County Watch

Snohomish County Councilman Jeff Sax says interest is growing in the “ball fields summit” he’s planning for early next month.

It’s not a meeting on the mound to talk about full counts or curve balls. Instead, Sax wants to meet with parents, Little Leaguers, elected officials and others about legitimizing sports fields across the county that have been built on farmland without permits.

Farm fields filled with kids instead of corn have grabbed repeated headlines recently.

Controversy over the ball fields exploded two months ago, when the county “red-tagged” ballparks built by the North Snohomish Little League and the South Snohomish Little League near Snohomish.

Both leagues were told they had until May 31, 2005, to get permits for their ballparks – or remove them – bleachers, backstops and all. And both leagues face fines of $250 per day if the ballparks are still there, and the permits aren’t, after the deadline.

Little League supporters built the sports fields in the hopes that the state law that prevents athletic fields on farmland would be amended to allow ball fields. It never was, but those who hope to use farmland for sports are planning to again lobby the Legislature to change the law.

Sax and others hope to use the summit to stake out a game plan for taking the issue back to Olympia during the next legislative session.

“It’s an excellent opportunity for the leaders of the soccer and baseball associations to get all the relevant facts on how we can bring ball fields into compliance,” Sax said.

County council members John Koster and Gary Nelson will attend the meeting, and state Rep. Dan Kristiansen and Sen. Dave Schmidt are also expected.

The summit will be 6-8 p.m. Aug. 5 in the auditorium at the Snohomish County PUD building, 2320 California St., Everett.

A bad read: The draft management plan is done for the French Creek Watershed, and it’s a pretty gloomy read.

The watershed covers about 28 square miles in south-central Snohomish County, and French Creek empties into the Snohomish River just south of Snohomish.

The plan says most streams in the watershed are already contaminated, and because children play in the waterways, pollution puts the kids at risk. And the water quality in the French Creek floodplain is so bad it’s lethal to salmon.

Streams in the watershed that run through residential areas are strewn with garbage. The plan recounts one cleanup effort in the watershed that uncovered discarded automobile seats, engine blocks, dead dogs and bags of animal feces. Someone dumped a washer and dryer there the day after the cleanup.

Dig it: Construction crews have cut into the county courthouse basement as work on the inmate tunnel from the new jail continues. The tunnel to connect the expanded jail to the courthouse should be finished by the end of the month.

Claim of the week: A Shoreline man wants $5 million from the county. He said he fell in the county jail in March, and has head injuries that have resulted in permanent brain damage.

Coming up: With a majority of the council away on business, not much is on tap for next week. The regular administrative and legislative council meetings have been canceled, as well as all committee meetings.

The following week is a different story, though. The council has already scheduled six public hearings for July 28, ranging in topics from creating a county arts program, to expanding a no-shooting zone near Sultan, to changing regulations for rural business zones.

Reporter Brian Kelly covers county government for the Herald. He can be reached at 425-339-3422 or kelly@heraldnet.com.

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