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Five vie for P.A. commissioner seat
by MATTHEW NASH
Sequim's issues became points of contention in a debate on Sunday, July 8, for the Port Angeles-area Clallam County Commissioner seat No. 2.
The League of Women Voters of Clallam County hosted incumbent Mike Chapman and opponents Dale Holiday, Sandra Long, Patti Morris and Maggie Roth in the commissioners chambers.
Sequim voters won't see this primary on the ballot Aug. 7, but the top two finishers will appear in the Nov. 6 general election.
Candidates seemed to support the commissioners' statements in a recent letter to the Department of Ecology regarding WRIA 18, the Dungeness River Water Rule.
Long said she's read every document on the issue and is glad commissioners took the constituency's concerns to DOE. Morris said it was obvious Ecology was making a rule without considering all of the consequences and she hopes it listens to citizens' concerns from recent forums.
Roth said her No. 1 priority is protecting people's property rights, particularly through the water rule. Holiday said the rule is fairly convoluted and Ecology should simplify it and take out the jargon.
Chapman gave credit to his fellow commissioners Mike Doherty and Jim McEntire because they were able to work together in writing the letter despite differences on other issues.
Varying levels of support came out for the proposed composites research and development park in Sequim.
Chapman said he supports the Port of Port Angeles in its efforts to secure grants and Holiday said it offers research development and possible family wage jobs. Roth is interested to see where the project goes and sees an opportunity to market it to bring people to the area. Morris sees the project as a challenge and wants to solicit businesses and partners for help; she wants only environmentally friendly composites built.
Long expressed caution, saying agencies need to be careful when starting to build something dependent on a grant because it's a one-time grant and they'll need a lot of funds to sustain it.
When asked if candidates would support an air monitoring station in Port Angeles, only one candidate favored the Nippon Paper Plant's biomass project.
Roth said she'd rather see the materials burnt in a facility than in the woods and that if Nippon's permits weren't approved, then the project wouldn't have gone through. Her husband's doctor, she said, also gave his approval, which is safe enough for her.
Morris said she supports air monitoring and wants studies on fine particulates.
If given the opportunity to decide, Long said she never would have approved the plant without air monitors in place.
Holiday said she agrees with placing monitors, but said Chapman, who serves on the Department Board of Health, killed a vote to place a monitor.
Chapman disagreed, saying the board voted to defer the question to the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency because the Board of Health wasn't the right agency to deal with the issue. He suggested Nippon pay for it.
About increasing communication, Holiday said she stepped up a year ago to help save 16 jobs about to be cut as a result of lack of communication between the commissioners and the staff union.
Chapman encouraged openness about issues and said that he's available anytime.
Long suggested going into the community more, Morris suggested a once-a-month-meeting where citizens could ask commissioners questions and Roth wanted nighttime meetings so more people could attend.
When asked about implementing a more proactive strategic plan, Long and Roth suggested more communication to the public about the county's planning and Morris suggested more use of volunteers to plan. Holiday would support implementing long- and short-range plans. Chapman said the county doesn't lack planning but lacks resources.