Anderson, Ely vie for Ward 2 city council seat; Schugt, Liebert run unopposed
Three city council positions will be on the ballot on Tuesday; however, only one position is being challenged. Incumbent Ken Ely will face former councilman and mayor Andy Anderson for Ward 2, position 1. Dieter Schugt is running unopposed for Ward 3, position 1, as is John Liebert for Ward 1, position 2.
The Northern Light has asked the council candidates two questions regarding local issues to better provide readers with the candidates� thoughts. Their responses follow.
TNL: The city of Blaine is currently in the process of establishing a sewer solution. Would you rather see that solution built within city limits, kept in local control and potentially at larger costs, or would you prefer that solution be regionalized at lower costs?
I think that decision should be left up to the people to make. If we do enter into a deal with Canada, we need to see the costs up front, and we need to have a contract before that alternative is decided. Whatever alternative the public decides on, I think it needs to be implemented within six months to a year.
If the public decides that they don�t want to go to Canada, then we should build a new plant for east Blaine and use the existing outfall at Semiahmoo. But those are all decisions that the public should make.
I think the Citizens Wastewater Advisory Committee (CWAC) was the right way to go. That�s how the process should be. I, myself, was not involved with that, but I believe that public committee is how decisions should be made. What CWAC is doing is right.
Ben Franklin once observed that, whenever it became necessary to lay a burden upon the people, it was best to let the people be as responsible for it as possible. For this reason, the CWAC committee, a citizens� committee, was formed. They did their work and presented council with three options for the sewer. As your question points out, sending our waste to Canada for treatment ended up being the cheaper option (there are actually two variations of this option that would be cheaper than treating it at home and two options that would make it just as expensive).
Now, like most people, I have been hampered in what I want to do by what I can afford to do. If piping our waste water to Canada is more in the line of what we can afford to do, then that is what we ought to do. As to whether we retain local control of our waste water processing or we forfeit it to the Canadians, I am not much daunted by that issue. Whatever local control we are perceived to have is really dictated to by many tiers of laws above our municipal level. Canadian or American tiers will probably make little difference.
The city of Blaine is poised and ready to make some decisions on our wastewater problems. A study committee of community members led by public works director Steve Banham has made several recommendations to the city council. After some lengthy discussions and serious debate, I have resolved to support alternative No. 10 which states to rework our present lift station on Marine Drive and convey Blaine�s waste water to Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) at Annacis Island. This does appear to be the least expensive to our rate payers and still use our present facilities (lift station, piping, etc.) to its fullest extent.
I concur with the consensus we reached as a city council to explore the least expensive waste water solution. The solution is to negotiate a long term contract with Surrey, B.C. and send our waste water north. Going to Surrey does have its political and control implications that we trust can be worked out. If not, then a single or two-plant solution is back on the table. That would be considerably more expensive and difficult and possibly take longer to put into effect. Looking 20 years into the future as to how waste water will be treated and handled is impossible.
Looking back at computers, air travel, and communications. etc. Who could have predicted where we are today with handheld computers that originally covered a whole floor of a building, space travel to moon, cell phones, etc.? Possibly a self-contained small multi-unit waste system that produces drinkable water is in the future.
Going to Surrey now buys us the time for technology to catch up with any future decision, if in fact one needs to be made. There is a precedent with Sumas sending waste into Canada that has Washington legislative approval and has been working fine from a control and political approach for seven years.
TNL: The city council recently approved a $250,000 bond to be used for purchasing land and tree removal near the airport. How do you justify airport expenditures considering its current usage?
The city�s not making any money from the Blaine Municipal Airport. And there aren�t any concrete plans under way for the airport. We�ve got an airport 16 miles away in Bellingham and another one nearby in Langley, B.C. I fly too, you know, but my personal feeling is that the Blaine airport is in the wrong place. I feel like it�s there for the use of just a few people. The city and airport need to bring the public into this matter. There needs to be more communication with the public and more public input when it comes to decision making.
The bottom line is the city�s spending too much money � money the city doesn�t have. We as a city need to make priorities. My priorities would be the sewer situation and city finances.
Whatever the current airport usage, the tree issue is a safety and liability issue. If we do not take the trees out of the approach patterns, and someone hits them, our liability will make $250,000 look like a very small sum. If we allow the trees to continue to grow and the airport must be closed as a result of the obstruction, our liability to the lease holders will be several times the amount of the bond in question.
As the trees grow, airport usage declines. With the trees out of the way, there are several things we can attempt to increase airport usage. Acquiring the acreage on which the trees stand is actually the most fiscally responsible way to go about removing the trees: the city is, by the purchase, the proprietor of a property which it can lease or sell for a financial return. All the other schemes to come at the problem leave us paying for blue sky.
The airport discussion evokes more emotion within our community than almost any other one issue. The city is extremely liable if an accident would occur as a result of the unsafe conditions with the existing trees at the south end of the airport. We have faithfully tried to negotiate a plan to purchase the trees, cut them down, and move on, but have been rebuffed several times. By purchasing or condemning the land we can deal with the tree situation and prepare to re-sell the land, or look at several alternatives. Thus, we still own some equity and can look for the best way to recoup the money spent on the initial purchase.
However, it is not just that simple, and thus three present council members are formulating a study committee plan to recommend to the council for adoption. This group of qualified citizens would study and recommend several choices similar to what the waste water committee has done most recently. This piece of land is one of the most valued properties within our city and must be utilized to its best potential for the people of Blaine.
The issue of safety at the airport concerning the trees both north and south has been before council since 1997. This council acted on the best advice and legal counsel as to city liability. By eliminating the safety factor and a marketing plan to increase usage will more than repay this expenditure. I trust the dedicated airport commission will market the advantages of Blaine airport so costs of this land acquisition can possibly be paid off sooner.
Council members have several differing opinions about the viability of the airport. I for one, and I believe this is shared by the majority, have questions. Hopefully, the master plan now underway will give us some answers by early 2005. At that time before any further expenditures take place all alternatives will be explored including keeping the airport as is, expand runway, shut it down and\or some viable economic development which may include keeping the airport as it is. This land acquisition will make most of these options more possible.
Jorgensen challenges Benton for port commissioner, district 3 position
Incumbent Ginny Benton, who is currently serving her third term as district 3 commissioner for the Port of Bellingham, is being challenged by former teacher and current salmon boat operator Jim Jorgensen.
The Northern Light has asked the Port of Bellingham candidates two questions regarding local issues to better provide readers with the thoughts of the candidates. Their responses follow.
TNL: The Port of Bellingham has invested a great deal of money into the Blaine harbor and pier. What do you see as further local investments?
The port has invested over $20 million (non-tax dollars) in marina, pier and breakwater development and operations over the last few years. This does not include over $100,000 in direct and indirect economic development monies, nor Blaine�s share of the port�s fully-funded Partnership for a Sustainable Economy. Blaine has benefited far more than any other Whatcom County community in the port�s community outreach program and by having local experienced representation on the commission.�
There is still more to do. The port�s Blaine Marina master plan, developed by the citizens of Blaine, calls for further development of the marina uplands.The proposed cost of that development is roughly $4 million. The prize winning Blaine promenade has yet another phase to be completed. Also to be completed is the promenade over the new breakwater extending off the Blaine pier.
Infrastructure remains at the forefront of Blaine�s development.���Marine Drive is overdue for complete upgrading. The port will participate in that upgrade. There are a number of other infrastructure issues which the port can assist in finding solutions through its partnership with the small cities. The port�s outreach program was established to assist communities fulfill their goals and dreams not the port�s ideas.�
Two of the most attractive additions to our community are the redesigned Blaine Harbor Marina and the pier at the end of the Marine Drive. We can thank the port of Bellingham for these additions that help boost the economy in Blaine.
Boaters have repairs done locally and purchase supplies from our stores. People come from around the county to crab fish, relax and watch the sunsets and buy meals or fishing tackle at our local establishments. Our harbor has the opportunity to become one of the most aesthetically pleasing areas in Whatcom County when Marine Drive is reconstructed. Several designs have been proposed in past years that include separate traffic lanes with plant/tree dividers, turnarounds, kiosks, turn-of-the-century lighting. A Marine Drive that would be very attractive and make vacant properties in the harbor area much more conducive to business investors.
The port of Bellingham can and should be a major investor in the reconstruction of Marine Drive. The port has an excellent staff with expertise in areas needed to build such a project. Their design of Zuanich Park and Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham attests to their ability to build attractive and successful places. The port�s partnerships in the rebuilding of Marine Drive would be a very positive step in helping the economic stimulus Blaine needs in becoming a vibrant city.
TNL: Would you ever considering entering into a deal with the city of Blaine to operate the Blaine Municipal Airport for something other than its current use? What, if any, do you see as possible ideas?
As far as the Blaine Municipal Airport goes, and in which direction it is to go, these are to be determined by the citizens of Blaine. There have been several votes on this issue in the past and the last one indicated that the majority of the people of Blaine wished to retain the airport in its present use.�
Until the people speak otherwise, it would be nothing but meddling intrusion by the port to suggest otherwise.�As everyone knows, the land is quite valuable, yet its use is for the people of Blaine to decide.�If they decide to change the use, then I�m sure that interested parties will submit a great variety of interesting proposals.��
I�ve been asked if I, as a possible port commissioner, would enter into a deal with the city of Blaine to change the current use of the Blaine Municipal Airport to some other use. As I�ve said to several citizens, I would, provided the city came to the port asking for ideas. I would not as a commissioner push my way into city hall to promote port ideas on city land. The airport property is a very attractive site that has the potential for several uses that would be prosperous for Blaine. Its close proximity to the truck route with easy access to the 40 acres of city owned property makes it extremely valuable to the community. It all boils down to a single question: what is the best use of the land?
I understand a committee is being formed to talk about that very question. I sincerely hope that committee will come up with an answer that will be the best fit for our community of Blaine.
Nunamaker serving 24th year, Berge challenges
Incumbent Betty Nunamaker will face challenger Todd Berge during Tuesday�s election for the the district 2 Blaine school board position.
Nunamaker, who is currently serving her 24th year on the board, has had five children go through the Blaine school system and several grandchildren. She says she is committed to the students of the district, and would serve �forever� if she could.
Berge, a Cherry Point security department operations lieutenant and father, said he wants to see a parent on the board, as it is currently has none.
The Northern Light has asked the school board candidates a question regarding recent cuts to better provide readers with candidates� thoughts.
TNL: New state cuts, such as the turnout bus and loss of summer school, have hurt the Blaine school district this year. How do you think the school board can address these cuts?
The new state budget cuts for the Blaine school district for 2003-2004 were $975,000. The school board was required to make some very unpopular cuts in the budget. I felt the cuts were made to insure that they could put more money into keeping the classroom sizes smaller and keep the level of education where it is today. Two of the programs cut were the turnout bus and the summer school program. The turnout buses are used to transport students home from sports turnout and occasionally some late after school programs. The summer school program is used to help those students who have fallen behind academically or need help in maintaining their skills through the summer. Both of these programs are important to the Blaine students.
" I know that the Blaine school district has communicated with the public on these issues, but it appears there may not have been enough communication. In the future, I would like to see issues of concern brought to the public and ideas brought back to the board before a final decision is made. Let�s work together and continue to build our students education and future.
The cuts were not something the school board wanted, and it�s going to be a continuing thing. We have had so much for so many years. It�s going to be hard to continue, but we are doing the best we can. Our commitment to the children is low classroom size, which we believe is a priority.
We (as a school district) are going to have to modify some things � what, we don�t really don�t know � but we will. I�m committed to the children and I love this school district. We have established a wonderful staff here.