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San Juan County Council discusses space needs: retrofitting the old courthouse, a new justice and public safety building, and maybe admin buildinggnew law and justice

LWVSJ Observer Corps* summary of San Juan  County Council April 29, 2024. The Facilities Director requested Council approval to apply for state funding to repair the seismic issues in the historic courthouse. If the grant, which requires a 50% match, is approved, the $1.5-2 million project could proceed without work on the 80’s addition.

Leasing space or getting a modular office for the sheriff’s staff on Lopez and getting the Park St. building ready for occupation are the two immediate priority projects. The need for new space on Orcas is less urgent.  The County wants to retain its current architectural consultants to help form a master plan. 

An internal building committee and finance subcommittee will present a plan to fund these short-term needs in May, and then work on a budget estimate and financing options for the larger Justice and Public Safety building and possible administrative building.  The county has been talking about how to deal with serious deficiencies in aging buildings and meet the needs of increased county population and new legal requirements, including for the jail, for over a decade. They want to begin public engagement about county facility issues.  

The Public Works Department reported that after surveying Dolphin Bay Road for requested chip sealing, they recommend not paving the gravel portion without improving the road first. It is too narrow at many points for two-way traffic and has drainage issues which would make it less safe if paved without widening the road and providing better drainage. This would be a major capital improvement project and require the acquisition of new rights-of-way. Given that a portion of Killibrew Lake Road runs along the edge of a high sea bluff that in time might fail, improving a potential alternate route might be prudent.

The Council asked for a joint briefing from Public Works and Environmental Stewardship about the coastal erosion threats to Killibrew Lake Road and update on the culvert replacement project before considering   amending the capital improvement plan for Dolphin Bay Road improvement. 

The Council then went over the schedule for the visit later that day of Governor Inslee who at 11:40 would be in Friday Harbor to meet with the new Assistant secretary of transportation for Washington State Ferries. Council Member Fuller, the deputy chair of the Ferry Advisory Committee, and Town Council Member Steve Hushebeck would all attend the meeting. Afterward the Governor would go to the ferry landing to meet and talk to ferry workers accompanied by Council Member Wolf. Finally, the Governor would meet with Council Member Minney, the Parks and Fair Director, and OPALCO at the Fairgrounds to talk about solar installations there and about the Bailer Hill Road solar project.


*The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan organization encourages informed participation in government. The Observer Corps attends and takes notes at government meetings to expand public understanding of public policy and decisions. The notes do not necessarily reflect the views of the League or its members.

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