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Council candidates mull funding, city hall
by MATTHEW NASH
A recurring theme of impact fees, the citizens satisfaction survey and health and human services funding were at the top of the order during a city council candidates forum Sept. 23 hosted by the Sequim Sunrise Rotary.
Citizens and city hall
When asked his thoughts on the City of Sequim’s Citizens Satisfaction Survey, John Miller, running for council Position 2, said he was against the city purchasing property for a new city hall.
“City Hall was way, way low on their priority list,” he said about residents’ responses. “If I had been there, I would have voted no against the city hall.”
He’s hesitant to support the structure because it could create more traffic downtown, he said.
“I don’t know where $18 million for it is going to come from in these financial times,” Miller said. “It’s time to take care of our own and the people who live here right now.”
Position 2 incumbent Laura Dubois said traffic congestion was one of the highest rated problems, but the city has several options for working on those in the future. She pointed out that a new city hall was rated lowest on the highest priority list.
“It’s not something you use on a daily basis,” Dubois said, “Water, sewer and roads are. We’re paying almost $200,000 a year in rent. Then you have added inefficiency of our staff being in different locations.”
Fees for new or old users
City impact fees for new developments continue to split the candidates.
Incumbent Ken Hays, running unopposed for Position 6, said the fees are intended to be a way to offset impact on the community.
“Impact fees are intended to be paid for by the new residential homeowners and commercial businesses,” Hays said. “A transportation impact fee has always been there, typically levied on large projects through a process called SEPA, called mitigation fees. The reality is that fees are the issue. Not impact fees. Those are a small part of the equation.”
Dubois said impact fees are restricted to growth by law.
“The new people who move here are that growth,” she said. “The developer who pays for the lot is paid for at the time of the permit. If the average home is $250,000 then fees would be $4,800, just under 2 percent of the home.”
Position 1 incumbent Erik Erichsen agrees developers should pay the impact fees and not current residents. He said past councilors should have addressed impact fees much sooner when the city was being developed more.
Miller said fixing roads is the city’s responsibility and impact fees shouldn’t fall on the shoulders of newcomers.
“It’s a little too late for residents to pay for it,” Miller said. “Some on the city council on six or seven years ago should have thought about this then. Maintenance of the roads should be paid by our taxes to the city, regardless if they build one house or zero houses. It’s the city’s responsibility to fix the roads.”
Pete Duncan, running for Position 1, said if fees reach a certain level, retirees looking to build their dream home are going to go someplace else. He wants the city to work on projects with existing tax dollars and council to review the fees again.
Helping health and human services
One Rotarian asked why funding for the Boys & Girls Club has gone down and if they’d continue to support it in the future.
Hays said the city’s initial support for the club was $100,000 from the police department and helped establish the Teen Club. The contracted services from the club then decreased to $60,000 and then $12,500 in 2010.
“I would love to see more support of both youth and seniors,” Hays said. “What we’re giving now is a responsible level. Most cities support Boys & Girls Clubs through parks and recreation departments.”
Erichsen said the city shouldn’t give to any charity because that’s an individual, private right to do.
“We should not be giving money for the taxpayers. If we have enough extra money to provide for charities, then we have been taxing people too much and should give the money back to them,” Erichsen said.
Duncan feels the city should support the club by whatever means necessary.
“I see it as an investment,” Duncan said. “I feel the same way about seniors. We need to address that especially in this economy.”
Dubois said the city is giving the right amount.
“We do as council members have legal restrictions and fiscal obligations,” she said. “We need a revenue stream. We just don’t have one. We have been giving to the Boys & Girls Club and now we’re giving to the seniors ($10,000 contract in 2010 to Sequim Senior Activity Center) for the first time, too.”
Miller said he’d give residents the option to support different charities through their utility bills.
Candace Pratt, running for Position 7, attended but her opponent Eric Miller did not. Pratt, a retired bookkeeper, referred to herself as a fiscal conservative and chose not to address a few issues because she still is learning their parameters.
“I have no agenda except to take my commitment of good government to the next level,” she said.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.