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Transit future decided Tuesday

Island County voters must get their ballots postmarked no later than next Tuesday to take part in the primary election.

“It’s really important to know when is the last pickup at the post office,” said Michele Reagan, election administrator with the Island County Auditor’s Office.

Ballots that are brought to the post office before it closes Tuesday, but after the last mail pickup, can’t legally be counted.

Reagan said the office sent out about 47,500 ballots. By the end of the day Thursday, about 19,600 had been returned.

The big issue on the ballot is Island Transit’s request for a three-tenth of 1 percent increase in sales tax in order to make up for the agency’s funding loss in the gloomy economy.

Transit officials said the tax increase would bring in another $2.5 million a year. Should the vote get defeated, Island Transit would be forced to cut 30 percent of its service and lay off as many as 39 people.

The issue has prompted lively debate in the community about the role of the bus system and the wisdom of fare-free rides. People on both sides of the issue have stood on street corners, waving their signs. The Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce sparked controversy by recommending that members vote against it.

In addition, Oak Harbor City Council position 5 is on the ballot since three people are running. Real estate agent Gerry Oliver, financial adviser Scott Dudley and city government enthusiast Mel Vance are vying for the seat being vacated by Councilman Eric Gerber.

The two candidates with the most votes will move on to the Nov. 3 general election.

On South Whidbey, four candidates are running for the position on the fire district board of commissioners. They are Frank Mestemacher, Mike Helland, Don Carscadden and Gary Gabelein.

There’s also a contest for a South Whidbey Port commissioner in the primary election. Herb Helsel, Chris Jerome and Dean Enell are vying for the spot.

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