Council OKs code of ethics for town


It was a four-letter word that defined a briskly paced, 45-minute hybrid Town Council meeting at Maple Hall on Feb. 27.

That word was code.

As in the council’s approval of both a formal town code of ethics and update to La Conner’s uniform development code.

The ethics code was one of Mayor Marna Hanneman’s first initiatives upon taking office in January.

“In this climate of people not being civil to each other – not that this is happening here – I asked for a code of ethics,” Hanneman said.

Upon adoption of the code, following a motion by council member Annie Taylor, Hanneman implored all who will be bound by it to prioritize civility.

“Let’s all be just a little kinder to one another,” she said.

The code is designed to affirm the dignity and worth of public service, stressing the importance of dedicating that service to the highest ideals of honor and integrity. It emphasizes that the chief function of town government is to always serve the best interests of the public.

One section of the code calls upon the town’s elected and appointed officials and employees to conduct municipal business “in a manner which is not only fair in fact, but also in appearance.”

Moments later, the council approved a proposed code update submitted by Town Planner Michael Davolio that would help ease conversion by the Swinomish Tribal Community of its apartment complex and a single-family residence on S. Maple Avenue to a secure and staffed care facility for those who have undergone treatment at Didgwalic Wellness Center.

The code amendment allows medical and dental facilities in the Maple Avenue residential zone with a conditional-use permit so long as they are located at least 400 feet from each other.

“It’s a model program,” Hanneman said of the Swinomish plan, which is being studied by other agencies near and far. “It’s the full-meal deal.”

The town has a full plate of its own when it comes to future major utility and public works projects, said Town Administrator Scott Thomas. He listed seven key items, leading off with $20 million in mandated upgrades to La Conner’s wastewater treatment plant. All projects total more than $36 million.

“These are conservative numbers and we’ll get grants, we’ll have assistance, but the grants won’t cover everything,” Thomas said. “I don’t want to be depressing, but we have projects coming up. We don’t have room to ignore these projects. They must be done.”

In addition, Thomas said the town is looking at replacing the Channel Drive and La Conner-Whitney Road water lines, relocating the Town Public Works office and shop, extending First Street southward, installing new downtown utilities, and acquiring a fire engine.

Council member MaryLee Chamberlain said town officials have been positioning themselves to address the pressing needs Thomas identified.

“We have a strategic plan in place,” Chamberlain said. “We can recalibrate and prioritize to bring these (projects) to the finish line.”

Thomas also addressed hours of operation at Town Hall. With staff short-handed, he suggested having Town Hall open to the public Monday through Thursday with staff working on site or remotely half-time on Fridays.

“This would create more time for staff to get work done,” said Thomas, who pointed to the four-day week at Langley’s City Hall.

“Town Hall is down a staff member and quite frankly they’re quite busy,” he said.

The new schedule, he said, would create a four-hour block of time on Fridays for staff to complete work without interruptions.

Thomas anticipates bringing to the council a proposed ordinance on new Town Hall hours sometime this month.

Hanneman plans to meet with the mayor of White Rock, British Columbia, to discuss resurrecting the “sister city” relationship with the Canadian town that stalled during the COVID-19 pandemic.


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