San Juan County Councilman Rick Hughes wants to make sure that Eastsound grows in a sustainable way – long after his term ends.
“Eastsound contributes a lot of money to the county – we need our share of the services,” he said. “We need a plan for Eastsound for the next 20 years. I have a lot of ideas but I want to know what people think.”
Hughes has a list of what he’d like to see the county facilitate: mooring buoys, a long-term stormwater plan, curb gutters, low level streetlights and more sidewalks and parking.
He says he’s been working hard to make sure Eastsound receives its fair share of funds and attention. Prune Alley and Madrona Street are both likely to receive stormwater funding from the state this legislative session. He is hoping to get a plan for the property on Fern Street (across from the Village Green) that is owned by the county. His ideas for the plot include installing a modular restroom unit or a sculpture park.
Starting in May, the county will be picking up the tab for public garbage pick-up in Eastsound. It’s a cost that has been covered by the Orcas Island Chamber of Commerce after a lodging tax grant paid for the cans in 2013.
Hughes is hoping to see “cluster parking” of 15 to 20 spaces to help mitigate heavy traffic in the summer. One possibility is a hub at the dog park, which is soon to be moving to Buck Park. The county works closely with the Eastsound Planning Review Committee, which is currently finalizing an Eastsound Subarea Plan. The commission meets the first Thursday of every month. The next meeting is March 5 at 3 p.m. in the Eastsound Fire Station.
The county is stepping up in regards to the island seniors. The Orcas Senior Center building has split ownership: 49 percent is with the county and 51 percent is with the senior center advisory committee. The county is helping pay for maintenance (like its recent paint job) and a $40,000 parking lot overhaul that is being constructed this summer. ADA access will be expanded and the entire lot will be refinished.
“We want to make this the best senior center possible,” Hughes said.
Hughes feels strongly about maintaining an economy in the San Juans that both supports year-round residents and tourists.
“San Juan County, the council and County Manager Mike Thomas are all supportive of whoever wants to develop broadband here,” Hughes said. “It is really important to our economic stability. OPALCO seems like the best option at this time.”
At the legislative level, Councilman Jamie Stephens has been championing against coal transportation through the San Juans. He has also been advocating for the county to receive a higher allocation from marijuana tax revenue. It is currently set at 2 percent.
And, as always, the council is hoping for more ferry funding from the state. On May 20, the Sammamish ferry will be dedicated to the San Juan Islands’ route. The county is holding a series of open houses in mid-March to hear from citizens about the ferry reservation system. Hughes says they will take feedback back to Washington State Ferries. The meeting on Orcas will be March 13 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Orcas Senior Center.
Overall, Hughes is feeling positive about 2015.
“At this year’s council retreat, we decided our number one goal is to improve customer service,” he said.