The City of Sequim’s new agreement with Polco, an online polling system, allows them to send out questions a few times a month to increase civic engagement. On Sept. 23, city councilors will consider sending out questions about the proposed Medication-Assisted Treatment facility. Photo courtesy of City of Sequim

The City of Sequim’s new agreement with Polco, an online polling system, allows them to send out questions a few times a month to increase civic engagement. On Sept. 23, city councilors will consider sending out questions about the proposed Medication-Assisted Treatment facility. Photo courtesy of City of Sequim

City considers MAT online questionnaire

Sept. 23 meeting tentative decision made

An online poll seeking public opinions on the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s proposed medication-assisted treatment (MAT) facility could be coming your way.

Sequim city councilors on Sept. 9 discussed posing questions to Sequim residents through its new polling system Polco. They ultimately opted for city staff to construct a proposal for the Sept. 23 meeting after reaching out to the tribe and community members.

Barbara Hanna, the city’s marketing and communications director, said Polco offered Sequim to pilot its program for free for a year to increase civic engagement with new questions being posted twice a month. Current questions focus on how residents rate Sequim, as well as solid waste and recycling questions.

Councilor Ted Miller said he’d like to use the service to ask about the MAT facility.

“(We can) find out who supports and opposes it and they can provide reasons for why,” he said.

His proposed questions are as follows:

“The Jamestown Tribe is planning to build and operate a regional (Clallam & Jefferson counties) mental health complex in an Economic Opportunity zone near Costco. The first phase will be to construct a Medicated-Assisted Treatment (MAT) facility. This involves the use of FDA-approved medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a ‘whole-patient’ approach to the treatment of substance use addictions or disorders. Some of these medications are addictive.

• Do you support or oppose the construction of a MAT facility near Costco? Support/Oppose/Unsure?

• If you indicated that you support, check any of the following reasons that explain why:

I support the addition of new medical facilities in Sequim.

I support the addition of a MAT facility in Sequim.

The chosen location is one of the best available.

Countering addiction is a very important goal of modern medicine.

MAT treatment will result in a lower crime rate.

• If you indicated that you oppose, check any of the following reasons that explain why:

Addiction is a social problem, not a medical one.

MATs are ineffective and a waste of money.

I oppose the use of my tax money for this purpose.

The taxpayer financing could be better used for other mental health needs.

Sequim is the wrong site since it has very little addiction problem compared to the rest of Clallam and Jefferson county.

The selected facility site is the wrong location within Sequim.

The MAT will result in an influx of addicts and a higher crime rate.

• If you indicated that you are not sure, what information do you need to decide? (optional)”

Discussion

Following Miller reading his questions, audience members questioned strictly using online polling because some community members may not use the internet.

Community and city councilors proposed additional poll locations through surveys in newspapers, in utility bills and/or at the Sequim Civic Center.

Hanna said people can only reply once after logging into Polco.

“We have a method; it’s a constrained method, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use it,” said councilor Bob Lake. “We may use it, and want to use other methods too.”

Mayor Dennis Smith said the city hasn’t found a perfect way to poll people, but “he appreciates the opportunity to poll the people.”

When asked about putting the MAT on a ballot, Lake said it doesn’t work in this matter but rather something similar to the city’s 2016 advisory vote on a fireworks ban.

“If we were making the decision on if we want this clinic or not and had the authority, I would recommend putting it on the ballot,” Lake said.

“We don’t have that choice, so that’s not something we can choose with our legislative decision … all we can decide is if it meets our current law.”

Another audience member asked city councilors if there’s anything they could do, Miller said it comes down to legal and social issues.

“Legally there’s nothing we can do,” he said.

“If the tribe insists on building a MAT, there’s really nothing we can do about it. However, if the number of people are overwhelming opposed to it, they may change their mind.”

City Attorney Kristina Nelson-Gross said when an application for the facility comes forward and if it rises to the level of coming before the planning commission or city council, she’ll recommend the application go before a hearing examiner because “every single one of you would be subject to appearance of fairness issues.”

Further discussion

Nelson-Gross said that she cautions councilors from using the online poll as a way to gain information regarding public sentiment, for reasons listed by lawyer Jeffrey Myers.

Myers presented in a work session on Sept. 9, centering around liability and potential lawsuits from not following city staffs’ advice around the state and/or going against a hearing examiner’s ruling.

Deputy Mayor Candace Pratt said she’d vote against a possible online poll because she believes votes would be skewed by misinformation.

Some of the reasons came to her via email, she said, that include:

• The plan was kept from the public as long as possible

• The council has known about this two years or more

• The council voted for the treatment clinic

Pratt said people without computers wouldn’t be able to do the survey.

She said she talked with a woman last week last week who said she doesn’t use a computer but lives across from the proposed MAT facility.

“’If I’m not concerned why should anyone else be?’” Pratt said the woman asked her.

“No matter how the vote comes in, there’s not one thing we can do about it,” Pratt said.

“The council can’t change zoning and there’s no building proposal to vote on it.”

Lake encouraged asking the tribe and public for input.

Wendy Goldberg, an active participant with the Save Our Sequim group, said she thinks the questions are well-written and the tribe’s public relations firm would “spin it and call it a ‘healing campus.’”

However, Lake said city council has final say on what goes to the public.

City councilors tentatively discuss the questions at the 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 23 meeting.

Proposed question edits and additional questions can be sent to Ted Miller at tmiller@sequimwa.gov or 360-417-9236.

To sign up for the monthly questions, visit polco.us/sequim where it will ask for your name, email, zip code, and for you to set up a password.

For more information on Polco, call the city at 360-683-4139.

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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