Sequim Gazette staff
Read Part two here.
In 2014, and in the years following, look for an explosion in spending on new public facilities in Clallam County.
Plans now call for more than $50 million in new construction spending in the next three years alone — maybe much more.
No one can say with certainty what’s behind the remarkable boom in capital projects, but the same theories repeatedly emerge.
Jim McEntire, who represents the eastern portion of Clallam County on the county board of commissioners, suggests one cause is the “pent-up capital spending plans due to the financial meltdown of 2007 and 2008.”
Cheap money for financing is another reason, he said.
County administrator Jim Jones echoed those thoughts, pointing to “historically low borrowing costs.”
Discussing his agency’s plans for new construction, PUD commission president Hugh Haffner, summed it up, saying, “With a real need, the favorable interest rates, decreased commodity prices and competitive construction costs, this is a good time to build.”
Heidi Hansen, president of the Sequim Association of Realtors, said the number of projects perhaps reflects a new optimism for the economy, plus an opportunity to buy land and pay for construction at recession-era prices.
Hansen indicated she’s not altogether sold on all of the projects, pointing to the plans the City of Sequim has to build a new Public Safety and City Hall Complex, which has a combined project price tag of approximately $15 million.
Hansen said she’s heard of other towns where existing buildings have been re-purposed. “A movie theatre complex became a church, an old do-it-yourself retail store became the city hall. That made me wonder why the city doesn’t take over the Staples/Del’s buildings…”
Newly elected Port of Port Angeles Commissioner Colleen McAleer also expressed some reservations, noting that the timing may be painful. “It may be a good idea for the leadership of our public entities to discuss the relative importance of each and phase them in over the next years to prevent potential hardship to the thousands of taxpayers in our county that are having a tough time financially as it is.”
Where does all the money go?
• The Sequim City Council recently approved nearly $6 million in capital projects for 2014, including $350,000 for parks, $1.9 million for streets, $2.24 million for water and $1.3 million for sewer projects.
The capital budget is further pumped up by the Public Safety Building/City Hall Project, which is expected to top out at $15 million.
Approximately $12 million of that will go toward construction of a new multi-purpose building, which is anticipated to span approximately 33,000 square feet. Work is anticipated to begin in late 2014 and to be completed by some time in 2015.
• During their Nov. 20 meeting the board of commissioners of Olympic Medical Center approved a $20 million loan from KeyBank that will pay for three large projects: an emergency room expansion at Olympic Memorial Hospital for $2.3 million, a new 26,000-square-foot “medical office building” in Port Angeles ($10.2 million), and a new Sequim Surgery Center and surgeon clinic space.
The Sequim facility is expected to be a 22,500-square-foot outpatient surgery and endoscopy center that also would have surgery offices. The estimated cost is $9 million.
• Clallam County’s 10-year Capital Facilities Plan has a little more than $29 million in projected expenditures over the next decade, with $7,725,181 slated to be spent in 2014 alone. The majority of that figure — $5.9 million — will be spent on the Carlsborg sewer project.
The waste will be piped to the City of Sequim’s sewage treatment plant.
• The North Olympic Library System is considering a big expansion of the Sequim Library. Initial designs by SHKS Architects show incrementally larger facilities on the current Sequim site expanding westward toward Sequim Avenue. Eventually the facility may grow to somewhere between 15,850 and 18,450 square feet. The current facility is 6,000 square feet.
If the NOLS board of trustees decides to go forward with the proposal, paying for the new building tentatively would go on the ballot in August 2015.
• On Dec. 18, a committee looking at the future of Sequim facilities is slated to make a proposal to school board members. It’s likely that the proposal will include significant capital projects and renovations to current school buildings.
Working with BLRB Architects of Tacoma, committee members have considered projects such as building a new elementary school on Sequim’s east side, an overhaul of the Sequim High School facilities and renovation of the district’s athletic facilities.
Construction would necessitate a multi-million dollar bond proposal that area voters could see in early 2014.
“We’re going to lay it all out there and give you a price tag,” Superintendent Kelly Shea told Sequim school board members in November. “This is going to be expensive (because) this is the whole thing.”
Several new elementary schools built recently in Washington state have come with $30 million price tags.
Adding an elementary school would allow one of the district’s two grade schools — Helen Haller Elementary — to transition into more of a community school and allow growth for programs like Olympic Peninsula Academy. Renovation at Sequim High would upgrade several of the 45-year-old buildings and bring the choir and band room from the community school’s gymnasium complex to the main campus.
Paul Haines, the City of Sequim’s public works director, said city officials support a move to place an elementary school on the city’s east side.
“The city already has services (water and sewer) there,” he said. “From a community development standpoint, schools … are important to building communities, including open space and parks.” An east-end school also would ease congestion away from Sequim Avenue, Haines said.