The latest news from January Whatcom County Council meetings.
Probation services for city of Blaine
Council authorized by consent, in a 6-1 vote, with councilmember Ben Elenbaas opposed, in its January 10 regular meeting for Whatcom County to provide probation services to the city of Blaine through an interlocal agreement.
Through the agreement, the county agrees to provide pretrial and post-conviction probation services to individual clients who the municipal court has referred. The city will reimburse the county at a monthly rate per active case, according to the agreement.
Collective bargaining agreements
Council authorized by consent to amend two collective bargaining agreements to provide its union members with a 6 percent wage increase that will bring them equal to other groups that received a similar increase in 2023.
The two unions are the Fraternal Order of Police, Matt Herzog Memorial Lodge 24, (FOOP) which represents the six-person command staff of Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office chief and lieutenant positions, and PROTEC17, which represents professional environmental health staff.
The letters of understanding provide an additional 3 percent to FOOP’s previously established 3 percent wage increase and a 4 percent wage increase to PROTEC17’s established 2 percent wage increase, making each unions agreement a total of 6 percent. According to the ordinances, the increases will create internal equity, avoid reductions in force and promote succession among unionized county staff.
Housing assistance for November 2021 floods
Council authorized a $2 million contract with the Whatcom Long Term Recovery Group to aid in the recovery of low-income and disabled individuals and households affected by the November 2021 flood event.
Washington state has provided the $2 million through its military department. Eligible costs include housing assistance, household appliances and home repair. Whatcom County Individual Assistance program has an active caseload of approximately 450 individuals and households still in need of assistance, according to the memorandum.
Drayton Harbor advisory appointment
Council appointed Julie Hirsch, in a 7-0 vote, to the Drayton Harbor shellfish protection district advisory committee.
The committee advises council on proposed actions and operations relating to the restoration of water quality in the Drayton Harbor shellfish protection district.
Hirsch is the founder and director of the Garden of the Salish Sea Curriculum, a K-12 environmental science program that uses shellfish as a vehicle to teach marine science with hands-on learning through field experience. Hirsch has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Western Washington University and a master’s degree in microbiology from Northern Arizona University.
BBWARM advisory appointment
Council reappointed Michael Allan, in a 7-0 vote, to the Birch Bay Watershed and Aquatic Resources Management (BBWARM) advisory committee during its January 24 meeting.
Nooksack River adjudication
Council amended and approved, in a 7-0 vote, its climate action legislative priorities to support the state department of ecology’s $2.7 million request in the governor’s budget to adjudicate the Nooksack River.
“We understand a water rights adjudication in the Nooksack River watershed can help bring together all water users, resolve water right disputes, determine who has the legal right to use water, and the priority and quantity of each right,” the amendment reads. “As water rights are determined, we hope to collaborate with all parties on establishing solutions and market mechanisms to ensure communities get the water they need to live and support a thriving agricultural economy.”
Council also requested additional funding to support its solutions table process, including technical assistance and studies necessary to help quantify water resources.
Letter of support for Ridge at Semiahmoo
Council signed a letter addressed to state senator Sharon Shewmake (D-Bellingham) and the Growth Management Hearings Board that expressed its support for the Ridge at Semiahmoo development.
The Ridge at Semiahmoo is a proposed 25-lot residential development located on an 11.3-acre property at the corner of Semiahmoo Drive and Semiahmoo Ridge. Due to unforeseen health and pandemic-related circumstances, the owners were unable to proceed with the development, and the project approval expired in January 2022, according to the letter. The applicant approached the county for authorization to extend project approvals beyond the expiration date, but the county’s legal staff concluded that restrictions in the growth management act (GMA) prevented the county from issuing any additional extensions.
Council’s letter of support encourages exploring potential changes to GMA regulations that could address extending project expiration dates for extenuating circumstances.
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