Quarterly Meeting Notes 2008.07.27




Guemes Island Ferry Committee


Guemes Island Ferry Committee member s present: Chairman Glen Veal, Carl Cady, Dyvon Havens, Steve Orsini


Guests present:   Skagit County Commissioners Ken Dahlstedt, Don Munks, and Sharon Dillon; Public Works Director Jim Voetberg; Guemes Ferry Manager Ron Panzero


Glen opened the meeting at about 12:10 pm and introduced the three County Commissioners. The format to be question and answer.  (Note: “A” below represents a comment or question from the audience, “C” represents a response from the Commissioners. BOCC = Board of County Commissioners)


A:            There is a flaw in an assumption in the recent Environmental Assessment that extended ferry hours will not produce an increase in development. The assumption was based on the fact that the number of building permits have not risen since the extended hours was instituted. In fact, people will not choose to build on the island if they know extended hours are only for a trial period.


C:            They looked at building permit numbers over several years. They are not reading anything into the study. They did not even look at it from a “commuting” perspective.


A:            People can’t control development by the ferry, but water is critical. An engineering study of the water supply is needed. Concerned that part-time residents don’t get a vote.


C:            The Comprehensive Plant was finalized in 2000. DOE oversees all water. The County can’t issue a permit unless DOE documents how much water is available. The County has no authority over water--only DOE. The BOCC wants to sit down with Guemes people and discuss water concerns. Want to cooperate with islanders and come up with something that all of us can go to DOE and talk about. This is in the works.


A:            Glen: The BOCC are behind conducting a thorough water resource management plan. Water quality and water protection is key.


A:            There is already present an Interim Salt Water  Intrusion Policy which was developed years ago that has never been acted upon.


C:            Islanders need to talk to DOE and ask why they allowed the drilling of a well next to property with salt water intrusion problems.


A:            Would like the BOCC to vote today for a moratorium on drilling all new wells until a comprehensive management plan is in place.


C:            It would have to be published legally first, with public comment. There is commitment by the County to protect the water. As we move forward on prioritizing other issues, we will take a look at it. We need to know what we’re looking at. We do not disagree that things have lingered on for a longt time.


A:            Need to require well drillers to completely fill out the forms when the drill, including the chloride levels. If a new well is drilled next door, do I have a right to my water?


C:            Yes


A:            Who certifies the lot is buildable?


C:            DOE--for the water. Lot certification is zoning related. Availability of water on a piece of property is determined by DOW. Well drillers apply to DOE to drill wells.


A:            Clarification of well drilling rights: You have the right to drill a well if you are a single-family home. You have to show that you have water before a permit is issued. They don’t care about presence of salt or minerals, just bacteria. Salt and minerals can be filtered out. The County cannot deny you the right to drill a well if you are a single-family home.


A:            When will figures be available re: extended hours analysis?


C:            By the end of the year. We want the Ferry Committee to look at the data and agree on a methodology.


A:            In 2006, Public Works and the Ferry Committee had different numbers, but were never able to get together and resolve the difference.


C:            Our intent is that the Ferry Committee and Public Works will get together to resolve the difference.


A:            It takes a long time to put policies into place (example: The 1994 sea water intrusion policy).  It makes sense to defer any decisions re: extended hours until the water studies are in place.


C:            The County will provide an open process after Public Works brings forth the facts.


A:            Salt water intrusion creates environmental problems, because if you have salt in your water, your septic will not function properly.


A:            I live in the center of the island and my well ran out of water last year.


A:            I like the convenience of extended hours.


A:            Please vote to rescind extended ferry hours. It’s not true that growth and progress are good for everyone. Also, over-development and the population explosion are not inevitable. Maybe stopping the ferry at six o’clock is backward and countrified, but then, maybe that’s a virtue.


A:            What are the factors you are going to consider in keeping or discontinuing extended hours? Would like specifics, like labor, crew desires, property owners views, ridership, etc.


C:            Commissioner Dillon: We will look at the data that the County and the Ferry Committee have jointly produced. We will look at economics, which is a huge part. The County must start living within our budget.  Ridership--some runs have no riders. Listening to the people and different views: convenience, no growth, the fact that people knew about ferry hours when they moved here, etc.


C:            Commissioner Dahlstedt asked how many have never ridden the extended ferry since its inception? Many hands were raised.  He said the decision will be based on ridership. Where is the reasonableness on service to you and cost? They initially responded to citizens’ concerns. They will look at the runs that don’t get much utilization at all.


C:            Commissioner Munks:  We also looked at the lineup on 6th St. It wasn’t just because a few people came to us. There was a public process. Growth is going to occur. We have to accommodate it and determine how it will happen. The Comprehensive Plan allows development to occur based on that plan. A process will take place. They will take a look at all the runs, not just extended hours. The County is here to provide a service. We don’t make money on roads


A:            The subarea plan was completed by the island, along with the AIA study. What is the status of the subarea plan?


C:            It is in the process, through the planning Commission. It is looked at as a Comp Plan amendment. It takes a lot of time. Our volunteers took a break, but it’s still moving forward. Alger, South Fidalgo, Big Lake are also in process. Bayview subarea plan was in process 12 years.  Guemes is docketed for late 2008 to go to the next stage.


A:            Water is not a problem on the island, only on the peripheral edges.


A:            In 1980 the net assessed value on Guemes was $19 million. In 2000, it was $136 million. Di the BOCC give parameters to the company they hired to negotiate the latest crew contract?


C:            No


A:            I tried to learn the cost of hiring that company, and Ron Panzero and Jim Voetberg were not able to obtain that cost. We got a rate increase. A high percentage of that cost is for labor. I suggest all users pay the same rate. There is no credit given to us for County vehicle crossings. The County bills the ferry for their crossings.


C:            It is hard to separate out negotiator’s time for ferry vs. for other departments.


A:            Don’t assume because people use the late hours that they are in favor of the late hours.


A:            When will a decision be made on extended hours?


C:            The Resolution says by the end of 2008.


A:            Having a 6 pm ferry makes sure parents are home with their children. Fares have gone up 300%. We elect people to look out for the interests of their constituents. Discounts should onlyi be available to Skagit residents and senior/disabled.


A:            Why is the new terminal necessary?


C:            The idea started 5-6 years ago. They want to make two more lanes in order to get cars off 6th St. They want the managers office at the docks. Trying to reconfigure so everything is on the west side (manager’s office, maintenance equipment, storage). Munks: “It is not the desire of the BOCC to build that terminal this year.” There are issues with rot of the building, but  not enough to make the building unusable.  On the Guemes side, the plan is to tightline the ditch and have a second lane to avoid the problem of one-lane traffic at the top.


A:            Why do you want to move cars off 6th St? People who moved into those homes knew the situation when they moved there.


C:            It’s a problem when there are long lines. The property owners can’t get into their garages.


A:            What is the status of widening Guemes Island Road to three lanes?


C:            Jim Voetberg: We hope to get it done this year. It depends on how other projects go. It has been through the public process.


A:            The cost of gas must be calculated into ferry costs. Could use higher fares for the night ferry.


A:            Shutting the ferry off at 6 pm makes Guemes a “gated community.”


A:            Instead of trying to make room for more cars, think about ways to cut down on the need for more cars.


A:            Comp Plan says changed in the transportation will not be made without support of the people.


C:            It doesn’t say we will only do things if the majority of the people support it. Policy of the County: 1) Look at the best service available; 2) Consider the safety aspect.



Meeting adjourned at 1:50 pm


Submitted by Dyvon Havens