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Public Safety Tax set for August primary
by MATTHEW NASH
Here are some recent decisions and upcoming issues with the City of Sequim.
Tax goes to voters
Councilors voted 6-1, with Erik Erichsen opposed, Monday night to place a one-tenth of 1 percent public safety sales tax on the primary ballot on Aug. 7, to help build a new police station.
City staff projects the tax generating about $240,000 a year toward a 30-year bond for the projected $6.4 million police station near the existing city hall.
Erichsen’s concerns were about increasing taxes, that the tax was ongoing with no sunset period, and he felt votes relied heavily on building the facility with a new city hall to make a civic center.
“I feel this is a worthwhile endeavor, but it’s being held hostage for a civic center,” he said. “We should be clear that we have a police department whether or not we have a (new) city hall.”
Mayor Pro-tem Ted Miller said he opposed a tax increase unless there was overwhelming need, which is the case, in his opinion.
He disagreed with Erichsen about the appropriateness of a sunset period because the city will need the tax for several years.
“First it started at 8 cents and then 9 cents, and pretty soon we’re going to be at 10 cents like a lot of areas,” Erichsen said. “It’s one little bit at a time. Pretty soon it’s a lot.”
Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict gave his endorsement for the tax, saying the police department’s facilities(which it moved into in 1995) always were meant to be temporary and they are clearly inadequate.
Police Chief Bill Dickinson said they recently learned the current police station has structural issues and likely wouldn’t survive an earthquake.
Councilor Don Hall brought up concerns about a proposed gun range in the new station.
Dickinson said it saves about $20,000 a year in costs, including overtime, to have an in-house gun range so police don’t need to drive to Port Angeles, but he said the range isn’t absolutely essential. Plans call for any gun range to go in a basement, in which sound would be dampened, Dickinson said.
Banner policy enforcement
The city might have been allowing banners for years at its display west of Ninth Avenue that don’t comply with its municipal code.
City Attorney Craig Ritchie said the current policy emphasizes tourism but many groups and businesses are signed up through the end of 2012 to post banners that do not meet current code. Since the banner pole was built using lodging tax dollars from tourism, many banners might not fit the description of tourism based in the code.
Some banners not allowed include commercial promotions, religious or political organizations’ events and local club organizations’ events held mostly for local membership participation.
Some allowable signs include city-sponsored events, welcome messages for events such as class reunions, conventions and conferences, and community events that aren’t a regular meeting or regular function or ongoing activity of an organization.
Renting banner space for one week costs $100, but Paul Haines, public works director, said staff is doing a cost analysis and has learned it costs staff about $162 to raise a display and maintain the pole each week.
Further discussions and a possible decision on the banner policy take place at the council’s July 23 meeting.
Update to sign code coming
City staff continues to find flaws in its sign code, which was amended last July.
Ritchie said they still are seeing sign clutter and hazards, such as signs in rights of way.
No timeline was given, but he and Chris Hugo, director of Community Development, plan to visit community groups for feedback on the code before bringing back clarifications to the council.
Ritchie said they took most of their previous suggestions and used them to update the code.