San Juan County Councilman Rick Hughes cannot say enough about the efforts of the public works department.
“Public works staff are part of this community and they are working really hard but often don’t get recognized for the work they do,” said Hughes. “I am proud of everything public works is doing. We are moving really fast. They design what is right for the community, not necessarily what they are told to do from a handbook.”
In September, Mike Carlson Enterprises will begin a culvert replacement project for a potentially fish-bearing stream next to West Beach. The total cost is $880,000 and will be done in around four months. Funding is coming from the county road fund, Washington State Salmon Recovery and the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office.
“If we do this work, it could turn into a fish spawning stream in the future,” said Hughes.
The County Council just passed an “Emergent Road Fund” to pay for quick fixes like a tree root pushing up a portion of sidewalk.
“If we have savings from other public works projects, we can put it in that road fund,” Hughes said. “This allows us to be more efficient and fluid. There are things you can’t always plan for.”
On Monday, Sept. 23, Hughes and county staff will present information about Prune Alley, which will undergo a complete overhaul within the next few years, at the Eastsound Fire Hall from 5:30-7:30 p.m. The area will receive new sidewalks, better ADA access and storm water treatment. The total cost is $4 million, and Hughes says the county is planning to receive a variety of local and state grants to help fund it, including a Community Development Block Grant.
“It will be a three to four-year project because we don’t want to interfere with businesses,” Hughes said. “We are doing it within the footprint of the right of way we already have.”
During the town hall meeting, staff will present the project block by block and ask for input from the community regarding items like street art, trees, intersection lights, benches, hanging baskets and water stations.
“I want Prune Alley to be the showcase of our community,” he said. “How cool would it be if it was a walking art gallery? It will enhance the walking village concept while also providing improved safety … what North Beach Road looks like during the solstice parade – that is what I want Prune Alley to look like.”
Orcas Island School District Superintendent Eric Webb approached Hughes about two students who were “nearly run over” in December 2018. The school district asked the county council to present ideas that would improve traffic flow. One option is a $100,00 project to make School Road one way from Madrona Road to North Beach Road. Before that is implemented, a first step is to re-align the drop-off areas to decrease congestion.
“How do we provide safety for the kids and also protect the property owners?” said Hughes. “This is the short term fix, and if it doesn’t work, council has been authorized to provide $70,000 towards the one-way road. We are just facilitating the school district’s request. We are neutral on this. Any questions or concerns from the public need to go to the school district.”