Whatcom County Council roundup


The most recent news from Whatcom County Council …

Drayton Harbor Shellfish plan approved

Council voted unanimously to approve an update to the 2024 Drayton Harbor Shellfish Recovery and Protection Plan on May 7.

The update included new information about the quality of farmed shellfish, and the dangers posed by inadequate stormwater and sewer infrastructure, population growth in urban areas like Blaine and Birch Bay, and the effects of climate change on the shellfish industry.

Those three issues, the recovery plan stated, were deemed a “triple threat” that could undo the past three decades of marine protection actions.

“While there are still challenges at marine monitoring stations during the wet season, water quality improvements demonstrate the feasibility of safe shellfish harvest in Drayton Harbor with continued engagement of community members,” the updated recovery plan stated.

There were no funding implications by the approved vote, as the recovery plan was already in place.

Committee to investigate handling of sexual harassment claims

In response to political turmoil over the county executive branch’s handling of sexual harassment complaints against former public works director Jon Hutchings, council voted members Todd Donovan, Ben Elenbaas, and chair Barry Buchanan to an investigative committee to determine how the county handles its sexual harassment claims.

An April 19 report by Cascade PBS revealed the county paid $225,000 to a woman who was sexually harassed by Hutchings for over two years while working for the county, which resulted in Hutchings’ resignation.

The first meeting of the new investigative committee is tentatively scheduled for Friday, May 10.

Blaine school district to receive behavioral health funding

Council voted unanimously on May 7 to approve $144,540 in behavioral health services funding at Blaine school district, and approved similar funding for six other county school districts.

Behavioral health services in school districts have been funded through the county since 2012, according to county documents, but the newly approved contract is a 10 percent increase from last year’s funding and will have no significant changes. The contract will start September 1 and last through August 31, 2025.

According to the 2023 Healthy Youth Survey, 62 percent of Whatcom County 10th graders reported feeling nervous or anxious, and nearly 30 percent reported depressive feelings in the past year.

The funding is paid for through the county’s behavioral health fund, which comes from a 0.1 percent sales tax.

County enters study on electric car fleet

In an effort to reach its Climate Action Plan that recommends moving away from gas-guzzling cars that the county uses for official use, council voted on April 23 to enter into an $80,000 study with Makers Architecture and Urban Design on moving the vehicle fleet to all-electric vehicles.

The study will make recommendations for electric vehicle replacements and create cost estimates for the expected changes. There will likely be a need for more charging infrastructure, according to the county memo, and the firm will create a vehicle replacement schedule. Funding for the study will come from the county’s 2024 climate action budget.

The Climate Action Plan was adopted by council in November 2021 with a goal of reducing countywide emissions by 45 percent from 1990 levels by 2030, with a goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

County to develop new climate change plan

Council voted on April 23 to enter into a $180,295 contract with Cascadia Consulting Group, Inc. (CCG) to develop the county’s climate change portion of its 2025 comprehensive plan.

State law requires county governments to implement a “climate change and resiliency” element to its comprehensive plan, and CCG would contribute to reporting on environmental justice and health disparities, greenhouse gas emissions, emission trends and projections, and climate change and natural disaster mitigation plans.

Funding for the contract came from state climate planning grants and interlocal cost-sharing agreements with cities throughout the county.

CCG will release its findings to the county starting with its natural disaster mitigation plan on August 1, and finish its climate change impact report by February 1, 2025. 

District courtroom to receive six-figure remodel

Council voted on April 23 to approve a remodel of a Whatcom County District Court courtroom to the tune of $227,265, entering into a contract with construction firm ScoCon. Funding for the remodel will come from the real estate excise tax fund.


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