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The long wait for Island County to take legal action against a Greenbank property owner and reclaim a disputed public beach access has finally come to an end. On March 6, the Island County Prosecutor’s Office filed a civil lawsuit against Wonn Road property owner and pharmaceutical giant Bruce Montgomery.
More than a year of debate was settled recently when Island County Commissioner Kelly Emerson was appointed board chairwoman. The decision was made this past Wednesday during the commissioners’ informal work session. Emerson and Commissioner Jill Johnson — both Republicans — supported the change. Commissioner Helen Price Johnson was opposed. The position has been a matter of controversy for more than a year. Traditionally, the seat is rotated among board members annually, but Emerson was passed over in 2012 by her Democratic colleagues — Price Johnson and former commissioner Angie Homola.
A bill that would have allowed bans of fin-fish net pens has sunk at the state Legislature. The measure died in committee, as did the hopes of environmental activists and Island County decision-makers. “That’s the way it goes,” said Steve Erickson, legal coordinator for the Whidbey Environmental Action Network, or WEAN.
A controversial proposal to clear the way for no-shooting rules in Island County was shot down this week. On Wednesday, Republican Island County commissioners Kelly Emerson and Jill Johnson refused the pleas of Democrat Commissioner Helen Price Johnson to continue the discussion at a later meeting. Instead, they opted to kill the unpopular proposal once and for all.
A Renton man was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident Saturday on East Silver Lake Road on North Whidbey. Joel Crouch, 27, suffered head injuries and was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center and Hospital in Seattle. A hospital official confirmed Tuesday that he was out of intensive care and in satisfactory condition.
Island County Planning Director Bob Pederson is leaving. Pederson, hired in 2009, submitted a letter of resignation to the Board of Commissioners Monday morning. According to the letter, his last day on the job will be Friday, April 5. “After much thought, I have come to the conclusion that I would like to pursue some other interests at this time in my life; be they semi-retirement, consulting work, career opportunities in a new field, travel and fulfilling my ‘bucket list,’” Pederson wrote. “I am also toying with the idea of going to law school, which is something I always wanted to do but could never find the time.” Pederson could not be reached for comment.
A controversial proposal to establish a petition process and other requirements for establishing shooting bans in rural parts of Island County may be put down for good next week. Island County commissioners tabled the explosive issue last year, but will rehash the plan again Wednesday, March 6. The meeting begins at 11 a.m. and will be held in the commissioner’s hearing room, 6 N.E. Sixth St. in Coupeville.
As soon as this month, one of Island County’s weekly board meetings will be held during the evening. According to Commission Chairwoman Helen Price Johnson, there is board agreement to start the commissioner’s fourth Monday meeting of the month at 6 p.m. It currently begins at 2 p.m. The idea is to facilitate community input by providing more options for residents who may not be able to get to board’s daytime meetings, most of which begin in the morning.
Two months ago, Commissioner Kelly Emerson received 60 days to settle her issues with the Island County Planning Department or face the possibility of once again being passed over for chairmanship of the board. The matters have yet to be resolved, but Emerson will likely serve as county commission chairwoman. Newly-elected Commissioner Jill Johnson is supporting her fellow Republican’s bid to serve as chairwoman.
If sequestration goes into effect this Friday, an estimated 1,200 civilian workers at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station will be subject to furloughs, Navy officials have confirmed. According to base spokesman Mike Welding, the furloughs would come in the form of one mandatory day off per week, beginning April 1 and running through the fiscal year to Sept. 30.
Capt. Mike “Nort” Nortier, a veteran helicopter pilot, took command of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station Friday. He relieved Capt. Jay Johnston before a crowd of senior Navy officials, base personnel and Whidbey Island dignitaries in a formal, but light-hearted change of command ceremony on base. Johnston, who was at the helm for two and a half years, is headed to Washington, D.C. to become the next operations director at Naval Installations Command headquarters.
After three and a half years at the stick, Capt. Jay Johnston turned over leadership of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station this week. Command was passed to Capt. Michael K. Nortier, a native of Sodus, N.Y., during a formal ceremony on base Friday. Nortier reports to the airbase from U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Operations Directorate.
Already under fire over a slew of cost and design concerns, Washington’s newest ferries are earning fresh criticism from one state lawmaker as operational statistics reveal new questions about the vessels’ performance. A review of state Department of Transportation statistics by the Record shows that, in two years of service on the Coupeville-to-Port Townsend ferry route, Kwa-di Tabil class ferries are less used by the public and more susceptible to weather cancelations than their predecessors.
Former Island County prosecutor and Coupeville resident Bill Hawkins is the next District Court judge. Hawkins, 57, was unanimously chosen by the commissioners last week to fill the remainder of Judge Peter Strow's term. The 16-year veteran of the bench is retiring at the end of March.
Erosion of the bluff on Northeast Front Street in Coupeville appears to have slowed over the past week, but the town council has decided to declare the situation an emergency. The declaration was approved by unanimous vote at the council’s regular meeting Feb. 12 and was something of a housekeeping measure as it authorized Mayor Nancy Conard’s earlier steps to address the situation. It also empowers Conard to sign other contracts concerning the issue as the need may arise without having to first get council approval.
A $6.3-million, low-income housing project planned for Freeland may be derailed because of a permitting issue. Island County Housing Authority officials confirmed this week that the costs of septic system requirements may exceed initial expectations and the increase in costs may torpedo the project.
Anticipating difficult negotiations with state regulators over their recent ban on net-pen salmon farming, the Island County commissioners are putting high hopes on new legislation proposed in Olympia. If it becomes law, House Bill 1599 will empower cities and counties to prohibit the siting of net-pen farms through long-range planning documents known as shoreline master programs.
Island County Commissioners narrowed the pool of candidates for District Court Judge this week. On Wednesday, the board spent about four hours interviewing seven candidates interested in the. Following an approximately 40-minute executive session, they selected three finalists. The three are: Mark Hanley, a public defender for Island County; Bill Hawkins, a former county prosecutor; and Linda Kipling, the District Court commissioner for the past eight years.
In an effort to comply with Island County code, the commissioners may soon start holding some public hearings during the evening. Nothing has been decided yet, but the commissioners are also considering moving their regular Monday meetings to Tuesday and holding town-hall-style meetings, also during the evening, either on a monthly or quarterly basis.
Following suit with city of Oak Harbor, Island County is setting its sights on doing away with its own decades-old section of code banning the public possession of firearms in parks by citizens. That was one of a series of proposed revisions to the park’s code reviewed by the commissioners last week. Most are “housekeeping items,” but a section that bans all but authorized law enforcement personnel from having guns in parks is being tagged for removal strictly for legal reasons.
The final nail in the coffin of mandatory curbside recycling hasn’t been hammered yet but it’s looking more and more like it’s just a matter of time. On Wednesday, Republican Island County Commissioners Kelly Emerson and Jill Johnson agreed to begin the process to rescind a level of service ordinance that was passed this past December and begin discussions for a voluntary curbside program instead.
The Island County commissioners will publicly interview seven candidates next week to replace District Court Judge Peter Strow. Strow, who has held the bench since 1997, recently announced that he will be retiring at the end of March. The non-partisan position carries a four-year term and Strow was last elected in November of 2010.
Island County’s development regulations for fish and wildlife conservation areas are more than seven years out of date and a state regulatory board has given the planning department just six months to get them up to speed. The ruling, issued late last month by the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board, was in response to a failure to act petition filed by Whidbey Environmental Action Network, commonly known as WEAN, in December. Steve Erickson, litigation coordinator for the South Whidbey-based watchdog group, said this week that the decision achieved WEAN’s primary objective, which is an enforcement order that will ensure the update process begins soon.
Sailors at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station received welcomed news Wednesday when they learned from Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus himself that their pocketbooks will not feel the sting of the automatic spending cuts set to go into effect next month.
Restoration of one of the oldest known Native American canoes in Washington is nearing completion and Island County Historical Society officials have high hopes the artifact will soon be on display inside the Coupeville museum. Believed to be about 170 years old, the canoe once belonged to renowned Central Whidbey tribal leader Chief Snakelum, and later his equally famous son Charlie Snakelum.
Reversing a decision to start curbside recycling service to rural parts of Whidbey Island and Langley is not impossible nor should it present any legal hurdles, county and state officials have confirmed. In fact, it should be a relatively simple matter, according to Bill Oakes, director of Island County Public Works. All that’s required is that the commissioners hold a public hearing and vote to repeal the new ordinance.
The financial sacrifice of a few was the gain of all Central Whidbey recently when nearly 250 acres of farm and wetland were forever protected from the threat of development.
Curbside recycling on Whidbey Island may get scrapped before getting started. On Monday, the Island County commissioners agreed to revisit last month’s landmark decision to require Island Disposal, the county’s licensed garbage hauler, to roll out a curbside program for customers in Langley and rural parts of Whidbey Island sometime this year. After more than five years of study and discussion, the decision was made in late December, during the last days of former Commissioner Angie Homola’s term. She and fellow Democrat, Commissioner Helen Price Johnson, approved the program in a 2-0 vote.
Staffing woes within the Island County Sheriff’s Office and subsequent fears of losing 24-hour coverage on Camano and Whidbey islands have helped breathe new life into a proposal for a law-and-justice tax. Sheriff Mark Brown has been scratching his head over the past month wondering how to deal with a string of existing or pending officer vacancies; two have already left, two others are looking at new jobs elsewhere and up to three more are on the verge of retirement.
Larry Kwarsick has plead guilty to falsifying city records in Langley and will spend two weeks in jail next month for the crime, but he still has a job in Coupeville and will be earning $50 an hour. Earlier this month, the Coupeville Town Council agreed to terminate Kwarsick’s existing contract as town planner, an action he requested, but then agreed to rehire him to provide interim consulting services while officials search for a permanent replacement.
Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson doesn’t like bullies and she isn’t going to be blindly loyal to her political party. If that hadn’t already been made clear by her record during her first two weeks in office, the freshman Republican commissioner dispelled any misconceptions about how she plans to approach her job, and deal with harsh criticism from fellow party members, during an Old Goats-Fully Informed Voters luncheon on South Whidbey this past Friday. “I don’t like bullying. I don’t like it,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t work well with me, it’s not effective. If you’re somebody who wants to get something from me as a county commissioner, you need to have good ideas. They need to be thought out and well presented.”
A South Whidbey-based non-profit group that provides hot meals to senior citizens around Island County will have a little extra gas money this year, thanks to a $25,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation. Senior Services of Island County was awarded the money in late December through the mega-store’s Washington State Giving Program, which gave a total of $750,000 in 2012, according to an announcement earlier this month.
Half-full buckets of paint, scrap or old lumber and other used building supplies may soon be for sale at the Coupeville dump. Earning their latest merit badge in environmental sustainability, the Island County Commissioners last week informally agreed to allow a non-profit group to open a re-use store at the county’s solid waste complex. Per the agreement, which is expected to be finalized with a formal vote later this month, the store will be operated by Coupeville-based Whidbey Animals’ Improvement Foundation, or WAIF.
Island County will accept the donation of 300 feet of waterfront property on South Whidbey. The Island County commissioners informally agreed in a split decision to authorize Public Works officials to move forward with the final legal details to secure the property. “This is an incredible offer to the citizens of Island County and I’m very appreciative,” Commissioner Helen Price Johnson said. “It’s a beloved beach on South Whidbey,” she said.
Cathie Estes lives alone. She’s 68 years old, is legally blind and is confined to a wheelchair. Life isn’t easy for her. Everyday things, from getting a midnight snack to simply reading the day’s mail, are real challenges. More difficult chores, like cleaning her home’s gutters? Impossible. Yet, Estes likely has some of the cleanest gutters on the block. Her house has a fresh coat of paint, she has a new toilet and the thick carpet that once made getting around in her wheelchair a regular nightmare has been replaced by smooth floors.
Field Carrier Landing Practice (FLCP) operations for aircraft stationed at NAS Whidbey Island are scheduled to occur at the Outlying Field in Coupeville in the afternoon into the late evening of Tuesday, Feb. 19.
The fire that preceded the sinking of the Deep Sea crab boat in Penn Cove last spring has been determined to be the result of arson, according to a report released by the state Department of Natural Resources today.
An early morning fire claimed the home of a Greenbank man last week and another fire a few hours later on the same day destroyed a shed south of Coupeville. The first blaze was reported just after midnight on Friday, Jan. 4. Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue arrived about five minutes after receiving the call to find a single-story house fully ablaze. Located on Smuggler’s Cove Road, just north of Lagoon Point, firefighters with the aid of South Whidbey Fire/EMS crews worked for about an hour to completely extinguish the fire.
The update of Island County’s shoreline master program took a giant leap forward at a meeting in Coupeville late last month. Following a public hearing, Dec. 27, the Island County Commissioners approved the plan in a split 2-1 vote.
Until the issues surrounding her Camano Island home are settled, including the $37,000 she owes in planning department fines, Island County Commissioner Kelly Emerson’s future as chairwoman remains cloudy. During Wednesday’s work session, the board’s first meeting of the year and the first ever for freshman Republican Commissioner Jill Johnson, Emerson nominated herself to be appointed chairwoman for 2013.