San Juan Island School District looks to renew levy, in wake of state education tax hike

San Juan County homeowners are already feeling the squeeze of higher property taxes to fund education at the state level, and now more could be taxed locally. Washington legislators passed a new law last year to provide more state funds to public schools by raising property taxes across the state. However, most of that revenue isn’t for local students, according to the San Juan Island School District Board, who is sending the renewal of their property tax levy to the April 24 special election

Government officials try voluntary vessel-free zone before federal mandate

Instead of federally banning boats on the west side of San Juan Island to protect orcas, state officials are asking for voluntary restraint. In early May, Washington Department Fish and Wildlife staff recommended all vessels avoid an area along the west side of San Juan Island to protect the endangered local orcas who are facing a shortage of prey and are known to feed in that location. A November 2016 petition requested the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries staff ban m

Elusive state capital budget passes, county funds secured

The state legislature approved the allocation of nearly $4 billion for construction projects across Washington on Jan. 18. The decision comes roughly six months after Washington lawmakers closed the last, elongated legislative session without passing the two-year capital budget, holding up funding for San Juan County projects including those for affordable housing developments, land conservation and salmon recovery. “It put a strain on many departments and created uncertainty,” said San Juan C

Local veterans discuss long health care waits with Larsen

A federal program to prevent veterans from long wait times at health care facilities doesn’t seem to be working. “I had some hand surgery over there, and it took quite a while to get it authorized, about eight months,” said retired veteran Peter DeLorenzi about a procedure at San Juan Island’s Peace Island Medical Center. DeLorenzi and about three other veterans spoke up about

No rezone or potential hotel on former Life Care Center property in Friday Harbor

Staff photo/Hayley Day The Life Care Center of the San Juan Islands was a live-in facility, with 24-hour nursing, which closed last November. The Town of Friday Harbor Council has squashed potential plans for the island’s former skilled nursing facility to be turned into a hotel. On May 17 the Town of Friday Harbor Council voted 4-1 to deny rezoning the property to accommodate a potential buyer interested in opening a hotel and the decision was finalized at the June 7 meeting. Last March, the

Alleged cross-border drug trafficking off San Juan Island

Two men involved in an alleged rash of drug trafficking, over a year ago and off the coast of San Juan Island, are facing charges and sentencing. In open waters south of San Juan Island, two boaters allegedly trafficked illegal drugs into Canada from around December 2016 to February 2017. A Washington state man admitted to giving cocaine and methamphetamine to a Canadian man, who allegedly transported them over the border by vessel, according to U.S. court documents. Gary Todd Horton of Olympi

Tourist saves local man from flaming car on San Juan Island

Donald Hubner came to San Juan Island a tourist but left a hero. At around 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 30, Hubner rescued a local man from a flaming car that veered off the pavement near Roche Harbor Road and Misty Isle Drive. Hubner came to the island for a weekend getaway from Shoreline — just north of Seattle — but his fun turned to fear when his family passed a blazing vehicle on their way to a zip line tour. “The car was on fire, and there was someone in the car. I just had to get him ou

Governor’s task force suggests temporary suspension to view Southern residents by boat

The local orca population is at a 30-year low, so a state advisory panel, aiming to protect the endangered species, is taking drastic measures. On Nov. 6, the task force advising Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee recommended suspending viewing the Southern residents by all boats in the state’s inland waters for the next 3 to 5 years. The suspension would only apply to Southern res

One health insurer remains for San Juan County individual plans

The uncertainty of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, at the federal level has already impacted San Juan County. Starting in 2018, only one insurance company, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington, will offer individual plans in the county, whether on the ACA marketplace or outside. Last year, county residents could choose from Kaiser for single-person plans inside and outside the marketplace; they could also select individual Regence Blue Shield plans outside the exchange. Regence

Landowners sue San Juan County over access to Mount Grant

When public land is in your own backyard, private property can take on a whole new meaning. Homeowners allege that people are trespassing on their property when accessing Mount Grant Preserve, which is owned by the county and a local nonprofit. John and Rami Amaro filed a lawsuit last May against the San Juan County Land Bank and the San Juan Preservation Trust in Skagit County Superior Court. The court will decide if the public can use easements over private property to access Mount Grant, o

Updated flood maps alter insurance requirements for San Juan islanders

When David Sutherlin checked his mortgage statement last summer, he noticed that roughly $2,500 had been added. The charge covered a quarterly flood insurance fee for his waterfront home, but Sutherlin didn’t agree to the purchase. To the San Juan Island homeowner, the transaction felt like a theft. “It’s absolutely anti-American to force anybody to do anything with their own property,” he said. For the first time in roughly 40 years, flood zones in San Juan County have been updated, altering

San Juan County outnumbers King County in public records requests

The rural San Juan Islands are leading the pack when it comes to record requests. Data from a portion of 2017 show that San Juan County staff received roughly 22 times more public records requests and closed 15 times more public records requests per capita than urban King County. Both municipalities documented requests from July 23, 2017 to Dec. 31, 2017, in identical reports mandated by the state. San Juan County is home to 16,715 people, according to the last census, while King County covers

San Juan County candidates discuss drugs and transparency

The contested local and state races in the upcoming election came alive at a forum on Oct. 11 at the San Juan Island Grange. San Juan Island voters must make their decisions by Nov. 6, at 3 p.m. to mail ballots and 8 p.m. to put them in ballot boxes. The forum was hosted by the Leauge of Women Voters of the San Juans. In the race for prosecuting attorney, longtime incumbent Randall Gaylord is running against first-time candidate Nick Power in the partisan position with a four-year term. Both ar

Friday Harbor smoke test causes false-alarm fire call

They say where there’s smoke, there’s fire, but not when town officials are testing for breaks in the main sewer lines. At around 11:30 a.m., Tuesday, Sept. 4, the fire department received a report of smoke at a residence at 270 Marguerite Place in Friday Harbor. Fire department staff determined there was no fire. Instead, the smoke for testing was coming through the sewer line outside the house and seeping into the windows. Staff said the same issue was occurring at homes across the street. D

San Juan County Council lifts political sign limits

For the first time in 20 years, San Juan County code will allow political signs to be displayed for any length of time, at any size. The change follows a lawsuit filed against the county questioning the constitutionality of the code. Since 1998, the county code has prohibited political signs to be displayed no more than 45 days before an election and called to remove them within three days after. Signs could also not exceed 6 square feet in area. On July 20, San Juan County Council voted unani

Friday Harbor drivers ignore detour signs, head into one-way traffic

Every day, Brenna Woods witnesses the same traffic violation, over and over again, while at her McDonald Street house in Friday Harbor. Drivers approach a barrier blocking road construction on Tucker Avenue, speed around the site’s two gates, pass six do-not-enter signs and head into one-lane traffic, going the opposite direction. “People are inconsiderate,” said Woods on April 10. “They don’t think [the detour] applies to them.” Moments later, two drivers, one after the other, went around the
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