Diking District 1 commissioners meet this week for budget talks

Island County Diking District 1 commissioners are expected to talk about next year's budget at their meeting this week.

Meanwhile, the results of a lawsuit against the district, and a decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding a pump permit, are still up in the air.

The commission will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 5, at the Freeland Library, 5495 Harbor Ave.

This year the district collected $90,000 in assessments and expects to spend $100,820, the balance made up by reserve funds, Pam Thomson, diking district clerk, said Monday.

The district spans 743 acres and includes the neighborhoods of Sunlight Beach, Olympic View and Sun Vista and the Useless Bay Golf & Country Club.

Meanwhile, the fate of a lawsuit against the district and two of its commissioners, and the fate of a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers are still undetermined.

Both involve a $430,000 pump project put into operation in December 2008.

Citizens in Support of Useless Bay Community (CSUBC), a group of property owners in the district upset with the assessments for the pump and its effects on the wetlands, filed the suit.

The group also criticized the way commissioners Steve Arnold and Ray Gabelein have conducted district business.

Island County Superior Court Judge Vickie Churchill is reviewing the suit, but has yet to make a decision. Last month, Churchill gave the district 60 days to turn over documents requested by CSUBC.

Arnold said the district has held off providing documents pending Churchill's decision on a request by CSUBC to reconsider portions of her original ruling.

The judge said that district officials must turn over all documents concerning decisions the diking commissioners made in conducting the business of the district since 1986.

"They're the same documents they already have," said Arnold, chairman of the three-member diking commission.

The other commissioner is John Shepard, a supporter of CSUBC, who continues to assert that the other two commissioners have kept him from doing his job.

Meanwhile, this past January, at the urging of district critics, the Corps of Engineers revoked its permit for the pump, saying it may have issued the wrong one.

The Corps has been meeting with Gabelein on the issue, but has yet to reach a decision, Arnold said Monday.

"I heard they're short-handed," Arnold said. "It could take another year."

The district is continuing to operate the pump as needed under a temporary permit until the issue is decided, Arnold said.

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