David Garlington, Sequim public works director, shows where 150 solar panels will be placed on the Sequim Civic Center’s roof tentatively sometime this year. In June, Sequim city councilors committed to paying for the panels in an effort to promote solar energy. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

David Garlington, Sequim public works director, shows where 150 solar panels will be placed on the Sequim Civic Center’s roof tentatively sometime this year. In June, Sequim city councilors committed to paying for the panels in an effort to promote solar energy. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

City Roundup: Sequim to add 150 solar panels, electric car chargers

In the last month, Sequim city council has discussed an array of issues ranging from solar energy projects to waste management to humanitarian efforts.

Here is a summary of some of the upcoming discussions and efforts in Sequim:

Sunny roofs ahead

The Sequim Civic Center, 152 W. Cedar St., will soon feature about 150 solar panels on one portion of its roof.

City Councilors unanimously agreed on June 24 to match a Department of Commerce grant worth $75,000 towards the approximate $285,000 project to install 50 kilowatt panels.

David Garlington, public works director, said city staff budgeted $105,000 for a solar project this year, and have $25,000 available in the city’s Real Estate Excise Tax fund. However, he said the city has an $85,000 shortfall that will need to come from the city’s general fund.

Garlington said the solar panels will save the city about $3,700 a year in electricity and for the city’s investment it would take about 56-plus years to pay for itself.

“I wouldn’t say we’re doing this for the economic opportunity,” he said, as the city council looks to reduce its carbon footprint. “It’s putting our money where our mouth is.”

With the panels in place, Garlington said it’d prevent about 22 carbon tons of waste each year

Solar energy will be used in the building and can be used if the power goes out in the area, he said.

With the placement of the panels, Garlington said the building essentially receives full coverage of the sun throughout the day.

City Councilor Jennifer States suggested city staff look into cost for a small storage system for the electricity produced.

Garlington said the city has applied for a second private grant but is unsure if or when it will come through for this project.

EV charger coming to PUD site

Both Clallam County PUD commissioners and City of Sequim city councilors agreed to cost share the installation of two electric vehicle chargers at the PUD’s former building at the corner of Govan and East Washington Street.

Sometime this year, a Level 2 Electric Vehicle charging station will be installed at the site with universal adapters with two plug-ins for vehicles.

PUD officials plan to pay for the Level 2 Electric Vehicle charging station’s equipment at an estimated $6,000 and connect it to electricity while the City of Sequim will pay for trenching, painting and installing signage and equipment.

The city will also own the equipment and pay for electricity and determine user fees.

Ann Soule, the city’s resource manager, said on June 10 the fees will be determined this fall for the chargers.

City councilor Jennifer States said the price for the chargers seems reasonable (at about $3,000 each) and the city should consider installing more at the site and across the city.

The interlocal agreement does allow for more, said David Garlington, Sequim public works director.

Mayor Dennis Smith said there are two signs by the Clallam Transit Center for EV charging but no equipment, so he suggested partnering with that service for future chargers.

City of Sequim staffing suggestions made

Residents can share their opinion at 6 p.m. Monday, July 8 at a public hearing on proposed budget amendments for this year, including adding two new full-time positions.

City Attorney Kristina Nelson Gross seeks a full-time legal assistant/paralegal to assist in various capacities ranging from code enforcement to risk management to researching case law to much more.

City staff list the pay range as $52,418-$67,205 per year, which will be adjusted for the remainder of the year.

Garlington and Barry Berezowksy, director of Community Development, seek a full-time Development Review Engineer ($52,418-$67,205) to help keep up with development review workload and increase on-site inspection of utility and infrastructure installations.

Berezowksy said in the next five years the city anticipates about 827 new lots coming in from current proposals.

City staff said the position would split time between the city’s engineering and community development departments.

If approved for 2019, city councilors will discuss during budget discussions later this year whether or not the positions continue into 2020.

City councilor Ted Miller said adding the paralegal position is overdue.

“We needed this position last year,” he said.

Humanitarian fund going strong

The Sequim Human Services Fund remains healthy and continues to help a number of people in Sequim, said Staff Sgt. Sean Madison with Sequim Police Department.

Madison reported in June that the account on average has more than $6,000 available to help individuals and families

Last year, police provided assistance 123 times for 98 individuals and 25 families (26 children and 39 adults) in a variety of roles.

Since the program began, it’s helped more than 350 people with food, gas, gift cards for various needs, lodging and more.

“Historically, cops were doing it out of their own pockets,” Madison said.

A few examples include providing busing for a woman seeking drug treatment, and providing lodging for a family seeking respite from the poor air quality during the summer’s forest fires.

In 2018, police provided 70 Safeway food gift cards; six Visa cards for diapers, clothes and toiletries; 42 transportation vouchers; 27 lodging vouchers, and 11 food assistance requests.

For more information about the fund and/or to donate, call the police department at 360-683-7227.

Smart-meters and utilities

A group of residents across Clallam County advocated to city councilors on June 10 to not pursue 5G infrastructure upgrades for utilities in the future for city utilities. They were concerned about potential and unstudied risks to residents’ health from signals emitted from new meters.

City Manager Charlie Bush told the group that city staff looked at smart-meters but “it’s not something that’s on our front burner.”

Clallam PUD is launching its installation of smart-meters this year in Dungeness area and Neah Bay.

Public works director David Garlington said that their water meter readers use a Bluetooth device directly over meters, located typically apart from the homes.

He said the hand-held wand requests information from the meter, which sends it through blue tooth and that’s the end of the signal.

“We’re not pursuing it with any vigor at this point,” Garlington said.

“I want to be convinced these things are going to act in a safe and healthy way … and I have not had it proven to me it makes economic sense. It’s a big cost to (install smart meters) … From Public Works’ point-of-view, we’re not anywhere close to making a recommendation.”

Garlington said he plans to post more information about the signals the city’s current meters emit on the city’s website.

Additionally, Bush said city councilors sent a letter to the FCC a few years ago requesting more local control when it comes to electromagnetic radiation signals. There aren’t plans to send another letter, Bush said, because he’s uncertain how effective it would be.

Solid waste discussions ongoing

City staff plans to reenter negotiations with Waste Connections, the city’s trash, recycling and lawn waste provider.

David Garlington, public works director, said they have options to send out a Request for Proposal for a different provider, but Waste Connections would likely be the only bidder since the next closest providers are in Kitsap County or the West End of Clallam County.

He said some of their discussion points will include rates, frequency changes for pick-up, low income rates, snowbird/vacation hold options, and more.

The idea of contracting construction waste was tabled, as city councilor Brandon Janisse said if the city did that it would likely shutter a local business.

Garlington said Waste Connections’ rates for garbage/recycling pick-up are fair and city staff field a few calls a month about their service, but they are mostly related to code enforcement of neighbors rather than the actual service provided.

Councilors briefly discussed the differences between mandating or not garbage service.

City councilor Jennifer States said that with non-mandatory collection, Waste Connections would be uncertain how many customers it would have in the city and costs could rise for users, so it’s to the city’s advantage to require it.

City Attorney Kristina Nelson-Gross said city staff has not been enforcing mandatory garbage service to residents — despite it being required by the city’s Municipal Code.

However, she said she wouldn’t send a case for lack of garbage service to court.

“We need to come back and change the code to enforce this,” Nelson-Gross said.

Earlier this year, city councilors changed an ordinance that allows Waste Connections the ability to cut-off customers after 90 days of non-payment. Waste Connections staff said it’s reduced monthly non-payments from about $40,000 a month to $10,000 in the city.

Rates to rent the Guy Cole Events Center change this year by adding more blocks of time for usage while remaining free to nonprofits most weekdays. Weekend rates will rise 20 percent per hour though. Sequim Gazette file photo by Matthew Nash

Rates to rent the Guy Cole Events Center change this year by adding more blocks of time for usage while remaining free to nonprofits most weekdays. Weekend rates will rise 20 percent per hour though. Sequim Gazette file photo by Matthew Nash

Guy Cole Event Center rentals changing

In an effort to increase usage at the recently remodeled Guy Cole Events Center, rates are changing at the facility in Carrie Blake Community Park.

The new rates cost $40 per hour for a city resident for a minimum of two hours and a maximum of 10 hours, or $48 for out-of-city residents.

City councilors voted unanimously for the changes on June 24.

Previously, nonprofits could rent the facility for free at any time. Now it’s available to them Monday-Thursday (with Thursday available to paying customers if needed).

Those looking to rent Friday-Sunday will see rates increase 20 percent for all parties with $48 per hour for city residents and $58 for non residents. Nonprofits will pay city resident rates on weekends.

A $70 minimum cleaning fee is still enacted for any rental. A refundable damage deposit is also required for $150 or $500 with alcohol served for the hall, or $300 for the kitchen.

Sarah VanAusdle, public works management analyst, said that the changes follow city councilors’ requests for opening smaller blocks of time for rentals, continuing free use for nonprofits and streamlining janitorial service.

She said the Events Center was rented for 881 hours of its available 5,475 hours in 2018, which equates to 16 percent of availability.

For more information on happenings in the City of Sequim, visit www.sequimwa.gov or call 360-683-4139.

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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