"Better health care tops 1999 storiesReviewing the 104 issues of The South Whidbey Record produced in 1999, one thing sticks out -- the improvement in local health care during the year.South Whidbey’s health needs can be better met thanks to three new additions.During 1999, Island County opened its community health building on Maxwelton Road, from where county health services can be readily obtained. For those needing inoculations, counseling and other services, it sure beats a trip to Coupeville.Also during the year, the South Whidbey Medical Office Building opened in Freeland, offering the services of Dr. Brian Waite. The facility was built by Whidbey General Hospital and added a badly-needed primary care physician to the list of local doctors. The building will also house other health specialists on a part-time basis and should go a long way toward meeting the growing health care needs on South Whidbey.The third addition is the new Community Clinic at Whidbey General South in the Ken’s Korner area. Also funded by Whidbey General Hospital, with the help of a state grant, the clinic offers medical care to South Whidbey residents who are underinsured or not insured at all. Newly hired Dr. Haigh Fox heads the staff.Many small communities are losing health care workers, so it’s great that health care on South Whidbey is improving as a result of the vision shown by the directors of Whidbey General Hospital and the Island County Commissioners.I-695 story ranks secondWhen reviewing the news, it’s nice to have something positive to select for the year’s number one story. Unfortunately, such is not the case for the number two story -- the impacts of Initiative 695.The majority of voters in South Whidbey precincts opposed I-695 but their opinion was far outweighed by the island-wide and statewide totals. So now we have to live with it, even if it temporarily means reductions in service by Island Transit and Washington State Ferries.The impacts of I-695 on transit and ferries has been well documented, but they can be alleviated during the coming year. The State Legislature may help in the short-term by allocating some of the state’s budget surplus to the problem. But in the long run, both ferries and transit will need new funding sources. We hope voters who supported I-695 were simply opposed to the admittedly-too-high license tab fees, and not stating their opposition to improving transit and ferry services -- both of which are vital to the future of Whidbey Island. Voters will likely be given a chance or two at the polls this year to demonstrate their support for transportation improvements.And the year’s saddest storyThe saddest story of the year label goes to the unfortunate Nichols Brothers boat building effort in Langley. Environmental concerns expressed by citizens scared off the owner of the Capital Queen which was undergoing renovation at the Langley dock, resulting in the loss of 150 good jobs.This is something nobody wants to see repeated. Nichols Brothers and the City of Langley should rework their operating agreement to more clearly state the scope of work allowed at the company’s Langley dock. Once a boat is docked, there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the ensuing work is within the agreement.If Nichols Brothers needs more leeway in the agreement, the city should make every reasonable effort to accommodate their needs. After all, they’re our biggest private employer and an indispensible asset to the community. The Capital Queen affair damaged numerous relationships. The community needs some time to heal -- time which can be spent working on an agreement that everyone can support."

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