Candidates finalized for SARC metro district

Thirteen candidates have filed to help govern a possible taxing district, but only five will be chosen.

Thirteen candidates have filed to help govern a possible taxing district, but only five will be chosen.

The need for a newly elected board is contingent on whether a metropolitan park district expected to financially assist the Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center is approved during the primary election, ending Aug. 4.

Candidates range from outspoken SARC supporters to those against the creation of a metropolitan park district, but are running to try to manage it assuming it may pass.

The five-day special filing period ended Monday after a Clallam County Superior Court judge ruled in mid-May the petition backing a measure for a SARC metropolitan park district was “sufficient.”

Although more than enough signatures were collected, the petition caused concern because of an incorrect citation to a state-revised code, lack of numbered signature lines and a warning statement that didn’t adhere to the verbatim language of Revised Code of Washington 35.21.005.

Between late February and April SARC supporters collected more than 4,400 voter signatures, but only 15 percent of registered voters’ signatures (about 3,500) within the Sequim School District were needed to propose the measure.

Falling short by 2.5 percent of the 60 percent super majority needed to instate a six-year levy of 12 cents per $1,000 assessed property valuation in February’s special election and dwindling reserve funds urged SARC’s board of commissioners to pursue a metropolitan park district in late February.

If passed, the levy would have been the first taxpayer support received for SARC in the past 12 years.

Unlike SARC’s status as a junior taxing district that requires a super majority to pass a levy, once created by 50 percent of the vote, a metropolitan park district would allow for permanent levies and the ability to levy up to 75 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation without voter permission.

Despite the legal ability to tax more, the measure planned for August’s ballot suggests a tax of 12 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation. The new tax would impact property owners within Sequim School District boundaries.

If approved, the SARC board of commissioners is anticipated to dissolve and transfer all assets to the metropolitan park district with a newly elected five-person board of commissioners, according to Frank Pickering, SARC board of commissioners chairman.

Although city officials, including Sequim City Manager Steve Burkett, have acknowledged the public facility’s importance and need to keep it open, he’s also noted the desire to wait until next February to attempt the creation of a more encompassing metropolitan park district.

“There is no doubt we need a facility like this in Sequim,” Burkett told SARC commissioners during a February meeting. “I would suggest we aim higher to operate more than just a pool. We could have something that everyone could support.”

By waiting, city officials feel it would allow time to create interlocal agreements with a variety of community entities.

Consistent with city officials, Sequim city councilors unanimously passed a resolution in late April suggesting the development of all-encompassing metropolitan park district at a later date, but with no guaranteed short-term funding strategy, SARC officials opted to continue with their plan for a metropolitan park district focused on SARC in August.

“Why not get behind this effort and then work to get other things added in the appropriate time and with the appropriate price?” Pickering told the Gazette in a previous interview.

The development of a broad-based metropolitan park district suggested by city officials is only “relevant” if the current proposal fails in August, Burkett said.

Reach Alana Linderoth at



SARC metro district board: Who’s running?

Commissioner candidates for SARC metropolitan park district. Positions are nonpartisan, six-year terms.


Commissioner position 1

— Warren Pierce: is a SARC pass holder and retired Sequim resident.

“I bring extensive leadership experience, business knowledge, strategic planning skills and common sense values to the position,” Pierce said. “The recreational needs of the whole community, while maintaining fiscal responsibility, are important to me.”

— Eckart Mildenstein: does not belong to SARC, but has been a Sequim resident since 2004.

“As a financial analyst, I am able to offer SARC much needed financial expertise,” he said. “SARC needs to become disciplined in its spending and more transparent with respect to its finances.”


Commissioner position 2

— Bill Wrobel: has no affiliation to SARC, but has lived in the area since 2005.

“I believe that my business management, operations and volunteer experiences will help SARC serve the best interests of the community and meet the objective of the MPD,” Wrobel said.

— Ken Stringer: is a SARC pass holder since moving to Sequim in 2012.

“I believe that as a publicly owned facility, built with taxpayer dollars, SARC must remain a key investment in the well-being of our community,” Stringer said. “I want to ensure that it is managed and run effectively and efficiently to serve the needs of the entire community.”


Commissioner position 3

— Dick Neal: is a retired Sequim resident and SARC pass holder for more than 15 years.

“I believe my life, work and education experience combine to qualify me for the position,” Neal said. “I would like to see SARC continue as a viable entity and community asset, but run as a business instead of having to rely so much on community taxpayer support.”

— Gayle Baker: is a Sequim resident since 2006, but has no other affiliation with SARC.

“I’m approaching this election with the single-minded focus to stop SARC in their tracks,” Baker said. “I would like to see SARC financially independent and see a balanced budget.”

— Virginia O’Neil: is a longtime SARC pass holder and Sequim resident.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to rebalance local government inequities that clearly exist,” O’Neil said. “Currently, 20 percent of the residents living in

Sequim city limits are making decisions that 80 percent of the Dungeness Valley residents have to live with and that is inequitable – I would like to help change that.”

— Paul Gruver: is a longtime Sequim resident and SARC pass holder that enjoys using the pool.

“A very significant proposition will be put to the citizens for vote in August when major long-term consequences have not been understood or explained by anyone,” Gruver said. “As a commissioner, my longterm focus would be supporting many community-driven recreation programs in the Sequim region.”

Commissioner position 4

— Susan Sparks Smith: is a Sequim resident since 2009, but has no other affiliation to SARC.

“I am running to oppose the singular approach and short-sighted philosophy of the SARC MPD.” she said. “Taxpayer dollars are scarce and need to respected for what they are and not thought of as a ‘means to an end’ that is unjustified. A frugal SARC is my vision.”

— Rich Bemm: is a taxpayer living in Clallam County.

“SARC is too valuable of a community asset to not fight for its continued community presence,” he said. “My vision is a governance that is leading and enabling the SARC staff to provide a recreation facility that its district residents can reflect back at this time and say with pride, ‘We did the right thing in creating the SARC MPD.’ Commissioners need to be elected who are committed to creating a charter with language that requires voter approval of any increase over the 12 cents per $1,000 assessed value.”

— Fritz Gruetzmacher: is a SARC pass holder and uses the facility multiple times a week.

“I believe SARC plays an important role in the community and I feel I can contribute to its successful operation,” he said. “Financial stability, prudent management and service to the community,” are among Gruetzmacher’s goals.

Commissioner position 5

— Mike McAleer: is a longtime pass holder, but only recently began using SARC after retiring in 2014.

“I believe that the metropolitan parks district at 12 cents can enable SARC to survive,” he said. “But, the fiscally conservative voters in District 1 must have confidence that a new commission will hold the line at 12 cents. I have pledged to hold the line.”

McAleer seeks to “organize, catch up on the deferred maintenance and stabilize the finances.”

— Bob Anundson: is a Sequim resident since 2002, and only used SARC on rare occasions in the past with grandsons.

“I want to represent the non-SARC taxpayers that will be subsidizing the SARC users by 46 percent and have no guarantee that the special interest SARC candidates will be satisfied with 12 cents per $1,000 promise,” he said.

Anundson hopes to provide “the availability of a local pool that doesn’t require taxpayer subsidies and is affordably available to all of the community.”