hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Five Days of Sun

That's what I'm told we are getting.  If this doesn't warm up the ground and excite the plants, what will?  The forsythia is in full bloom, the lilacs are leafing out, the tulips are fully budded.  I think we're going to make it.  On the other hand, Henri le chat noir today reports that life is arbitrary and meaningless and that winter is coming.  I hope he doesn't mean soon...

This past week, we ran into a 'rough-bellied newt' as we were unstacking various yard trimmings to get them to the burn pile.   These newts are quite common around here; small (maybe 3-4 inches), brown and with a bright orange underside.  You might think they would have named it the 'orange-bellied newt.'  But they didn't.  The point of mentioning this is that they are one of the most toxic animals around.  So don't touch them while irritating them.  When irritated, they exude the toxin through their skin.  Best, maybe, just not to touch them.  I, myself, did irritate this newt, but with a stick so I could show my guest his orange belly and so she could take a picture of him.  He's a very impressive little beast.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

More Worries at the Community Center

Yesterday morning, there was water coming down through the ceiling in the library at the Community Center.  It wasn't raining yesterday morning, so that is a particularly bad sign.  There is another place in the Community Center that is known to be a chronic leaker: that would be in the big room, over the stage.  This place in the library: not so much.  This is the library, where we keep the books, which don't do well with water.  This is worrisome with 4 stars.

Help came when someone arrived and started catching the water; and then the ceiling panel started to bow from the weight of the water above, which was not exiting fast enough.  Well, fast enough for those collecting the water, but not fast enough for the bowing panel.  The panel was eventually removed and a lot of insulation descended with the removal.  Oh my gracious!

So there they are.  At the moment, here's some piece of filler in the hole (see photo above), but obviously if there is more water, the filler is no kind of deterrent to the water flowing freely onto the books, onto the floor of the library, onto the librarians.

What are we supposed to do next?  Find a little Dutch boy to stick his hand in the dike?

(Photo: Rose and Kris assess the damage; photo by Ed Park.)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Is Point Roberts UnGoogleable? What Is?

Here is a sad story.  It's doubtless the case that Google is too big, that their decisions about which programs they will support and which drop are irritating, etc., etc.  On the other hand, didn't they have as their slogan, "First, do no harm"? How extremely tedious to find them defending their name in this way.  I was saying, only yesterday, that my interest in Point Roberts is basically ungoogleable, by which I meant that no search engine could really track it down because it was such a complex set of thoughts and feelings.  I surely didn't mean that ONLY Google couldn't track it down.  Lawyers, perhaps, need to learn to Just Say, NO!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

How Quickly We Forget...

I was doing a little research yesterday on the fundraising for the Wellness Clinic, checking out how much they actually raised from the community and what kinds of problems the fundraisers had, in the process of getting that project realized.  It was back in 2002 and I certainly lived here then and I certainly remember things that happened in 2002, but I don't remember much about that project.  It turns out they had a federal grant for the first three years of operating costs and about $70K of local funding for remodelling the area of the Fire District building wherein the clinic was to be located.  The chief fundraiser for that project, Brian Canfield, has told me that they had a difficult time raising the local money.    Kind of surprised me, given that we have done better than that in raising money for the new library.

Anyway, from there, I got to another section of the archives of the All Point Bulletin, where I found this edition of "Letters to the Editors."  It is vintage Point Roberts, featuring not only ongoing rage about the Fire District and its Commissioners, but the resounding rhetoric of Ron Calder and John LeSow, both a little quieter than they used to be:  Ron, because he died, and John, for reasons I do not know.  But it took me back to the days when they, as well as others, regularly let us know how they saw things.  Nowadays, not so much of such letters.  Probably better for community harmony not to have these regular ad hominem attacks, but I did find myself, while reading those letters, missing something.  Not 'that loving feeling,' of course.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

To Those Away

A couple of photos I took over the last two days to let our friends who have gone away for the winter know that things are improving considerably and they might begin to pack for the return trip.

Not only these, but the lilies are up about 8 inches.  They will probably be blooming by the weekend...just sayin'

Monday, March 18, 2013

Lily Point Beach Club: Back Again

Back in January, the formerly optioned 50+ acres between Claire Lane and Pauls Road on the Lily Point side of Point Roberts were finally sold to the two developers (Wayne Knowles and Anders Kruus) who were formerly involved in plans for the Point Roberts Beach Club, and their new partner, Mengfa International which appears to be a Vancouver-located company with three Directors.  As a result, the project is back before the County Planning people.

It has been redesigned some: there are fewer houses (62 total) and they are smaller, many with only one bedroom.  The problem has been insufficient soil that would adequately accommodate the needed septic systems; the smaller number of houses and smaller houses themselves are the solution to the problem.  The new design establishes the main entrance on Pauls Road, with the secondary entrance back on APA.  It is generally thought that the County is likely to want some road-widening to be done, but it appears the lower section of APA road would be subject to that widening (Pauls Road to South Beach) if the County were to insist since that would hold the main traffic, rather than the upper section near the canopy of maple trees.

However, the guys from Planning and from Health and Safety at the Voters' meeting last Monday night said that there would need to be considerable removal of trees along the canopy section of APA because that was where the septic system would need to be installed.  Knowles says (in a private communication) that trees would be left as a buffer between the septic system and the road, and that the maple canopy section of APA road would not have to be widened.

There appear to be different opinions among those who were at the Voters' meeting with the County folks on Monday night about the Planning Division's need for APA widening in the vicinity of the canopy .  I did not think they said that APA would need to be widened in the canopy area; others think they said it would.

The Point Roberts Conservation Society is trying to get together a meeting on the issue (they took the lead opposing the project last time it came round).  The County guys insisted in replies to several questions that the Hearing Officer is obliged to take into account the views of the community.  Those views need to be sent to the Planning Dept. and it can be done via email: to Amy Keenan at akeenan@co.whatcom.wa.us

The current status of the application is that the developers were asked to supply additional information and the Planning Division is assessing that information.  When they have developed a position (which could be various levels of approval/disapproval), it then goes to the Hearing Officer.  The Planning Division will gather public comments and submit them to the Hearing Officer at that time.  Presumably, there will also be a public hearing at some time.  You can see the information provided by the developers here:  http://www.whatcomcounty.us/pds/plan/current/current-projects.jsp.

This is all I know (or at least think I know) about this right now, with caveats as noted.  Most of the people I've talked to think that if the project is approved, there will be few lots sold and that the area in question, beloved by many here, will be harmed by the preparation to sell the lots: a loss for no purpose at all.  Others are opposed to developments this large, whether or not successfully sold.  Others just want the canopy preserved, leaving the County to figure out what people can otherwise do with land they own.  There's room for opinion here, but the one thing everyone seems to agree on is that the canopy must be preserved.  That includes the developer.  So that should be possible.  Let Amy Keenan at Planning know your views, ok?


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Why Don't We Know How Much We Pay for Gas?

Another thing I'd just like to note for the record:  On March 11, 2013, the day this photo was taken, Can Am's posted price was $1.159.  Multiplied by 3.78541 liters per gallon, that's $4.387 per gallon.

Compare the posted price at Fred Meyer's one hour earlier: $3.829.  The difference is $0.558 per gallon.

Two gas stations in Whatcom County: the former, of course in Point Roberts, and the latter in Bellingham.  Not much of an incentive for Americans to live and buy gas in Point Roberts, I'd say.  Not only that, but--perhaps even more exasperating--is that the gas stations here don't even do the courtesy to the country and town they are doing business in--that would be Point Roberts, WA, USA-- to tell its U.S. residents what the price is in the American standard of measure: $X per gallon NOT $X/liter. You have to learn metric in order to figure out exactly what the price is per gallon in Point Roberts. Which is to say, what you are paying if you buy gas in Point Roberts.  Sigh.

Whenever the news stories carry on about who's paying the highest price/gallon for gas in the U.S., the answer is ALWAYS the residents of Point Roberts, Washington, regardless of what the news stories blab on about.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The County Visits Again

CThe Voters' Association once again invited the County to come up and educate us on our rights and responsibilities.  Pete Kremens, Barbara Brenner, and Kathy Kershner, joined by a guy from the Health and Safety Department and another guy from the Planning Dept. (no disrespect intended to the two; I just didn't make out their names when they were introduced, whereas I recognized the three councilpersons) talked to us about many things.

A big turnout for the Voters...probably 35+ people.  The topics were more or less about planning processes, wetlands, septic inspections, and a tiny foray into the Council's views on the increasing problems of border access issu.  The latter was 'tiny' in time because Voters' Association Meister Elizabeth Lanz engaged in a kind of one-sided shouting match with John Lesow when he tried to ask the question and Ms. Lanz proceeded not only to shout him down but to gavel him down, with giant bangs of her giant gavel on her small wooden table.  It was the only real mark of incivility of the evening and I would like to say (indeed I am saying) that she does not improve the quality of life here by such acting out.  Indeed, she reminded me of Mr. Meursing at his worst.  Well, she didn't threaten to have Lesow arrested of course for daring to ask a question she didn't want asked.  There's that.

Other than that, however, it was an interesting and fairly long evening.  The thing about the County people is that they have endless knowledge of law, rules, and regulations: things most of us don't know and usually don't need to know, but interesting to hear about nonetheless.  E.g., I sort of learned a lot about wetland mitigation, including the possibility of something called 'offsite mitigation' which I think sounds like planting trees in the Amazon and then selling your carbon credits to the Saudis.  Or maybe not.

I had never specifically thought of my own backyard as having or being a 'wetland.'  To me, it's just awash in water at this time of year.  But it's probably a wetland and I could mitigate it or enhance it.  I could hire a biology engineer to design a pond which would be an enhancement if I were to pay to build it.  And then I could somehow sell my wetland enhancement credits to someone else in Point Roberts who wanted to do something on his/her property with wetlands that otherwise wouldn't make it through the planning process.  And then my credits sale would pay for my pond, and the other person could do what he wanted.  I think that's what's involved.  It doesn't matter.  I just note that back near the fence, it's really wet in the spring.  There are frogs living there.   That's enough of an enhancement for me.

The "action" item of the evening is that the Voters people will pursue whether there is interest in P.R. in having the County come up and provide another half-day or so class in how to do your own septic inspection.  I took the class last time they gave it, but it did not lead me to conduct my own septic inspection.  It was interesting, though.  I am perhaps easily interested.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Paying for Infrastructure

I was thinking today about the fact that the Water District gets to charge new homes a sizable amount of money for the installation of a new water meter.  Except it isn't for the installation: it is for the new building's contribution to the infrastructure that already exists for water delivery and that the rest of the existing buildings have already helped to pay for.

And that is okay; I get that.  But why don't the other Districts get to do something like that?  What about the Fire District's infrastructure spending (including training and equipping the fire volunteers and EMT's)?  What about the Hospital District's administrative infrastructure?  What about the Park &Recreation District's Baker Field and Community Center and Julius Firehall infrastructure?  How come every new building doesn't have to pay into those funds, too?

Just asking...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Park Commissioners Speak

Last night, Park and Recreation District Commissioners Mark Robbins and Linda Hughes came to answer questions at a public meeting sponsored by the Tax Payers Association about their work here in Point Roberts.  The meeting lasted a couple of hours and although there were maybe only 8 or so public attendees, there were lots of questions and discussions.

Questions ranged from the status of the Verizon cellphone tower, Baker Field improvements, the 'wellness' of the Community Center, the new dock at Lighthouse Park, the commitment to the use of the Julius Firehall as a new library, and such.  It was all pretty friendly, I think, as it should be when our elected reps meet with those of us who elect them and and pay for their work.

(We don't, as it turns out, necessarily pay for THEM to do the work.  Robbins pointed out that, unlike other District Commissions, where Commissioners are at least paid about $100 per meeting, the Park and Recreation District is not allowed to receive any payment for their service.  Why this should be is a mystery to Robbins and to me.  I can't think of any conceivable reason for such a regulation.  Indeed, I think we would be far better served if people were paid for their work.  Depending upon volunteers is a fine idea, but somebody needs to provide leadership and some forward thinking and volunteers are probably not the best source for that.  But, I digress.)

Information gleaned: the Verizon Tower is moving along and Verizon is paying its $1,000/month rent for the land on which the tower stands.  That money, sad to say, increases the Park and Recreation budget by almost 25%.  And, 'sad to say,' I think, because the P&R budget is minimal and, at least in my view, not enough to do what needs to be done.  $49,000/year as compared, e.g., to the Fire District's $500,000/year.  Seriously, it's hard to argue that the Fire District's recently doubled budget increased the quality of life in Point Roberts at all, whereas the Park District's daily presence make's a big difference all the time and with a tenth of the Fire budget.

When you see the Commissioners weeding the flower beds themselves, or, as reported last night, crawling under the building on a monthly basis to assess the presence of water under the building, or spending their weekends rooting out blackberries at Baker Field because they have no money in their budget to hire anybody to do anything, well....  you have to ask whether their stated commitment to not asking the community for money via property taxes is serving anyone very well.

Because of my involvement in raising money to renovate the Julius Firehall, I have gotten interested in the state of the Community Center itself, its bad drainage, it's perpetually leaking roof.  The Commissioners acknowledged that maintenance on the building had not been done along the way and now there was a lot to do.  They have no firm figures on the work that needs to be done or even any clear study of what needs to be done, but it could run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending upon what actually needs to be done.  One attendee, at the end of the meeting, cautioned that the Commissioners were, in effect, running a business, and that they needed a serious business plan to lay out a clear pathway on how they were going to address the building's needs.  Arthur Reber, who was chairing the meeting, suggested a plan that looked at a bigger goal: not just completing long-deferred maintenance but looking at restoring the building, as if it were a historic restoration.  Attendees suggested paying restoration specialists to evaluate what needed to be done and estimate what it would cost as a first step.  One of the Seniors in attendance pointed out that the community was a big supporter of the Community Center and that the Seniors Association would work to support a levy to get what needed to be done done.

I hope the Commissioners actually heard this advice.  They seem a cautious lot, but failure to do building maintenance in a rainy, cool climate like the climate we live in is hard on buildings and when the degradation goes too far, it is a long road back.  The Community Center was built 75 years ago, and while building methods may have been better in some ways then, such buildings are not going to last forever just because of those 'better' methods.

The Fire District is having its own problems of this sort in a much newer building.  Fortunately, the Fire District has a reserve/capital fund of almost a million dollars to shore up their water problems...paid for via property taxes.