News Roundup -- Solar power at winery project/ Help here for mental illness/Private ferry service fails

Solar power at winery project

Solar-powered penthouse condos will be part of Bainbridge Island’s not-too-distant future.

Developer Bill Carruthers announced that his Vineyard Lane development off Highway 305 will include eight solar-ready units.

The 45-unit project is slated for completion by the end of next year. While no condos are yet on the market, Carruthers said potential buyers had asked if solar panels could be an option.

“I looked into it, and it fit with the current design,” he said. “And it was pretty easy to understand the economic viability to it.”

Carruthers said the panels, which will also serve as eaves over south-facing decks, will take advantage of recent state laws that provide credit and other incentives for solar users.

Joe Deets, who organized a recent solar forum, commended Carruthers for making the sun-powered option available.

“You just have to look at the news to see how important breaking our dependence on fossil fuels is,” he said. “Today, because of the hurricane in the South, the price of crude (oil) hit $70 a barrel. This is making people very interested in solar energy.”

Carruthers said he’ll equip eight penthouse units with the wiring and framework for the eave-mounted panels. Condo owners will then pay an additional rate to have the panels installed. Residents could also opt for panels on the north-facing roof, which would be tilted southward for optimal sun exposure. Carruthers is looking into outfitting the development’s bistro with a few panels as well.

The Vineyard Lane development has other planned “green design” elements, including recycled materials and native plant landscaping.

“We’re in the shallow end of the pool right now, but are moving deeper into being fully green and low-impact,” Carruthers said.

Carruthers expects to nail down prices for condo units by the end of September. Sales would begin around that time and some units could be ready by mid-2006.

– Tristan Baurick

Help here for mental illness

A free 12-week class to help people learn to deal more effectively with the challenges of a family member with severe mental illness begins this Sunday.

The course, offered annually since 1997, focuses on coping skills and clinical treatment available for illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (manic depression), clinical depression, panic and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Jim Decker and Jane Cartmell, who have the experience of having family members with serious mental illness will teach the class. They were trained by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.

Students sit together in a circle in class and get textbooks and homework assignments to take home. Cartmell said most participants enjoy the group discussion and family stories.

“We learn what the experience of having a serious mental illness is, what it’s like coping with the symptoms,” Cartmell said.

Past participants have commented on the how the sessions set their expectations for dealing with a relative’s mental illness and provided valuable support, camaraderie and information about illnesses and navigating the mental health system.

Topics include a college-level curriculum of biology and medication, problem-solving workshop, empathy workshop to understand what it is like to have a brain disorder, communication skills, advocacy and fighting stigma and self-care.

The 2½ hour sessions begin Sept. 7. To register, call Cartmell at 898-6092.

– Tina Lieu

Private ferry service fails

Once seen as a way to cut down cross-island traffic bound for the Winslow terminal, a private foot-ferry service between Kingston and Seattle this week announced it will shut down Sept. 30.

In a letter to the Washington Utilities and Trade Commission, operator Aqua Express blamed low ridership and a recent increase in fuel prices. However, they hope to have service up and running again next summer.

A spokesman said the partners in Aqua Express – Argosy Cruises, Clipper Navigation, Four Seasons Marine Services and Nichols Brothers Boat Builders – tried everything to keep it running.

In 2003, after the state allowed passenger-only ferries to be run by transit agencies and private carriers, Aqua Express and others obtained permits for routes, including Kingston to Seattle. Aqua Express also requested a permit for Southworth to Seattle, but that was eventually blocked by the Legislature.

Ridership numbers on the Kingston just weren’t where officials had expected them to be at the end of the summer.

“Not bad, but it’s off mark,” a spokesman said. “It’s not coming up like we thought it would.”

The boat has averaged 300 riders a day, while 500 are needed to break even, leaving the company “perplexed.”

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