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Council honors longtime area UPS driver

Hector Soltero has made countless deliveries in La Conner during his years as a United Parcel Service driver.

Now it is his turn to be on the receiving end. And in a big way.

The La Conner Town Council unanimously approved a resolution July 11 honoring Soltero and expressing appreciation for the outstanding service he provides to his La Conner area customers.

"He's well loved by everybody in town," Councilmember Rick Dole said in proposing the resolution. "He's just a joy to be around."

Council hopes to formally recognize Soltero and his family in-person soon, perhaps at its July 25 meeting.

Mayor Ramon Hayes, though not able to vote, expressed his support.

"I concur," said Hayes. "Hector always has a smile on his face. He has a very positive attitude."

The resolution lauds Soltero for a career "marked by professionalism and helpfulness." It further cites Soltero as "a great asset" to the town due to his "dedication and commitment to excellent customer service."

Dole also tossed bouquets to the Skagit County Sheriff's Office and new La Conner Detachment Sgt. Brad Holmes.

"We're getting quite a few more (coverage) hours than what we're paying for," said Dole, who has seen positive engagement between deputies and local teens.

Aaron Reinstra, who dually serves as fire chief and code enforcement officer, has likewise been busy with the fireworks, boating, commercial and recreational crabbing and tourist seasons aligning.

He told Council that he had monitored the Sherman Street boat ramp to help prevent delays and backups there. He said the boat launch area and town's floats have undergone excessive use over the past couple weeks given the extended warm weather conditions.

The downside to such usage is facilities maintenance, Hayes noted.

"We're seeing some damage to the floats," he said.

Above the boat launch, in Pioneer Park, an arborist has identified trees that pose risks to public safety, but the chance remains one of those trees – perhaps part of an eagle habitat – can be saved.

Public Works Director Brian Lease said there is no active nest on that tree but that sparing it from removal is an option. The arborist has indicated seven trees of more immediate concern.

"Those are hazard trees," Lease said.

Resident Linda Talman earlier informed Council that habitat trees are protected internationally by migratory bird legislation. An avid birder, Talman has noted that bird populations are diminishing dramatically and efforts must be made to save them.

"The bottom line," she said in a letter last week, "is that removing habitat for these birds is damaging to the bird populations."

Another town resident, Rosalinda Guillen, has suggested passage of a tree census ordinance that includes ages of trees and mandates protection for them given their role in providing both habitat and heat relief.

Relief from speeding motorists is being provided by portable speed cushions placed on side streets with heavy traffic volumes, most notably Talbott Street, a link between Whatcom Street and Maple Avenue.

"We've budgeted for two of them," Hayes said. "I've heard that they're needed in more locations. But we're faced with fiscal restraints so for now we'll rotate them between locations."

The meeting began with a rapid round of public comments.

Center Street resident Leslie Smith cautioned against approval of Airbnbs, stating that they reduce La Conner's already limited housing stock.

Debbie Aldrich, also a Center Street resident, said she enjoys the Sunday outdoor live music concerts at Gilkey Square but noted they are so popular that parking on those afternoons backs up into residential neighborhoods. She said construction of the proposed three-story Center Street residential project will create even more parking pressures.

"Parking will be a problem if that building gets built," Aldrich predicted. "I don't know where these people will park."

Gary Nelson, who resides across Fourth Street from the proposed Center Street project, echoed Aldrich's parking concerns. He said there is already parking congestion in front and alongside homes by people frequenting commercial ventures on Morris Street.

"The Center Street project will exasperate that," he said.


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