Parks district failure sparks SARC regroup

City of Sequim considers partnering with county, SARC and others

SARC Board of Commissioners’ meeting

When: 5 p.m., today, Aug. 12

Where: SARC gymnasium, 610 N. Fifth Ave.

More info:




Sequim Gazette


Big decisions loom yet again for the Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center.

The proposed Metropolitan Park District didn’t come close to the simple majority (50 percent plus one vote) needed to pass on Aug. 4, with votes so far showing only 41.8 percent voting for Proposition No. 1.

Thus far, 10,618 votes have been counted and 6,181 are against the measure aimed at providing financial assistance to the community recreation and aquatic center.

The Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center board of commissioners is anticipated to listen, learn and mull over the future options for the community center at 5 p.m., today, Wednesday, Aug. 12.

“We’re going to try to allow time for questions,” Frank Pickering, chairman of the SARC board of commissioners, said. “The board is going to be quiet and listen now.”

To provide the board with its options, the attorney for SARC, Craig Miller, will be attending the meeting, Pickering said.

“He’ll tell the board what we can do, such as sell or lease and so forth,” he said. “We’ll also be discussing our financial plan for the next couple of months.”

In late April, Sequim City councilors passed a resolution suggesting SARC officials should postpone putting forth a measure to create a metropolitan park district in August and instead collaborate with the City of Sequim, Clallam County and a wide array of community organizations to develop a broader taxing district in February 2016.

However, Steve Burkett, city manager at the time, said the suggestion was “only relevant” if SARC didn’t pursue a metropolitan park district in the Primary Election or if it fails.

Having failed, the Sequim City Council on Monday, Aug. 10, discussed the formation of a joint Clallam County and Sequim metropolitan park district on the February 2016 ballot, which they would seek to include SARC.

City input

If the City of Sequim wants to follow SARC with a broader metropolitan parks district, it has until Dec. 11 to file the proposal to the Clallam County Auditor’s office for a February special election. But councilors need Clallam County on board, too.

Joe Irvin, assistant to the city manager, said both the City of Sequim and Clallam County commissioners must pass resolutions to place it on the ballot.

“Even though our city council said they’d do that, we’d have to see if our commissioners would support that,” he said.

Interim City Manager Craig Ritchie said they would need to meet with possible stakeholders such as tennis and pickleball players, the Shipley Center (senior center), Sequim School District and SARC and agree upon several interlocal agreements.

“All of that can be done with contracts in advance,” he said. “It might also be the only way something could (be approved) when everybody knows exactly what the results will be,” he said.

Mayor Candace Pratt said she’s met with Clallam County Commissioner Jim McEntire and Pickering on finding solutions to help SARC move forward.

City timeline

Ritchie said city staff have been working on a metropolitan parks district since mid-2010. However, Sequim resident Marsha Carr asked why the proposal comes now following the recent failure of the first proposed district.

“Actually, a lot has been happening,” Ritchie said. “The Metropolitan Parks District is a major undertaking. It’s a new form of government. Studies done included a survey in Sequim School District boundaries, which was favorable to a lot of people to park issues. It’s necessary for our Master Plan for our parks be done, which is one aspect of it. The county (approving it) is the other aspect. The timing the city was planning on was sometime in 2016 and perhaps later.”

However Ritchie said their proposed plan is “only an outline of where things could go.”

Irvin’s tentative timeline shows him meeting with the school district and SARC immediately.

He’d discuss partnership opportunities between the city and the schools’ construction bond proposal for $49.3 million, and short-term funding solutions for SARC.

Irvin said the city supported a proposal for SARC to receive economic opportunity funds on April 13, which they are waiting to hear back on.

Irvin also gave a deadline of Oct. 16 to prepare capital outlay and interlocal agreements with stakeholders.

If the city doesn’t go ahead with a February proposal, he said the next time a proposal may go to voters would be November 2016.

If the city does partner to create a parks district, Councilor Ted Miller said he wants an “inclusive rather than exclusive (parks) district where SARC is the crown jewel but not the only jewel.”

“We need to be able to have a parks district that will be able to accommodate all the other parks users,” he said. “And that’s been the background of what the city council has been pushing. We’re not anti-SARC. In fact we’re very pro-SARC. We just don’t feel SARC should have exclusive jurisdiction on the MPD.”

Miller said without unanimous approval from SARC and other recreation groups it won’t work.

Councilor Ken Hays said some SARC supporters continue to create division saying the city wants to take over the pool.

“The pool is a liability … and not something the city is interested in taking over itself,” he said.

Hays said the city is interested in “a funding revenue source for parks and recreation because our citizens, and the greater community are telling us that’s what they want.”

“So what the city is interested in promoting is an independent metropolitan parks district that is broad-based and not something for ourselves.”

Waiting on meeting

SARC Executive Director Scott Deschenes is waiting until after the Aug. 12 meeting to comment on the future of the facility, which is home to the city’s only public swimming pool.

Given the diminishing reserves, it’s been projected by SARC officials that the facility will close by the end of 2016 without a secure funding strategy.

If passed, the SARC Metropolitan Park District was to be run by a five-person elected board and would have become the 18th metropolitan park district within the state following the recent development of the Seattle Park District last year.

Once passed, all metropolitan park districts have the ability to levy up to 75 cents per $1,000 assessed property valuation without voter approval, but the SARC Metropolitan Park District suggested to impose a tax of 12 cents per $1,000 assessed property valuation within the Sequim District school boundaries – roughly spanning from McDonald Creek east to Diamond Point Road and south to the Olympic National Park boundary.

Primary election results are certified Tuesday, Aug. 18. Voter turnout is up to 35 percent, equating to 15,245 ballots counted of the 43,522 registered voters within Clallam County.