Letters to the editor: September 26-October 5

The Editor:

As a member of the BHS Class of 1966’s 50th reunion committee, I would like to thank Christy and her crew at the Pastime Pub and Eatery for hosting our Friday night “Meet and Greet” event. The food was wonderful and the service was fantastic. We really appreciate the time you took helping us plan the menu and making our event such a great success.

If any other committees or organizations are looking for a place to meet, you need look no further than the Pastime Pub and Eatery right here in Blaine!

Steven Baker

The Editor:

Fully funding K-12 education is the paramount duty of the state legislature. According to the McCleary court decision, four years ago, Washington state legislators were failing in their duty.

Since then, K-12 education funding has increased by over 36 percent. And in the current 2015-2017 operational budget, $18.2 billion or 48 percent of the operating budget goes to fund K-12 education.

I support state representative Luanne Van Werven because she not only supports fully funding K-12 education but reforming the system so every student can reach their full potential.  She understands that money alone will not fix all the problems within our education system.

Vote to re-elect Luanne Van Werven because she has been and will continue to fight to carry out this paramount duty of the state legislature – to provide every child with a quality education in the schools of Whatcom County and across our state.

Elinor King

The Editor:

I was pleased to hear that state representative Luanne Van Werven was appointed to the “Sunshine Committee.” This is an important committee established by the state legislature in 2007 to ensure transparency and accountability for public disclosure requirements. Luanne is dedicated to the cause of open government and we are fortunate that a local representative will be a watchdog on this important committee. Open public records and public meetings are fundamental to a transparent government. A vote for Luanne Van Werven will ensure the state’s Open Public Meetings Act remains strong and successful.

Karen Brown

The Editor:

As a Birch Bay beachfront property owner I support the berm project. I was dismayed and frustrated to read that the project has been delayed for another year. My reaction was not due to the delay, but to the conflicting information coming from the county.

According to the story, negotiations with property owners were blamed for the delay; county project engineer Kevin Thomson stated that eight right-of-way easements had been obtained, with 30 more to go. Yet, a month earlier, county special projects manager Roland Middleton said only 12 agreements needed to be finalized and that the easement negotiations were “not even a substantive issue” – the main issue was the process for appraising the properties. The implication is that the county was initially unaware of the federal guidelines requiring external property appraisals, and did not initiate the external appraisal process soon enough.

Furthermore, The Northern Light reported in its February 10 issue that the county had just mailed out offers to purchase the easements. Yet, my neighbors and I did not receive offer letters and do not have them to this day. On March 29, my wife and I received an email from right of way consultant Dana Abney stating we would receive an offer letter in about two weeks. On July 29, I followed up and received a return email that “appraisals are still 2 to 3 weeks out.”

Why are property owners being blamed for the delay when some have not received offer letters or outreach for negotiations from the county? In TNL‘s May 18 issue, Mr. Thompson reported the county is “actively moving forward to complete negotiations by July 2016 or before.” Yet, more than seven months later, neither my neighbors nor I have letters and negotiations have not begun. That doesn’t sound like the county is actively moving forward.

Finally, while the overall project budget is $11.5 million, about one-half has already been spent (as stated at the county’s open house meeting on February 10). Attendees were told that the funds were spent for permitting, planning, easement negotiation, etc. While these are all important and legitimate, I don’t believe that construction projects spend half or more of their budget on items indirectly related to construction.

The people noted in this letter are helpful, professional, and committed to this project, but somewhere, something’s off track. I urge the newspaper to seek answers to the following questions: Why was conflicting information provided about the number of property easements yet to be acquired? Why have offer letters not been sent to all property owners? Were independent appraisers involved from the outset, or were property assessments initially done by the county and then redone? If so, why, and how much money did that take from the budget? How much will road and storm damage maintenance cost for another year because of the project’s delay? How much of the budget remains for construction? Will an audit of expenditures be done?

Answers to these and other questions would clarify and provide transparency regarding this project, which is vital to address erosion and road damage in Birch Bay.

Chuck Kinzer
Birch Bay

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