SARC board weighs options post-levy miss

Commissioners look into Metropolitan Parks District, re-running levy proposal

From left

From left

“What’s next?”

That’s the first question SARC Director Scott Deschenes hears from users who have come through the door in recent days.

The final ballots were counted in the Feb. 10 special election last Friday and results for The Clallam County Park and Recreation District 1 (SARC) levy proposal of 12 cents per $1,000 of a home’s assessed valuation went up slightly but not enough for the “super majority” of 60 percent.

The tally now before the election is certified on Feb. 24 sits at 7,258, 57.5 percent, in favor to 5,368, 42.5 percent, opposed.

With the levy failing, SARC’s commissioners discuss the facility’s options at 5 p.m. today, Wednesday, Feb. 18, inside SARC’s gymnasium, 610 N. Fifth Ave.

Frank Pickering, SARC’s commission board president, said the options lean to either try to create a Metropolitan Parks District or re-run the levy.

Commissioners decided to split up at their monthly meeting on Feb. 11, to discuss their options with different entities including the City of Sequim, Clallam County and Citizens for SARC, an advocacy group which campaigned for the levy.

“Overall, 57 percent was very positive for us,” Pickering said. “Citizens for SARC did a lot of good work.”

At the meeting, Deschenes encouraged the board to pursue a decision quickly.

“Whatever we’re going to do, we have the momentum now,” he said. “We don’t want to wait too long.”

After looking at the precinct results, Deschenes said a majority of Sequim showed it wants a community center with a pool.

“A majority of people want something and I didn’t think we had that 1 1/2 to 2 years ago,” he told the Gazette.

“There’s a lot of uneasiness right now. There are parents who bring in their kids for lessons. Older people who rely on the water. We really fight the idea that some see us as a health club but we’re really a community service.”

Commissioners turned to voters for a levy for the 27-year-old facility because they said it is likely to close by the end of 2016 due to depleting reserves and increasing costs such as $350,000-$400,000 for an air handler in the pool area.

Pickering said SARC’s “drop dead date” is through Dec. 31, 2016, but he wrote on the center’s website there are no discussions on shutting down SARC or any of its elements prior to the date.

“That final date can change,” Pickering told the Gazette. “(No options) are off the table until the board simply decides it.”


Metro parks plan

The most discussed solution on Feb. 11 was the Metropolitan Parks District.

To form it, both the City of Sequim and Clallam County would need to sign an interlocal agreement to form the district, said SARC’s attorney Craig Miller.

If formed, SARC’s board would transfer assets to a new municipal corporation for operations likely governed by a board including community members and a to-be-determined number of community members, Clallam County commissioners and Sequim City councilors.

The advantage, commissioners say, is that running a levy now must require at least 60 percent of the vote and be run every six years whereas the metropolitan district would need 50 percent to pass.

One concern in other districts, Miller said, is that metropolitan leaders also could levy without a vote up to 75 cents per assessed $1,000 valuation as allowed by law.

However, William Shore Pool in Port Angeles, he said, was founded around a Metropolitan Parks District at 15 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation but its leaders have taken less than taxed.

Steven Burke, executive director of the William Shore Pool, told the Gazette that the pool’s levy rate is about 16 cents now, which equals around $480,000 generated per year from ratepayers in the Port Angeles School District.

“It started on the ballot (in 2009) at a rate of 15 cents, which at the time calculated to $520,000, but we ended up not needing that much when we got into that,” he said. “We took $450,000 for the first couple of years and then $470,000 and then $480,000.”

Burke said the 75 cents rate hasn’t been tried in the state and he doesn’t think the court system would allow it to go to a vote.

As for SARC’s options, Burke said he thinks the best long-term option is pursuing a Metropolitan Parks District.

“Then they don’t have to worry every six years if they are going to pass a levy or not,” he said.

In public comments, former SARC commissioner Paul McHugh shared that he doesn’t think there’s a good chance a Metropolitan Parks District would pass and the past history with trying to pass M&O levy isn’t going to change.

He suggested contracting the facility out and seeing if any entities would be interested without raising rates.

“The facility is too important to give up on,” he said.

Susan Sorensen, a former commissioner, also announced she does not plan to lead the Citizens for SARC effort again due to personal matters.

For more information on the meeting or facility, visit sarcfitness.com or call Deschenes at 683-3344, extension 12.

 

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