Final election results: solid waste, land bank and elected officials

by Sounder & Journal staff

Solid waste parcel fee rejected

Voters have rejected a parcel fee that would have funded solid waste operations for the next 15 years.

As of Monday, Nov. 14, 5,154 or 68.02 percent of voters had rejected the measure, while 2,423 or 31.98 percent voted yes.

If it had passed, solid waste service would have remained at current levels. Instead, San Juan County will enact “Plan B” and cease to operate local transfer stations.

The county’s designated commercial solid waste hauler, San Juan Sanitation, will continue to offer curbside pickup regulated by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission. The company has said it can serve all of the county’s residences, but some may need to place their cans at the end of certain roads instead of at their homes.

San Juan Sanitation has said it is likely curbside pickup costs would go down at least 15 percent due to economies of scale provided by higher volume.

The transfer stations would be made available to private entities to run for profit on a free market basis, with rates not regulated by the WUTC. Under the so-called Plan B, it would become legal for county residents to haul their waste outside the county. The county would continue to charge a 10 percent excise tax on solid waste transactions, and would use that money to pay off its debt.

San Juan Sanitation has also said that recycling rates would be roughly 70 percent of garbage costs, and could be even lower if the county passed an ordinance requiring curbside recycling pickup for homes using curbside trash pickup.

The county has not released a date of when “Plan B” will go into effect.

Land bank REET squeaks by

When all the votes are tallied, Proposition 1, which sought renewal of the 1 percent real estate excise tax that for 20 years has fueled the land bank’s ambitions, will have passed by earning roughly 53 percent of total ballots cast in the Nov. 8 election. With about 30 ballots still remaining to be counted, the number of “yes” votes for Prop.1 exceed “no” votes by 4,134 to 3,708, a difference of only 426 votes.

Land Bank Director Lincoln Bormann concedes that’s a margin of victory that’s disturbingly small.

“Obviously, we all were very surprised by the result,” Bormann said. “I don’t think any of us expected an overwhelming ‘yes’ vote, but that’s very tight. I think there’s a clear message there and that now we have to figure out what that message is.”

Despite its pending victory at the polls, Prop. 1’s results reveal a large drop in voter support, if not for the land bank itself, then at least for its funding mechanism. In 1990, roughly 70 percent of voters cast a ballot approving the creation of the Land Bank and its principal funding source as well. Nine years later, when the Land Bank sought a 12-year extension of its 1 percent excise tax, about 73 percent of local voters favored that renewal.

Land Bank Commission Chairman Tom Cowan said when the commission meets this Friday for its one-day annual retreat on Orcas at 8 a.m at the Outlook Inn,  making sense of the Nov. 8 election will top the agenda. He said the commission will be looking to encourage greater attendance at its monthly meetings and the amount of feedback it receives.

“We generally have a poor showing at our commission meetings and we’re just not getting the feedback we’d like,” Cowan said. “We do want to make sure we’re representing the community properly.”

Orcas School District levy passes

The Orcas schools’ one-year capital projects levy has passed, and the schools’ leadership is breathing a collective sigh of relief and gratitude.

“I am absolutely delighted and very thankful to the community for passing this levy – and especially at such a high percentage,” said superintendent Barbara Kline.

At last count on Nov. 9, 61.15 percent of voters supported the levy, with 38.85 opposed.

The measure will increase the property tax levy in the Orcas School District by approximately 28¢ per thousand dollars of assessed value for one year in order to pay for capital improvements made this summer to the Nellie Milton Elementary School. The levy will raise $900,000.

The school board chose to borrow the $900,000 this spring in order to accept and use a limited-time offer of a $900,000 federal matching grant to repair the elementary school’s heating and water systems. Before this summer’s repairs were done, some of the classrooms could not be warmed above 55 degrees, and students wore coats to class to keep warm. Brown water squirted from drinking fountains, dusty air was blown from vents and the water from bathroom tap could be ice cold.

“We are grateful to the community for supporting this request for funding to help replace the heating and water systems in the Nellie S. Milton Building,” said elementary and middle school principal Kyle Freeman. “The commitment to provide warm, safe, and healthy classrooms to our youngest students is deeply appreciated. We know that these are difficult times for anyone to reach into their pockets and we feel truly blessed to have a community that supports our children in so many ways.”

The $900,000 provided by the levy will be used to repay the loan incurred to make the repairs. If the levy had not passed, the school board said they would have had to make further cuts to the school’s budget in order to repay the loan.

Mel Shapiro, who co-authored the statement opposing the levy measure in the voters’ guide with fellow Orcas Islander Chris Butler, responded to a Sounder query with, “I have no comment. The voters spoke.”

Charter review

In the race for the two County Council District 4 Charter Review Commissioners on Orcas, Ed Sutton (23.62 percent), William (Bill) Appel (25.27 percent), Robert (Bob) Gamble (26.74 percent), and Ralph Gutschmidt (24.36 percent) were all elected.

• Three candidates were elected: Moana Kutsche (26.35 percent), Linda Tretheway (25.33 percent), Stephen Garrison (26.4 percent). Leonard Wood lost (21.92 percent).

Port of Orcas

The new Port of Orcas Port Commissioner 2 is Dwight Guss (74.07 percent), beating Gary Abood (25.93 percent).

Sheldon Gregory (61.12 percent) won a spot as commissioner three, beating Alan G. Edwards (38.88 percent).


Rollie Sauer (62.88 percent) was reelected to his position on the Eastsound Sewer and Water District board. He beat Roger Adams (37.12 percent).

Unopposed seats

Janet Brownell will once again fill the number four seat on the board of the Orcas Island School District, and Jim Sullivan will continue to fill  number five.

Barbara Bedell was reelected as Orcas fire commissioner number three.

Brian Ehrmantraut is the new Port of Orcas commissioner 5.

Vicki Vandermay was reelected as commissioner 1 for the Orcas Island Park and Recreation District and Martha Farish was reelected as commissioner 3.

David B. Lowry is the new commissioner 2 on the Eastsound Sewer and Water District board.

Voter turnout

There was 69.09 percent voter turnout, with 7,996 ballots counted from 11,573 registered voters. There are around 30 ballots left to count, scheduled for Nov.  28.

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