The formation of a new council aimed at guiding the expenditures of Clallam County’s Opportunity Fund is beginning to take shape.
The draft interlocal agreement to establish an Economic Infrastructure Council was considered “conceptional” at the end of June when Clallam County Commissioner Jim McEntire first brought the draft to a commissioner work session.
However, after some discussion County Administrator Jim Jones was asked by the county commissioners to edit and shape the draft agreement into something that he could distribute to his counterparts throughout the county.
The Economic Infrastructure Council likely would consist of a county commissioner, the mayors of Forks, Port Angeles and Sequim, Port of Port Angeles chairman and Clallam County Public Utility District general manager, according to the draft interlocal agreement.
“Eventually, my idea would be this council takes the place of the Opportunity Fund Advisory Board,” McEntire said. “Coordination between governments regarding capital infrastructure is certainly envisioned if not called for in our Comprehensive Plan.”
McEntire added, “If we can connect the Opportunity Fund expenditures in some type of larger context and deliberate infrastructure plan, I think that would be a very good thing.”
Per the Revised Code of Washington, officials of public entities within the county need to communicate prior to the use of any Opportunity Funds. However, when the fund was first formed an advisory board with appointed representatives was assigned to help review and recommend Opportunity Fund spending — a process managed by the Economic Development Corporation.
“That was deemed adequate to be the method of conversation, but what we’ve heard is these appointees aren’t really conversing with those that appointed them and there’s been some disconnect,” Jones said.
To help remedy this, several months ago Jones met with his counterparts, including managers from the cities, Port of Port Angeles and the public utility district to brainstorm a more direct communication approach in relation to the Opportunity Fund, which is restricted to infrastructure for economic development.
“The idea of a Economic Infrastructure Council was well received when we first approached it,” Jones said. “This would slow down a bit and dot the i’s and cross the t’s to come up with one multi-agency interlocal agreement where we would get together on regular basis each year.”
Establishing a different method to evaluate Opportunity Fund spending was embedded in the failed change of an ordinance spurred by McEntire in February to amend Clallam County Code 5.30 (Opportunity Fund policy).
“This was a primary goal of that change — to have a better way to coordinate each of our (public entity’s) efforts,” Jones said. “When the EDC (Economic Development Corporation) went to a more primary private sector board and focus, it was felt this type of advisory council to that entity could provide two roles.”
The Economic Infrastructure Council is expected to advice the Economic Development Corporation of the intended goals of public sector entities and foster regular collaboration on updates to individual 10-year facility plans.
“Because all governments are about to embark on their 2016 budget conversation that includes capital spending, this idea may be timely to get the conversation started a bit more formally,” McEntire said.
Reach Alana Linderoth at email@example.com.