A Mayor’s Hope

We are facing a test. Our way of life here is being disrupted in ways that we have not experienced before. Our deeply social and cooperative activities are being challenged by an invisible threat that has given rise to unprecedented government regulations, shortages of some essential goods and personal fears for our own safety. Perhaps the biggest challenge many of us face is the disruption to our incomes and our local economy.

I remember the local social and economic upheavals after September 11, 2001 and the recession that followed, as well as the many years spent recovering from the Great Recession of 2008-13. Add to these the many personal stories of setbacks to health, wealth or housing.

What has given me the greatest hope at this time is how we have handled past challenges. Through the grace of enhanced volunteerism to the financial contributions from our highly philanthropic neighbors and creative service organizations, we have overcome many problems and created a stronger and more caring community.

Harbor Life Ring program seeks donations in response to COVID-19

The Town of Friday Harbor organizes the Harbor Life Ring program as a means of providing funds to lower income individuals and families who are town water, sewer and refuse customers. The town collects these monies as part of customer’s utility payments and, with the Family Resource Center providing screening services, allocates the monies from the fund to pay a utility bill for those in need. This service may be requested once every calendar year. 

This spring, with the anticipated budget disruptions to hit hundreds of households, the town is asking its utility customers to again step forward and help their neighbors with a Harbor Life Ring donation. Because the needs will be so wide, the Town will split all donations received between the utility program and the Friday Harbor Food Bank.

The Town Council has authorized a matching fund up to the first $5,000 contributed. The owners of Kings Market have generously provided a second match for $5,000 which will make every $1 donation a $3 gift. 

“We understand that everyone has been impacted by the COVID-19 virus, but if you are in a position to help those in need in the community it would be greatly appreciated” said Mayor Farhad Ghatan. “We are especially thankful for the very generous donation from Kings Market which will really stretch each contribution.”

Town utility customers can expect a letter in their end of March billing statement. Questions about the program can be directed to the Friday Harbor Administrator, Duncan Wilson, at (360) 378-2810. Click link for Printable Flyer.

Deferred Utility Payments

The Town of Friday Harbor has announced that it will be extending the due date of monthly Town Utility Bills for an additional 30 days and has discontinued water shutoff for an indefinite period of time. The modification of billing due dates will extend the default date from 50 days after initial billing to 80 days from initial billing. These changes are prompted by the financial impacts expected from the COVID-19 virus.  Town staff is working on a deferred payment plan application for those customers whose financial status has been jeopardized by COVID-19. 

“The Town of Friday Harbor is committed to the financial health and safety of our community,” said Mayor Farhad Ghatan. “Our hope is that this will provide immediate relief for residential and commercial utility customers impacted by COVID-19.”

In addition to setting up payment plans, the Town encourages customers to seek eligibility for utility relief through the Family Resource Center application process and the Town’s Harbor Life Ring program.

Hotel Motel Tax Rebate Program

The Town of Friday Harbor has announced a program to assist local Hotel, Motel, Inn, and Bed & Breakfast owners during the economic slowdown resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. These organizations have for many years collected and paid lodging tax to the Town as required by Ordinance. While these organizations are facing fixed costs such as their water, sewer, refuse and storm bills, in addition to power, phone and internet, there appears to be limited revenue to be able to do so.

This new program will provide a rebate of previously collected lodging tax in the total sum of $10,000 to be split among the hoteliers and innkeepers to pay outstanding Town Utility Bills.

The Town will be asking the hoteliers and innkeepers to make application for a Lodging Tax Rebate which will be distributed based on the total number of rooms contained in all applications received. To be eligible the applicant must have a minimum of two rooms for rent and all rooms must be at a single address (or facility). There is a cap of 20 room credits per address to ensure a wider distribution to those eligible. The Town is in the process of developing the formal rules at this time, but it is anticipated the program will require the following:

  • Hotel, motel, inn, bed and breakfast (referred to collectively as “Hotel”) must be located in Friday Harbor and have a utility account with the Town.
  • The rooms in the Hotel must be rented on a daily basis.
  • Hotel must be legally zoned and possess a 2020 Town business license.
  • Hotel must be collecting and paying lodging tax.
  • All rooms claimed must be legal transient accommodation units.
  • Hotel rooms used for rentals of 30 or longer days are not eligible.
  • Hotel must have been open for business for at least six months during 2019.

The Town has estimated that the total number of room “credits” from all businesses will be between 200 and 215. At 200 credits it is anticipated there will a credit available of $50 per room. A Hotel with 15 rooms would therefore be entitled to a Utility Bill credit of $750. At this time, the program will be a one-time credit, but the Town Council may reinstitute the program at a later date depending upon the length and severity of the COVID-19 disruption.

The monies to enable this program will come exclusively from reserves maintained in the Lodging Tax fund and not the Town’s general or utility funds. If the rebate is in excess of their one-month bill, the balance will be applied to future utility billings. It is the Town’s intent that this program will assist Tourism Promotion by maintaining Hotel’s financial health.