Sounder's top stories for 2010
December 29, 2010 · Updated 11:51 AM
A new sheriff in town: Rob Nou
Sheriff’s Deputy Rob Nou was elected the first new sheriff of San Juan County in 24 years on Nov. 2. He succeeds William G. Cumming, who is retiring.
It was a campaign between two candidates with similar backgrounds and similar take on the issues: Deputy Nou and Lead Detective Brent Johnson. But in the end, voters apparently made their choice based on type of experience: Nou had served as an administrative sergeant in two rural counties in Oregon, served as a small-city police chief and 911 administrator, and graduated from the FBI National Academy. Johnson had served as an administrative sergeant in urban Albuquerque, N.M. before joining the local department.
Nou’s win was a landslide: 5,652 to 2,950, or 65.71 to 34.29 percent.
Barefoot Bandit shakes Orcas Island
Colton Harris-Moore’s reign as San Juan County’s youngest alleged serial burglar came to an end on July 11 when he was captured by Bahamian authorities.
Harris-Moore, 19, of Camano Island, is suspected of committing burglaries and thefts in several Washington counties as well as Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and the Bahamas over the course of two years. His alleged crime spree in San Juan County included the theft of planes and boats and breaking into Orcas Island businesses. He is known as the “Barefoot Bandit” because he is believed to have been barefoot during his suspected crimes on Orcas Island; at one business, he allegedly left chalk drawings of footprints.
Orcas Island was the site of late-night helicopter searches and canine dog hunts, as local, state, and federal authorities combed the San Juans for the elusive teen. Harris-Moore’s presence on Orcas caused business owners to install alarms, carry guns, and look over their shoulders at night. Orcas Island was featured on several national news programs, both before and after Harris-Moore’s arrest.
The Camano Island teen was indicted by a federal grand jury in Seattle on Nov. 10 on five criminal counts. Only one of the charges relates to crimes committed in San Juan County. His federal trial is set for July 11, 2010.
First-ever recycling fees are imposed
The days of free recycling came to an end in 2010.
The county’s first-ever charge on recycling, a flat $5 fee that applied only when recyclables are disposed by themselves and without regard to volume, went into effect in October.
Then, in early December, the county council approved a three-tiered package of recycling fees – $5, $25, $50 – in its long-running effort to bolster the bottom line of the solid waste division, a $2 million-plus yearly enterprise.
The new slate of recycling fees, which target self-haul customers and go into effect at the start of the new year, are expected to generate $400,000 to $500,000 over the next 12 months.
The county’s solid-waste operation, financed mostly by tipping fees, the price one pays to dispose of garbage, has struggled to cover expenses in the wake of a two-year, precipitous decline in the amount of garbage it collects. Solid Waste will dispose of roughly 4,000 fewer tons of garbage this year than it did just three years ago.
School bonds, Rec levy is shot down
Orcas voters have made it clear they will not be funding a large school bond.
In February of this year, a $35 million bond was narrowly rejected by voters (it earned 55 percent support, shy of the 60 percent super majority needed). In August, a slimmed down version at $27 million was also shot down (1059 yes, 1234 no).
Both rounds of voting sparked heated debate in the Sounder’s letter section, during community forums, and at school board meetings.
The money would have funded replacement of the middle school buildings that house the cafeteria, woodshop, library, music room and other classrooms; major repairs to the elementary and high school buildings; and construction of a vocational ed building to house current programs. The school board has not decided how any of the repairs will now be funded.
Orcas Islanders overwhelmingly supported the formation of a parks and rec district last November, but they did not approve its funding.
The rec district levy received 58.75 percent (1661) of the vote, while 41.25 percent (1166) voted no during the November election. A super majority of 60 percent is needed to pass the levy. The proposed levy rate was 10 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value for six consecutive years.
Orcas Parks and Rec will put a new levy of 9 cents before voters in February 2011.
Vikings football team plays in Tacoma Dome, ranks third in Washington
The Vikings football team plowed through adversary lines like a freight train this year, gathering momentum as it went.
They won back the Island Cup, which Friday Harbor has held for six years. They triumphed over all seven teams of a newly expanded 2B league, securing a co-league championship.
They capped it off with a third place state finish, playing in the Tacoma Dome in November against South Bend.
The team also nabbed a passel of All-League selections, including Coach of the Year for head coach Scott Harris.
“It was a great year, an amazing year,” Harris told the Sounder. “Going into the year ... I knew we were losing a lot of game experience in the graduating class from last year. Our number one priority was to get our younger guys to learn how to play football at the varsity level; it takes a full team to be able to be competitive. My hat’s off to the young, inexperienced guys who really matured over the season. It was only possible through a nucleus of highly competitive and great leaders, a core of our returning seniors.”
Community steps forward to raise $70k for new food bank building
The campaign to raise $65,000 for the food bank’s new building exceeded its goal by $5,000.
It was an example of community fundraising at its finest.
Island donors (through the Orcas Island Community Foundation) pledged $65,000 in matching funds.
The food bank began collecting money at the end of the summer, with a big push in October and November.
The deadline was Thanksgiving, and as of Nov. 18, they had raised $70,000.
The extra $5,000 will be put into a building maintenance fund.
A wide range of community members donated towards the campaign, giving everything from $10 to $4,000.
“I’m overwhelmed,” said Larry Shaw, who runs the food bank with his wife Joyce. “It’s been fantastic.”
Since January of this year, the Orcas Food Bank has served 271 households. The organization relies on around 30 volunteers, who work out of the basement of the Orcas Island Community Church.
It has had many homes over its 25-year history, but the current spot is crowded and limited in storage space.
Its new 24’ x 48’ modular building will provide space for a refrigerator, freezer, dry storage, and a prep area.
The community church has agreed to lease space on its property for $1 a year.
The building will likely be in place by Feb. 1, 2011. Then comes concrete work, landscaping, and moving the equipment inside, which will take 60 days.
Land acquired, annexed for Peace Island Medical
PeaceHealth finalized the purchase of 22 acres for San Juan Island’s proposed Peace Island Medical Center on Sept. 30. The Friday Harbor Town Council had annexed the area into the town limits in July.
PeaceHealth said funding for the land purchase at 1049 San Juan Valley Road was made possible through a $1.2 million grant received Sept. 24 from the San Juan Island Community Foundation. The property was purchased from the Boe family.
The medical center will be located at 1049 San Juan Valley Road, adjacent to Friday Harbor Airport. It will feature an expanded primary care and specialty clinic, an expanded diagnostic services center, a 24-hour emergency room, and a 10-bed critical access hospital.
The $1.2 million presented to PeaceHealth represented funds received to date out of more than $8 million pledged. Peace Island Medical Center is expected to cost $30 million; the San Juan Community Hospital Committee is raising through philanthropy one-third of the cost, PeaceHealth is paying the other two-thirds. San Juan County Public Hospital District No. 1, which will close Inter Island Medical Center when Peace Island opens but will continue to operate San Juan EMS, will contribute a little over $1 million a year in property tax revenues for 50 years to subsidize medical care.
Proponents said Peace Island was on track to open and accept its first patient in August 2012.