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FERRIES IN THE RED Ferry division proposes cuts to Vashon’s routes. Page 4 NEWS | County weighs in on historic district nomination. [3] COMMENTARY | It’s time to recognize domestic violence. [6] SPORTS | Football team can’t shake its losing streak. [14] DATE NIGHT REPRISE DramaDock show is back by popular demand. Page 10 BEACHCOMBER VASHON-MAURY ISLAND WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2012 Vol. 57, No. 39 75¢ A practice of borrowing money raises concerns Vashon Park District’s use of credit can obscure cash flow problems, some say By LESLIE BROWN Staff Writer Natalie Johnson/Staff Photo Dave Warren of the Vashon Forest Stewards said his small organization is beginning to make a difference on the Island. Behind him, Fred Sayer operates a log truck at the lumber yard off of Vashon Highway. Saving forests, making lumber By NATALIE JOHNSON Staff Writer When the head of Vashon Forest Stewards led a group through the woods next to Chautauqua Elementary School last July, trying to explain why it is that cutting some trees would save the forest, he could tell one Islander — a teacher with a keen interest in nature — was critical of the effort. “Some people don’t think you should ever cut a tree down,” Dave Warren recalled. But Warren, an intense man with a passion for the ecological health of forests, pressed on. And part way through the tour, the naturalist who had shown up that day to challenge the project appeared to have a change of heart. “She threw up her hands and said, ‘I get it, I get it,’” Warren said with a laugh. Chalk one up for the Forest Stewards. For a decade, Warren has been striving to get people to understand what might, at first blush, seem like two contradictory goals — promoting forest health and milling and selling Island wood. But by marrying the two, Warren said, the small organization is both improving Vashon’s forests and giving Islanders a more sustainable option for some of their construction needs. The small nonprofit is now tackling its largest project to date: the thinning of the school district’s 50-acre forest next to Chautauqua, milling of much of its wood to accent the new high school. But he’s quick to point out that the project is, first and foremost, about forest health and student safety. “The wood product is a byproduct of the restoration effort, which is our primary goal,” he said. At the same time, Warren is pleased that the modest operation is finding traction on the Island, beginning to have an impact and is now a player in the biggest construction project on Vashon. “It’s an amazing story that we’ve come as far as we have,” Warren said last week, “that An Islander we have grown, and now we’re recovers at the school Daniel Haag is back forest.” at work at Vashon King CounForest Stewards, after a longboardty’s forester also ing accident thinks the story nearly killed him. of the Forest But his recovery is Stewards story far from over. is an impresSee story, page 12 sive one. Bill Loeber, one of two foresters for the county, said he knows of no other locally based group that is involved in every step of the forest-thinning process and that actively promotes good forest management, taking time to help even those with small parcels of land be good stewards. “I wish there were other communities that had that type of group that is that organized and engaged. It really helps us get our messages across,” he said. SEE FOREST STEWARDS, 18 Both the King County treasurer and the banker who extends the Vashon Park District its line of credit have raised concerns about the small agency’s history of using bank loans to manage its cash flow. For the past several years, the park district has obtained what’s called a tax anticipation note from a private bank to help it handle the spikes and troughs of its tricky cash flow situation. Twice a year, the agency — like most in the region — gets a big dump of revenue when semiannual property tax receipts come due. Its tax anticipation note, or TAN, provides the cash it needs when money from its first influx is beginning to run dry but the second one has yet to arrive. Bill Ameling, the park district’s chair, said the park district immediately pays off the TAN when it receives its next round of tax receipts, making it a safe bet for lenders and an easy way to manage cash flow. The use of TANs, he said, “is as common as water.” But the cash-strapped district pays interest on that money; this year, its $400,000 TAN will cost it around $6,000 in interest. What’s more, according to the park district’s own banker, it’s actually an unorthodox way of doing business and could obscure cash flow problems that the agency likely should address. “I am unaware of any other entity that uses TANs on an annual basis,” said Ron Olson, the director of municipal services for Cashmere Valley Bank, which has given the park district such a note the past few years. “It isn’t the norm. I think they should be building up a rainy day fund. They shouldn’t be paying interest on something like this,” he said. Scott Matheson, King County’s treasurer, said he, too, is concerned. “You’re always borrowing against future revenue. You never catch up,” he said. “It doesn’t address the structural cash flow problem. At some point, you either have to generate more revenue or reduce your costs,” he added. He and Olson have discussed the Vashon Park District’s ongoing reliance on TANs on more than SEE PARK DISTRICT, 19

Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber, September 26, 2012

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