Come clean about bones | Editorial

News that the bones of Native American people were entombed underneath Pioneer Way in downtown Oak Harbor wasn’t really a surprise after all. It turns out that state experts warned city staff about the probability. In fact, many people around town remember stories about bones being dug up years ago in the same area.

City officials either ignored or overlooked the warnings and now it’s come back to haunt them. So far, the remains of at least three Native Americans have been discovered. While it’s an amazing discovery from a historical standpoint, it’s a PR mess for the city. Nobody can say how long the discovery could impede construction. The project was controversial to begin with since some downtown merchants don’t like the conversion to a one-way road. A big delay could turn more people against the project and the city.

The city engineer originally claimed that the city had done its due diligence and hired an archeologist to dig around. But he was mistaken. City officials were caught completely flat-footed when the bones were unearthed. They had no plans in place, but rushed to hire an archeologist after the fact.

Oak Harbor Mayor Jim Slowik said he will order a review of the city’s process to find out that happened. That’s a good thing. The public wants to know how this could occur, who’s at fault and how officials will be held accountable for any mistakes. There’s no reason that such a review can’t be completed and then made public in a short amount of time. Tuesday’s council meeting seems like the perfect time for a public airing.


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