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Shelton, Enell battle for commissioner spot

Taking the county in a direction that is positive financially and environmentally is a task the candidates for Island County Commissioner, Dist. 1, do not take lightly.

Incumbent Republican Mike Shelton and Democratic challenger Dean Enell have differing ideas of how to achieve a similar goal — ensuring Island County’s success.

Enell said he would focus on improving the county’s economy through proactive planning. This would ensure the rural character is protected, he said.

“Our biggest asset, which is our environment, is also our biggest challenge,” Enell said. “I would use smart growth techniques to avoid sprawl, and identify things to preserve.”

Shelton said that a balance between growth and the environment exists and it is his job to find it.

“There is one point on which I strongly disagree with the environmental community — every time people harvest timber in Island County, there is a huge outcry,” Shelton said. “If people are going to be harvesting and then replanting, we ought to be encouraging that and not fighting against it.”

The county struggles to bring in larger businesses because it is at a geographic disadvantage, Shelton said.

“The one thing we need to do a better job of is planning for future businesses coming to the island,” Shelton said. “Businesses don’t just haphazardly end up in a place. They’re coaxed and they’re sold on the place they end up in.”

Enell said that cottage, high-tech industries could play a key role in Island County’s future.

“I think we need to take a shoe leather approach and meet with people,” Enell said. “I’d also promote the number of people involved (locally) with the smaller, high-tech industry.”

Enell said that the people who commute to Snohomish County could have places to work locally, which would generate tax revenue and increase local involvement.

As the old adage goes, it takes money to make money. The two candidates differ on the collection of impact fees, which are surcharges associated with major growth.

“If everybody else in Puget Sound has been using them for the last 10 years, you have to come to the conclusion that they are a good thing,” Enell said.

Shelton said it would be unfair to tax new citizens of the county before they even move here. Charging impact fees would also have a chilling effect on the possibility of bonds and levies being passed for municipal construction, he said.

“Impact fees are designed for major development,” Shelton said. “In the county’s (comprehensive) plan, we do not have the capabilities for these big developments.”

Growth in the county also results in more crime. Both candidates said the escalating frequency and severity of crimes in the county stresses the need for proactive policing.

“The drug problem in Island County is quite significant,” Enell said. “I think you need to head off the drug problems with the youth by offering them alternatives to those lifestyles.”

Shelton said programs that will be in effect through the new juvenile detention facility will help alleviate some of the stress placed on the county’s law enforcement.

“I think we need to have an adequate law enforcement community,” Shelton said. “Our deputies are stretched too thin.”

The fate of the two challengers will be decided on Nov. 2 when voters can cast their ballots.

You can reach News-Times reporter Eric Berto at eberto@whidbeynewstimes.com

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