Public Works starts flood barrier removal


March 20, 2024

The high tide of saltwater flood season has passed.

Town Administrator Scott Thomas said the final king tide on Swinomish Channel until next fall will allow removal of flood barriers that have lined the La Conner waterfront for months.

“If you want to go out and get a picture of those orange sandbags so that you can remember them you’d better get out there,” Thomas told town council at its March 12 meeting. “They’ll be going away in a couple weeks and won’t be back until October.”

The Public Works Department will remove sandbags and ecology blocks that have protected the town’s waterfront and low-lying areas. After saltwater flooding in December 2022 caused nearly $2 million in property damages, the La Conner Emergency Management Commission formed and drafted a flood mitigation plan.

To help with the task, the council authorized Public Works Director Brian Lease to hire La Conner firefighter Ben Mesman as a seasonal crew member to fill in for one of Lease’s injured permanent staff.

The council reached consensus to fund long-range street maintenance through the town’s new Transportation Benefit District.

Councilors endorsed Thomas’ recommendation to add 0.1% to the town’s sales tax rate, which would extend the burden to nonresidents.

“It seems to be appropriate for visitors who use the streets to pay for the streets,” Thomas said.

The council also supported his suggestion that the town bank half the benefit district’s revenue to pay for a planned extension of First Street south to Caledonia.

The council also backed Thomas’ recommendation to change town hall hours to 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Fridays, staff will work remotely or at town hall.

“We’re trying to come up with a block of time where town staff can work uninterrupted,” he said.

Finance Director Maria DeGoede said staff will “get information out over the next several weeks” alerting the public of the pending new schedule at town hall.

The council unanimously approved a resolution honoring the memory of late Emergency Management Commission member Duane Carpenter, who died recently.

“He’s going to be sorely missed,” Mayor Marna Hanneman said.

“Duane was a fixture and valuable member of the emergency management commission,” Councilmember Rick Dole said. “He was a dear friend. I was very sad to hear that he passed.”

Hanneman said the town will seek a replacement.

Council members granted preliminary approval of changes to the Town’s Uniform Development Code – mostly definitions – that the state will review before the council’s final approval.

“As we went through the code, we noticed that a lot of it hadn’t been updated in 30 years,” Town Planner Michael Davolio said.

Councilor Mary Wohleb provided an update on the Town Parks Commission. The panel is looking at a tree replacement plan for Morris Street as part of a civic beautification campaign. She also praised Public Works for its efforts on the pavilion at Conner Waterfront Park.

Hanneman said White Rock, British Columbia, municipal leaders want to maintain their relationship as La Conner’s sister city. She also thanked former Swinomish Indian Tribal Community Senator Leon John for his early March program on the Didgwalic Wellness Center and its plans to convert the apartment complex on Maple Avenue to transitional housing.

During public comments, Gary Nelson, Georgia Johnson and Linda Talman each expressed concerns with the revised plans KSA Investments has submitted for the proposed three-story apartment/condo complex at 306 Center St.

Hanneman suggested that Nelson meet with Davolio to address construction-related issues.


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