City of Sequim shows support for school bond

Park district sidelined, impact fees deferred at Monday evening's meeting

Big topics were front and center at the latest Sequim City Council meeting ranging from supporting new school construction and SARC’s operations to impact fees to options for a metropolitan park district.

School support

City councilors unanimously voted 7-0 to endorse the Sequim School District’s $49.3 million construction bond through a resolution on Sept. 28.

City Manager Charlie Bush recommended supporting the bond saying “it shows solidarity with the school district, goodwill and support for the kids in the district.”

Previously, the city council had not endorsed the school district’s two previous bond construction attempts in April 2014 for $154 million and $49.5 million in February 2015.

In 2013, they supported the school district’s two proposed levies but on March 24, 2014, city councilors voted 4-3 against a resolution supporting the $154 million proposal.

Councilors Ken Hays, Laura Dubois and Candace Pratt supported the resolution.

However, city councilors voted 6-1 with Erik Erichsen opposed to offering “general support” of the Sequim School District.

Councilor Ted Miller said he supports this resolution because “we owe it to our kids but it is simply not the best solution,” because he feels the state should be funding schools’ infrastructure fully.

Erichsen agreed with Miller saying “our hands are tied. We have to do this to hopefully have the result we want to have, which is education for our children, which are things the state should be providing.”

Dubois said she has supported the previous bonds and was disappointed city councilors voted down a previous resolution.

“We all know how important they (schools) are to the entire community,” she said.

In the city’s resolution, it emphasizes the importance of providing quality education to Sequim’s children and remaining competitive and attractive to professionals such as in the medical field.

Brian Lewis, executive director of business for the school district, spoke about the bond to city councilors. The bond would help pay for a new elementary school, refurbish the district kitchen, add classrooms at Sequim High School and Greywolf Elementary School, repurpose two buildings at Helen Haller Elementary for Olympic Peninsula Academy, renovate part of the Sequim Community School for the maintenance department and demolish the remainder of the Community School.

Lewis emphasized the bond would improve safety, increase space, enhance the learning environments and upgrade technology.

Part of this includes putting facilities under one roof, such as at Helen Haller, to eliminate access points, and decrease lost instruction time while traveling across campuses, such as at the high school with band and choir students.

Parent Dave Shreffler told the city council the community is at a crossroads.

“We need you to show the community,” he said. “Quality educational services, benefits everyone.

“I’m tired of hearing from this council that a yes vote tells the citizens how to vote. It does not. A yes vote sends the message that you care about education. It sends the message that you care about the future of this community and want to work in a collaborative effort manner to work with the Sequim School District.”

Former school district employee Annette Hanson told city councilors the schools faced a similar situation in the late 1990s where they sought to build the middle school and update the auditorium following failed bond attempts.

“It wasn’t until the council and other organizations in our community stood up verbally and in writing saying how important this was  — then that’s when it passed (in 1998),” she said.

MPD postponed

With discussions between SARC and the YMCA ongoing, and sentiment from other local agencies neutral on creating a metropolitan park district, the City of Sequim is backing off for now.

City councilors voted unanimously, 7-0, to delay pursuing a vote on a parks district for the foreseeable future.

Previously, city officials were investigating to see the likelihood of placing a proposition on the February 2016 ballot by December.

Bush said they met with officials from the Sequim School District, the Clallam County Parks and Recreation board, Shipley Center, Boys & Girls Club, SARC and Olympic Medical Center and aside from SARC, they found most remained neutral or said not right now.

“It might be better to do this at another time,” he said.

“Without the county’s support, we wouldn’t be able to even get it on the ballot … Frankly, any time you run a bond into opposition your odds of success have dropped dramatically.”

Councilor Genaveve Starr said she hopes the school bond passes but voters would be reluctant to vote a few months later for a parks district.

“We’ve been working on this awhile,” she said. “I’d like to see us continue to work on it.”

City councilors also unanimously approved city staff continue working with SARC to assemble a coalition of organization partners to find options to remain open long-term.

Impact fees deferred

Impact fees for new single family residences can be deferred sooner than later in the City of Sequim.

City councilors voted 6-1, with Erichsen opposed, on Sept. 28, to approve an ordinance following Senate Bill 5923.

Its intent is to help with growth and development in construction allowing applicants the option to defer the final impact fee total until final inspection, the home is occupied or on the closing sale.

The state law doesn’t take effect until Sept. 1, 2016, but City Attorney Craig Ritchie said it allows the fees to circulate sooner than beginning the process next year.

For the city’s 2015-2016 budget, city councilors will consider a $250 administrative fee associated with new development, which Ritchie said covers salaries and benefits of staff’s time tracking the process of the homes.

Ritchie said if the fee is approved, they expect to adjust it every year due to factors such as inflation.

He added that there wasn’t a way the city could track property sales in place prior so they’ll track them between the finance, planning and public works departments to follow final inspections.

If the fees are not paid after 18 months, Ritchie said the city has an option for a lien on the property.

City impact fees aid in various projects such as with transportation and parks.