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SARC considers push for levy

Community members enjoy the pool area at the Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center. Frank Pickering, chairman of the SARC board of commissioners, admits the board does have some differences of options, but they are in 100 percent agreement that a levy is needed to maintain the SARC and the amenities it provides, such as the swimming pool. - Submitted photo
Community members enjoy the pool area at the Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center. Frank Pickering, chairman of the SARC board of commissioners, admits the board does have some differences of options, but they are in 100 percent agreement that a levy is needed to maintain the SARC and the amenities it provides, such as the swimming pool.
— image credit: Submitted photo

A levy for the Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center (SARC) may appear on voters’ February ballots. A “special meeting” has been scheduled for 5 p.m., today, Wednesday, July. 9, at 500 W. Hendrickson Road, to address the motion of a proposed six-year property tax levy that would impact homes within Clallam County Park and Recreation District 1.

The potential levy would be 12 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation or will impact the average homeowner $26.04 per year, based on the average home price of $217,000, according to Scott Deschenes, executive director of SARC.

“There are some differences of opinions among the board members, but we are all 100 percent together on getting a levy done and I believe this is the prudent amount for it,” said Frank Pickering, chairman of the board of commissioners.

Funds needed

Funds from the levy would go toward maintenance and operation costs of the SARC.

“You can think of the SARC like your car, which has maintenance and operation costs, too,” Deschenes said. “Some of our equipment is running 24 hours a day and needs repaired or replaced.”

The board contracted out two studies to gather information before deciding on an appropriate levy amount, Pickering said. The studies included an engineering study conducted by city city councilman and local architect Ken Hays that looked at the infrastructure and major equipment of the facility. The second study was done by the director of Port Angeles pool, Steve Burke, and looked into the pool portion of the SARC. Pickering also noted the board investigated SARC’s energy use with the help of state audits and the Public Utilities District (PUD).

“We’re trying to couple equipment improvements with green energy efforts as much as possible,” Pickering said.

One example and a pivotal piece of equipment at SARC which needs replaced is the “air handling unit,” Deschenes said. To replace the unit would cost $351,000 alone and it is key to the SARC’s operation. Without a functioning air handling unit, the facility could and would be shutdown, Deschenes said.

In addition to the major expenses on the horizon, any upgrades and minor replacement of equipment would benefit the energy, maintenance and operation costs for the SARC and in-turn, release funds for additional public programs, Deschenes said. For example, Deschenes’s estimates SARC spends about $9,000 per month on propane, but with some improvements the SARC could be much more energy efficient.

If the proposed levy passes, it would be the first levy for the SARC in 12 years, Deschenes said. With a higher than national average cost-recovery rate, given the SARC’s revenues only cover 87 percent of the operating costs, the reserve funds are dwindling, down to under $500,000, Deschenes said.

“The SARC is public facility,” Pickering said. “So far the SARC has done a good job of taking care of the public’s money, but it’s owned by the taxpayers and it hasn’t had any tax funding for more than 12 years now,” Pickering said.

Community’s role

Although the biggest challenge for Deschenes during his year as executive director for the SARC has been “re-educating the community on the true costs of operating a facility like SARC, the most rewarding part is seeing the positive impacts SARC has on the community,” Deschenes said.

Throughout the past year, Deschenes feels there’s been a “change in the culture” at the SARC, as he and staff have been putting a lot of energy into making it a facility for the entire community.

For many, SARC is a place that improves people’s quality of life, Deschenes said. Whether it is a senior that has better range of motion because of ongoing water aerobics or families interacting and having fun together.

“The SARC is supposed to be available for everyone to benefit from and that’s what we’re trying to bring back,” Deschenes said.

For Deschenes it is a constant balancing act to maintain prices that allow as many people as possible to benefit from the SARC, but to also cover expenses.

July meetings

• Special resolution meeting at 5 p.m., today, July 9, at 500 W. Hendrickson Road.

• Board of business meeting at 5 p.m., Wednesday, July 16 at 500 W. Hendrickson Road.

• State of SARC meeting at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, July 23, at 610 N. Fifth Ave. (SARC gym).

In preparation for the upcoming levy a group, Citizens for SARC, has been organized and spearheaded by former SARC board president Susan Sorensen.

For more information, contact the SARC at 683-3344 or visit www.sarcfitness.com.

 

Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center levy discussion

When: 5 p.m., today, July. 9

Where: Fifth Avenue Retirement Center at 500 W. Hendrickson Road

Cost: Open to public

More info: Call the SARC at 683-3344 or visit www.sarcfitness.com

 

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