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City, S’Klallam Tribe look for partnerships
by MATTHEW NASH
Continuing a partnership seems to be a necessity between the City of Sequim and the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe as indicated by the groups at a joint meeting June 6 in the Jamestown Tribal Center.
“Our futures are intertwined,” Mayor Ken Hays said at the beginning of the meeting.
Hays led a discussion on how the city’s goals, such as a constructing a city hall and finishing the downtown plan, play a part in the future growth and success of the tribe, too.
Ron Allen, tribal council chairman, said he and the tribe were there to be partners and agreed with Hays about the importance of these projects.
“We want you to be successful just like we want Port Townsend to be successful,” Allen said, after explaining that many Jamestown S’Klallam citizens and employees live in Sequim.
Allen said their community is growing and their future infrastructure, such as a resort, is a number of years away but they are continuing toward projects such as the expansion of 7 Cedars Casino, adding a conference center and a parking garage.
“We have to have all this infrastructure in place before we move forward on the resort,” Allen said.
The tribe is very conscious of diversification, he added.
“People think we just go into gaming and that’s it,” Allen said. “That’s not how we think. If we’re successful, then gaming will just be a small piece of what we do.”
Hays spoke about the city looking into zoning reform, updating the comprehensive plan and approving the downtown plan and that all of those play a part in creating better and more living spaces in the city.
“Truth is, as the tribe grows with a convention center and gaming, people have to have someplace to live,” Hays said.
He later emphasized that the tribe is one of Sequim’s biggest stakeholders but the city hasn’t done a good job making this clear.
A main topic for the meeting was partnering on water conservation and distribution.
Paul Haines, city public works director, detailed the city’s future plans to expand services at the Water Reclamation Facility to create a greater reuse water charging area at the Water Reuse Demonstration Park. This would bring more opportunity for users and create a utility within city limits. The city has met with the tribe in the past about bringing water and sewer services to Blyn.
“As we move forward with our resort, infrastructure is a big deal to us. Water is a big deal to us,” Allen said. “We’re coming up with creative techniques for better ways to handle our water. To our credit, we have a lot of interested property owners.”
Allen said they haven’t set up plans for water reuse, but the water recharge area is an attractive idea and the tribe is conscious of water usage on all its projects.
“Water resources on the peninsula are a very finite thing,” Hays said. “It all comes from the same place.
Feeding the whole peninsula. There’s only so much water. The glaciers are slowly melting and not growing anymore.”
Allen said the tribe does want to work with the city on how to handle water but as it grows, its members have to respect the environment.
“It’s a delicate balance,” he said.
After the meeting, Annette Nesse, tribal chief operations officer, said they have considered a water reuse system in Blyn but it’s been outside of their scope of resources.
“We have had conversations for water and wastewater services but the cost of infrastructure to get it out here is multi-million dollars,” Nesse said. “The tribe is supportive of the city’s efforts to conserve and reserve water whether or not we work with them on the project.”
City Manager Steve Burkett said after the meeting he felt it went well and that the city’s goals are to improve communication between the two groups, talk about water issues together and include the tribe in discussions for plans such as the downtown plan and city hall site. He said an annual meeting between the groups is likely and that he intends to meet with Nesse regularly.
“I think the benefit of it (the meeting), was the two councils met each other informally to focus and talk about connection,” Burkett said. “In my view, both institutions, the City of Sequim and the tribe, are doing well. They both have a long history and have a bright future. They are really intertwined.”