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Grant survives county critics

A grant Island County earned came under fire during the county’s Board of Health meeting Monday.

A $150,310 grant from the Department of Health and Human Services is supposed to go toward a program called the Island County Environmental Health Initiative. But two members of the Board of County Commissioners said the project lacked any action.

“I think it’s time we pulled the plug on this grant,” County Commissioner Mac McDowell said. “If the proposal had come back to really do something like hire somebody for enforcement, I would support it.”

The program focuses on several environmental health issues Island County is facing, which include illegal dumping and the walkability of Island County.

McDowell and County Commissioner William Byrd criticized the plan for not having enough action.

According to the executive summary of the grant application, the program will achieve several goals including: Developing an action plan, data collection, develop a model for implementation of environmental-health strategies and disseminate that model nationally.

“I see this as a project that doesn’t have any teeth,” McDowell said. “I don’t see this as having any direction to get us where we want to be.”

McDowell and Byrd wished to see an increased emphasis on enforcement of illegal dumping statutes. The county has two people who spend a majority of their time responding to illegal dumping complaints, said Island County Health Services Director Tim McDonald.

“This funding allows for development of implementation plans,” McDonald said. “It will help empower the county to identify issues like (illegal dumping).”

The goal is to decrease the need for enforcement through education, McDonald said.

“What we’re going to end up with is just another study sitting on the shelf,” McDowell said.

The board voted to approve the pursuit of the grant 3-2, with McDowell and Byrd opposing. County Commissioner Mike Shelton, Oak Harbor Mayor Patty Cohen and Barbara Saugen each voted for the proposal.

Shelton said he too would like to see more action, but he realizes the need for the funding.

“I just hope that at the end of this grant, we have more than a model to share with other communities,” Shelton said. “I hope we have some effects to show other communities.”

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