Officials acquaint themselves with county

One thin red line connects elected officials: staying out of the economic red.

At a March 13 orientation meeting for the newly elected at the Clallam County Courthouse, speakers emphasized how working together helps share costs, delivering services for less.

Following a presentation from County Commissioner Mike Doherty on county government operations, representatives from the county’s cities, schools, utility district, law enforcement and tribes gave quick snapshots of their operations.

Linda Rotmark, executive director of the Clallam Economic Development Council, encouraged the newly elected officials to support economic development in their districts.

County administrator Jim Jones said economic development can fill the revenue gap left behind after Initiative 747. Jones was critical of I-747, which disallows governments to increase revenue from property taxes more than 1 percent from the previous year, unless voters specify otherwise. With inflation at a higher rate, governments’ costs are rising quicker than their tax revenues.

“If we don’t cooperate with what we have and collaborate for economic stability, we’re not going to make it,” Jones said. “If we partner on things like economic development or even just operation costs, like buying paper in bulk for all our agencies or setting up ways for us to respond to each other in certain types of emergencies, we can continue to be able to do more for less.”

Sequim Public Works director Jim Bay agreed. He said the city has benefited from ongoing partnerships or interlocal agreements.

“Port Angeles and Sequim each had sewer emergencies recently and we had crews going back and forth to fix the issues, whereas if we didn’t have interlocal agreements set up, we would have had a heap of paperwork to take care of before even being able to handle the problems,” Bay said.

While cooperation was still on the table, Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict called on Sequim to reconsider its push to set up its own municipal court, saying the move would cause more people to do the same amount of work.

“For all cities, I ask that you consider the overall effect of your actions in the county as well as within the city borders,” Benedict said. “The trend is toward regionalization and sharing costs, so is this municipal court ultimately a win for Sequim? Or is it a loss to the county, which will affect everyone in it?”

Benedict went on to discuss what his agency is doing to share costs on other services governments must provide, such as animal control or emergency response coordination.

“I’d like to see us all work together toward an updated emergency response and dispatch center and set up some agreement for animal control,” Benedict said. “We all have to do these things and if we work together, we can do them more cost effectively.”

The groups discussed taking additional steps to have more interlocal ties set up, but no dates were set for additional meetings. However, business cards were swapped and e-mail addresses exchanged, so more regional ventures are likely to be proposed in the near future.

“Being new to government, I’ve been trying to find ways to introduce myself as a newly elected official as well as introduce myself to the projects and operations of other agencies that deal with the city, so this meeting was very helpful,”

Sequim Mayor Laura Dubois said. “I really enjoyed the discussion regarding interlocal agreements that allow us all to help each other, lend a hand or share costs and equipment.”

Dubois was joined by fellow city council newcomer Erik

Erichsen and veteran city council member Bill Huizinga.

“I think we definitely should explore more ways to share the costs of delivering services,” Erichsen said. “Knowing how these agencies work and what their plans are really helps us get acquainted, but now I hope we get to work and start having these interlocal meetings more often.”

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