County’s town hall meeting covered issues ranging from crime to community needs

Susan Riemer/Staff Photo

Susan Riemer/Staff Photo

King County officials hosted a town hall meeting on Vashon last Thursday, where they spoke about issues ranging from roads to housing and fielded questions from about 70 islanders. Below are some of the meetings highlights, which King County Councilmember Joe McDermott facilitated.

Dwight Dively, King County’s budget director, said the budget process for 2019-20 budget is underway. He cautioned islanders, however, that the programs that most affect Vashon are facing financial difficulty. He cited roads, in particular, stating that the department has only one-third of the funding it needs to maintain roads infrastructure.

“Things are going to continue to gradually deteriorate over time,” he told those gathered.

The general fund, which provides money for the King County Sheriff’s Office and most of the criminal justice system, is facing a $25 million shortfall for the next two-year period. Cutbacks are expected, he said, but have not yet been established.

Harold Taniguchi, the Director of King County Transportation and the lead for implementing the proposed Department of Local Services, spoke about both of those areas.

He singled out Vashon’s Community Van as being one of the most successful community connection programs in the county. Similarly, he said that the King County Water Taxi matched the previous year’s record numbers and is up from that more than 12 percent this year.

This year the county is setting up the new Department of Local Services to better serve residents in unincorporated areas. Part of the focus will be internal, he said, so that different factions of the county speak in a unified manner to unincorporated area residents, and another part of the focus will be on customer service.

“There is a specific intent to listen more aggressively and intently,” he said.

The program is expected to be put in place by the end of this year.

From the King County Sheriff’s Office, Jerrell Wills, the division chief of criminal investigations and a former commander of the fourth precinct, which includes Vashon. He said that the service delivery on Vashon is the same as it has been for many years, with two deputies per shift and an investigator for follow-up work.

The most common concerns on Vashon are traffic problems, property conflicts and drugs — as well as accessing the island in an emergency, he said.

Regarding drug houses, he encouraged people to call 911 and say it is not an emergency or to call the precinct and talk with a supervisor to report their concerns — and to call more than once.

“You have to continue to call. We have limited resources, and you do have to be persistent,” he said.

Camille Staczek in the audience asked if deputies could get out of their cars to interact with people more. He said he would pass that on the precinct commander, noting that there was a lot of group affirmation of the request.

“They should be walking about town. It is a very walkable town,” he added.

Islander Greg Rabourn, of the Department of Natural Resources and Parks, noted several projects underway and asked for islanders’ help in a few areas, including eradicating the noxious weed shiny geranium and reporting any problems in King County Parks, such as encampments or fires.

Adrienne Quinn, Director of the Department of Community and Human Services, spoke about many challenges facing residents and how her agency, a funding entity, is responding.

In the last year, she said, the county has provided $1.5 million in funding for children’s programs on Vashon, including those at Vashon Youth & Family Services, The DOVE Project and the Vashon Island School District.

With last year’s passage of the Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy, her department will be able to help island seniors through funding for the Vashon Senior Center, a home repair program and emergency rental assistance.

She also addressed the island’s increasing housing costs, saying, “Affordable housing is clearly an issue here.”

She noted that a funding window is open now with developers of two potential housing projects interested in obtaining money. Vashon HouseHold has expressed interest in applying for funds for a 40-micro unit project for veterans, seniors and people at risk of becoming homeless or exiting homelessness. Also, Shelter America is interested for its Creekside project, intended to provide housing to members of the island’s workforce, as well as seniors, veterans and people with disabilities.

Jim Chan, the interim head of the Department of Permitting and Review (DPER) said a DPER representative is still available on the island on Tuesdays. He also addressed issues farther afield, including that there is interest in the K2 building. Once the people involved have had a meeting with DPER officials, that information will be public, he said.

Doug Hoffmann of D & R Excavating, raised concerns with Chan, saying he and other contractors on the island are hoping that the blacktop millings produced in the paving project can remain on the island at a central location off Vashon Highway. Keeping the millings here would enable them to be used for island projects and would save more than 1,200 dump truck runs on the ferry. Reached Monday, Hoffman said he was expecting an answer from the county shortly on if that would be possible.

Finally, there were a few references to an island community council and a question on how county officials communicate with the island.

McDermott said he connects with as many constituents as possible and that the new Local Services Initiative should be helpful. He added that should islanders want to establish another council, he and others would assist.

“There is no reason why there can’t be a successor to the community council here on the island,” he said.

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