Opinion

Take control of Sequim's future

 

The residents of Sequim face an important decision. On Aug. 7, the voters will have the opportunity to begin to take to control of our city’s future. 

The vote to approve the Public Safety Sales Tax Initiative is more than just an “up or down” decision on a new police facility. It is a first step on our path to a new and better community. 

Today our police facilities are substandard to the point of being dangerous. Our city departments are scattered across multiple locations and, most importantly, we are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on rent — money that will make our landlords rich but will never give us an equity position in much of our infrastructure. 

As we approach Sequim’s centennial celebration, I think more and more about our hometown — how far it has come and where it will and should go in the years ahead. 

My wife, Joanna, and I have been a part of the Sequim community for decades. Her family has owned and operated a local business (Bill’s Plumbing) that recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. 

I came here over 30 years ago. We live on the “family farm” in East Sequim — a farm that has been in the Germeau family for over 75 years. In other words, we didn’t just decide to follow the sunshine and make our retirement home here. 

With the exception of our Native American friends and a few of the families that remain from Sequim’s early Anglo settlers, we are about as close to natives as you can get and we really care about our little city. 

Growth never comes without difficulties. Stagnation is equally controversial. As a city, Sequim has reached a critical point in its development. Should we change with the times? Should we literally move into the 21st century? Should we welcome new economic opportunities? Should we embrace a vision that will hold our educated young people here and bring new talent to our cultural and professional community? 

I believe we must! It is in that context that I look to the expansion of our municipal infrastructure and hope to encourage our citizens to think in terms of an exciting future to merge with our comfortable past. 

About a decade ago, a different city administration and a different City Council determined that it was time for Sequim to grow up — time for our city facilities to match the expansion of our commercial base and our residential diversity. You may remember talk of buying the old Costco building in Carlsborg to use as a city hall and police facility. 

The city actually went into preliminary negotiations with the owners of the QFC Mall — thinking it might work as a commercial center as well as a civic center and serve as a place to consolidate our scattered city services. 

None of these creative ideas worked out but they did set the stage for the future. These former officials began to set aside funds to purchase space and/or facilities for a new civic center. Just this year, those funds became the leverage the city needed to negotiate the purchase of the land at Sequim Avenue and Cedar Street — consolidating the existing city hall land with new acreage. 

The concept of a Sequim Civic Center is not new. It is, however, nearing reality. I am excited about this opportunity and I know former councilors will welcome these final steps in an effort they set in motion years ago.

This Public Safety Tax Initiative is not about building a new City Hall. Not one penny of the funds raised by this initiative will go toward that effort. The new tax revenue will, however, build a new police and public safety facility. That facility will be the first step toward a civic center for our city. We have the land. Interest rates have never been lower. 

Contractors are looking for work and our friends in the building trades are hungry for jobs. Now is the time to make this move. 

It is smart — most of the revenue will come from tourists and folks who live outside our city. 

It is important — our police officers put it on the line for us every day and they deserve the technical facilities and physical support they need to do their best work. 

It is good for our community — making our police department accessible and physically integrated into the structure of the city is a critical component of a modern police force. 

It is cheap — even the most aggressive spenders among us will see only a modest increase in their tax burden — maybe 10 or 15 cents a week.

This is my town. This is your town.

Let’s make this happen!

Ken Hays is City of Sequim's mayor.
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