Update from county council member Cindy Wolf

Cindy Wolf

The Islands’ Sounder sat down with San Juan County Councilmember Cindy Wolf to discuss her first few weeks in office.

Right out of the gates of 2021, the council approved a moratorium on vacation rentals. The county council unanimously approved a six-month pause on vacation rental permits to consider changes to the regulations during its regular meeting on Jan. 12.

“It felt good. I walked into office wanting to deliver on my campaign promises,” Wolf said.

Within 60 days of the moratorium beginning, the county council is required to hold a public hearing about it — that hearing is scheduled for Feb. 23, at 9 a.m. On Jan. 25, the council received updated vacation rental statistics from county staff. See next week’s Sounder for more information about that meeting.

COVID-19 vaccinations have begun in the county for the residents in Tier 1B, which encompasses those 65 years or older and 50 years or older in multigenerational households (home where individuals from 2 or more generations reside such as an elder and a grandchild). There are 5,000 people in the county who fall in that category.

“The county is no longer scheduling vaccination appointments until the vaccines are on hand,” said Wolf. “The county recently ordered 300 vaccines but only received 100.”

The next available appointments will be released at 5 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 29. The public is asked to check the website www.sanjuanco.com/1737/COVID-Vaccine-Info for updates and not to call or email health and community services.

According to Wolf, the following partners have been approved to apply for allocations and dispense the vaccine: Lopez Pharmacy; Peace Health (both the clinic and hospital); Eventide Health; Friday Harbor Drug; and Orcas Family Health Center. It’s a two-dose vaccine, with the second shot administered 28 days later by the same provider.

Wolf explained that although the San Juans have low incidents of COVID-19, San Juan County is grouped into the North Region, which includes Whatcom and Skagit counties because most of the local cases are being picked up off-island, and if someone becomes ill and must be hospitalized, they will be flown to St. Joseph’s in Bellingham.

“The risk is regional,” Wolf said. “Unfortunately for schools, we are currently at 338.9 cases per 100,000 people and the governor’s requirement for a school reopening is 75 per 100,000.”

Wolf has also met with elected officials — including Rep. Rick Larsen and Sen. Patty Murray’s aide — signed on for county committee work and is looking forward to tackling the county comprehensive plan.

“There is a learning curve but great opportunity to talk about how this place will look in 20 years, 50 years,” she said. “My focus is a lot on the committee work that has to do with health and community services.”

The council also approved completing Prune Alley street, sidewalk, intersection and parking improvements in a one-year time frame as opposed to the originally planned three. It is set to begin in summer 2021 and be done in increments in order to cause the least amount of disruption to business owners, Wolf said. The project has been decades in the making and improvements will prioritize stormwater management and safety.

The county was also approached by staff members of Children’s House and Salmonberry School regarding the removal of dead trees that are posing a safety hazard to students. Wolf explained that while the schools own the property, the county has the right-of-way on the paths and is responsible for their upkeep.

“We’ll determine whether it’s sufficient information to move forward. If so, then we’ll come up with a removal and replacement plan. I don’t take it lightly, but trees have a life cycle and this is about the safety of children,” Wolf said.