PRCAC members pledge to keep on carrying on

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The Point Roberts Community Advisory Committee (PRCAC) is not going into hibernation for 2021 as suggested by Whatcom County executive Satpal Sidhu. Instead, the committee plans to work on Sidhu’s suggestions to make the committee more effective while still focusing on getting local issues the attention they need.

“We do not agree the PRCAC needs to be put on hiatus,” stated a memo to Sidhu the committee drafted together at their March 18 meeting.

The committee detailed work they have done since Sidhu suggested on January 27 that they should shut down and spend the year restructuring to get more community buy-in and “improve the committee’s ability to effectively provide advice and recommendations” to the county council and executive. This included a well-attended town hall meeting in February, election of officers at their regular February meeting, and the creation of a flyer explaining the role and purpose of the committee that will be distributed in the community.

“Our central purpose is to connect residents and taxpayers to Whatcom County,” said committee chair Allison Calder.

The organizations that fill three of the five seats on PRCAC have also submitted information on five criteria the executive suggested they need to meet in order to be legitimate community representatives: a minimum membership, bylaws, regular meetings, written bylaws, record keeping and open meetings.

Calder, who represents the Point Roberts Registered Voters’ Association on PRCAC, and Annelle Norman, who represents the Point Roberts Taxpayers association, said they had submitted information to the executive’s office establishing compliance with all five criteria. Tamra Hansen, representing the Point Roberts Chamber of Commerce, said they had submitted information establishing compliance with the first four criteria but that their meetings were open only to chamber members, which is a common practice for all chambers of commerce. “It was a suggestion, not a mandate,” she said of the requirement for open public meetings.

Based on feedback received at the February town hall meeting Norman said “the community has expressed a clear preference for elected representatives rather than having them selected by the county on their behalf,” as Sidhu had suggested. With a county ordinance to expand the PRCAC to seven members by the addition of two at-large positions due to take effect at the end of the month, committee members agreed to suggest to Sidhu a May 5 target date for another town meeting and candidates forum.

“We need some time to publicize it and get people to put their applications in,” said at-large member Grant Heitman.

In their memo to Sidhu committee members emphasized that they had a critical role to play making sure Point Roberts issues were’t left to languish.

With the ongoing border closure having “devastated the local economy,” an essential role of the committee was to advocate for measures that would ease border restrictions, as well as work with the community of longer-term efforts of economic recovery and attendant code revisions. “There will need to be town hall after town hall meeting to gather input,” Calder said. Discussion of the formation of a working group to tackle economic recovery issues was tabled until the April committee
meeting.

PRCAC members also agreed to establish three subcommittees.

Katherine Smith will head a subcommittee that deals with issues relating to the environment, critical areas, wildlife habitat and conservation. One issue that committee will solicit input on is the possibility of relocating the community fireworks display to Lighthouse Marine Park this year to comply with Bald Eagle protection requirements.

Annelle Norman will lead a subcommittee that gathers community input on the maintenance and restoration of facilities at Lighthouse Marine Park. “We are continually losing real estate,” she said. The taxpayers’ association is requesting that the county re-establish the boat launch, whale watching platform and boardwalk at the park.

Finally Calder will work with a subcommittee on solutions to ongoing flooding and the degradation of the seawall at
Maple Beach.

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