the pool by 2026. The South Whidbey Parks and Aquatics Foundation is actively recruiting volunteers to help with a myriad of tasks prior to opening. Volunteer opportunities can be tailored to meet your interests and availability; will enhance and sustain the new facility; will ensure anyone can swim regardless of ability to pay; and will fulfill the promise of the Every Third Grader Learns to Swim Program. Contact the Foundation today for more information about how you can volunteer now to help manifest these goals: info@swparksandaquatics.org
  • On Thursday afternoon I spent time with our Planning Department’s Permitting leadership, diving into the improvements the County has implemented to our processes over the last couple of years, learning how we’ve sped up the time it takes to get a permit, the technical software we’ve implemented to allow people to apply online and follow their permit’s process, and the internal steps we’ve taken to improve our efficiencies and effectiveness. Permitting at Island County is not what it used to be. And we are about to implement even more efficiencies. Kudos to our permitting teams, who have been working so hard to improve citizens’ experiences in creating and updating their dream homes.
  • Also on Thursday, I attended a talk given by Fire Chief Nick Walsh, sponsored by the Freeland Chamber of Commerce. The South Whidbey Fire District responded to 2657 calls in 2023—and 2178 of those were medical emergencies. Right now the response time for a call averages 15 minutes—and the District wants to take a variety of actions to lower that to 10 minutes or less, which would certainly save lives. Expect to hear more from the Fire District over the coming months, as they consider a possible levy increase on the August primary ballot (in 2021 we voted in a levy of 95 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, but because fire district levies are no longer tied to property values after the first year the value of that levy is now only 81 cents per $1,000. In other words, our levy has not kept up with inflation).
  • The Board of Health will meet next Tuesday at 1 pm. This is the agenda, including the Zoom link: https://www.islandcountywa.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_02202024-708. On that agenda: Human Services will present a Housing Continuum Overview; Planning will give an update on the Comprehensive Plan where we will review the Housing and Land Use Elements Goals & Priorities, including recommendations from Public Health and Human Services; we’ll get an update on the Community Health Assessment survey; and the Board of Health will review the Wastewater Proviso focusing on innovative septic system technologies for unincorporated Island County.
  • Planning Commission and the Comprehensive Plan Update:
    • We’ve now held four public meetings on the Comprehensive Plan. It was really interesting to see how the different parts of our community prioritize different things. For example, in Oak Harbor on Tuesday citizens put more emphasis on economic development than I’ve seen elsewhere in the area. Our Planning Department talked about the Value Statements we received by citizens in the different areas on Wednesday (see work session comments, above); they will be giving a more complete presentation on the results of these meetings in the near future.
    • Long Range Planning will give an update on the Comprehensive Plan at our Board of Health meeting next week, focusing on planning for Public Health. See Board of Health information above.
    • The Comprehensive Plan Update public engagement website is now live: https://www.islandcounty2045.com/. I encourage you to join and participate.
    • The next meeting of the Planning Commission will be held next Wednesday, February 21, at 6 pm. The agenda and materials, including the Zoom link, are here: https://www.islandcountywa.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_02212024-705.
  • Community Health Survey: It only takes 10 minutes to have a BIG impact! Island County’s Community Health Survey, https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Z3Q2SSZ, is collecting responses through April 30th to include in the Community Health Assessment Report, which will be released in July of 2024. If you haven’t taken the quick survey yet, be sure to do so! The anonymous survey takes ten to twelve minutes and will help Island County Public Health better understand how all islanders are doing. The results of the survey will identify areas of improvement and set a path towards creating a healthier community for all. There are questions about quality of life, access to health care, how people get health-related information, and what are some of the barriers to good health in our county. The more people we hear from, the more complete our picture will be of how Island County community members are doing.
  • You can find all of my newsletters since January 2023 here: https://www.islandcountywa.gov/Directory.aspx?EID=62.
  • I will not be holding any meetings next Monday (Presidents’ Day), but effective Monday, March 11, I am expanding my Monday meetings with citizens to include an hour each week in Coupeville. These are opportunities for citizens to meet in an open group to discuss anything County-related with me and anyone else who drops by. Below is my Mondays with Melanie schedule through March:
    • Monday, February 19            None
    • Monday, February 26            3:00 – 4:00 pm, WiFire Community Space,                                                          1651 E. Main Street, Freeland
    • Monday, March 4                   None
    • Monday, March 11                1:30 – 2:30 pm, Cedar & Salt Coffee House,                                                       200 S. Main Street, Coupeville

                                                                   3:00 – 4:00 pm, WiFire Community Space,                                                                              1651  E. Main Street, Freeland

    • Monday, March 18                1:30 – 2:30 pm, Cedar & Salt Coffee House,                                                        200  S. Main Street, Coupeville

                                                                   3:00 – 4:00 pm, WiFire Community Space,                                                                               1651 E. Main Street, Freeland

    • Monday, March 25                1:30 – 2:30 pm, Cedar & Salt Coffee House,                                                        200 S. Main Street, Coupeville

                                                                   3:00 – 4:00 pm, WiFire Community Space,                                                                               1651 E. Main Street, Freeland

                                                                   5:00 – 6:00 pm, Clinton Community Hall,                                                                                 6411 S. Central Avenue, Clinton


“Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.”                       ~ Gandhi