Determining contracts with charitable organizations remained an issue at the League of Women Voters of Clallam County’s forum for City of Sequim council candidates on Oct. 11 in the Sequim Transit Center.
The opponents discussed a number of topics, including the potential annexing of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory into city limits and absorbing SARC into a parks and recreation district.
Candace Pratt, running for Susan Lorenzen’s position 7, said she’s for charitable contract funding, but would like more attention to the homeless because currently they are sent to Port Angeles for services.
Eric Miller, running against Pratt, said if elected he intends to take every penny the city pays him and give it back to charities. “We need a Boys & Girls club, but giving to charities can be a slippery slope,” he said.
Pete Duncan, running for incumbent Erik Erichsen’s seat in position 1, said charitable initiatives are important when agencies aren’t going to get funding otherwise.
Erichsen said there’s a misconception that he’s against the Boys & Girls clubs and that it’s the furthest thing from the truth.
“I’m against the city giving money to public service organizations,” Erichsen said. “I don’t understand taxing the people so we can give more. They have the right to give.”
John Miller, running against incumbent Laura Dubois for position 2, agrees.
“I don’t think council should give taxpayer money to charitable organizations,” he said. “It can never be fair.”
Dubois said city council decided on a contract system the night before to allocate funds over a three-year period for services the city couldn’t currently provide. She helped determine the percentages for all recipient agencies like the Dungeness Valley Health & Wellness Clinic and the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula. Dubois voted in favor of the contracts and Erichsen did not.
In the recent parks and recreation survey conducted through the city in Sequim School District boundaries, a question was asked about support for creating a city parks and recreation department, a regional district, both or neither. When asked if candidates would vote for taking control of Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center as part of a regional parks district most candidates spoke against the notion.
“We’ve never suggested or proposed or discussed taking over SARC as part of the city,” Erichsen said. “I’d vote no.”
Dubois said taking over SARC is not part of the city’s desires.
“We wanted to find out what citizens wanted for parks and recreation whether it’s what we have now, programs we don’t have or if they wanted to form a parks and recreation district.”
John Miller said the city doesn’t need a parks and recreation department right now and has a lot of bigger issues.
Eric Miller said he’d possibly vote for it only if they put in new locker rooms that people who are disabled could access better.
Duncan said he’d need to research the topic more.
Despite the city’s goal of annexing Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, also known as Battelle, into city limits, some candidates are opposed or unsure of the plan.
John Miller questions how many jobs the lab would bring to the area with annexation because it hasn’t grown much in recent years.
“I’m all for having more jobs,” he said. “If they want to pay for their own sewer to go out there, great, but it’s gambling on an agency. That money could be spent better on sidewalks and streets. Fir Street shouldn’t look the way it does.”
Dubois disagrees about the annexation because the research company is on septic and well water so it has been limited and must apply for improvement, she said.
She said the agency could partner with Peninsula College and provide good opportunity for students to become interns and create jobs locally, for example to do prototypes with local businesses like Angeles Composite Technologies, Inc.
Eric Miller said he’s not sure if investing in annexation is good or bad and the city needs to be careful where it expands.
“If I could see the paperwork and jobs for the future, I might think different, but the economy being what it is we need to make Sequim a place to take your vacations,” Eric Miller said. “There are always alternatives.”
Pratt said the laboratory would apply for annexation into the city.
“By their being annexed, they will pay for taxes into the city,” she said. “As they expand, they bring good, clean jobs and potential for new clean energy.”
Duncan and Erichsen both favor the annexation.
Candidates also agreed sustainable energy should be a focus for the city.
Elected council candidates are sworn in at the January 9, 2012, city council meeting.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.