Temporary closure under way at SARC

Facility officials lock doors, await survey findings

Sequim High School seniors and swim teammates Jessica Craig and team captain Victoria Fitzpatrick practice at SARC the day before the facility is set to temporarily close. Relying on $7

Sequim High School seniors and swim teammates Jessica Craig and team captain Victoria Fitzpatrick practice at SARC the day before the facility is set to temporarily close. Relying on $7

Despite the Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center Board of Commissioners’ shared praise and gratitude toward former SARC Executive Director Scott Deschenes, they unanimously approved the termination of Deschenes’s contract on Oct. 29.

SARC commissioner Melinda Griffith was absent.

The termination of Deschenes’s contract was one of many steps recently taken to temporarily suspend services at SARC as of Friday, Oct. 30, as a result of the facility’s financial status.

“I want to compliment Scott on his ability to operate the facility as directed by the board,” Frank Pickering, SARC board chairman, said.

Pickering’s thoughts were echoed by SARC commissioners Gil Goodman and Jan Richardson.

“If I were still in the military, I’d hire him (Deschenes),” Goodman said. “The Coast Guard could use guys like him.”

“He (Deschenes) was the best thing that ever happened to this place,” Richardson added.

After both a levy in February and later a proposal to create a metropolitan park district in August aimed at the community facility lacked voter support, it was projected SARC could remain open until mid-2016. However, once October revenues plummeted to less than a third of normal, Pickering said, the board made the decision to “temporarily suspend services.”

Although Friday marked Deschenes’s last day as SARC’s executive director, the board plans to contract him to assist with shutting down the facility.

“I’m just going to help them tie up loose ends,” Deschenes said. “It will be very little work … maybe just an hour here and there.”

Out of a job, Deschenes plans to start looking for another position within the Northwest.

“If this community loses Scott and his wife Charisse, it will be a real loss,” Pickering said.

Charisse Deschenes is a senior planner for the City of Sequim.

Ideally, Deschenes would like to work for a similar organization that focuses on providing community programs.

“That’s what I really like to do,” he said.

Reflecting on his time at SARC, Deschenes remained positive, noting the many “great” people he met and the lessons he learned through his experience.

“I mostly feel bad for the staff because this is their community and their jobs, too,” he said.

Staffers like Kate Henninger are among those that Deschenes feels for. Henninger has worked for SARC as a lifeguard, cashier and supervisor, among many other roles, for nearly three years.

“I’m kind of sad, but more sad for everyone else, like the other employees, the families and everyone who comes here,” she said.

The community recreation center has been a familiar hub in Henninger’s life since childhood.

“My family has been coming here for about 20 years,” she said.

Given Henninger’s lifelong connection, it was a “no brainer” that she would work at SARC as a young adult, she said, but its unstable future has grown into a cause for concern.

“The uncertainty has been the hardest part in the last month,” she said during one of her last shifts at SARC. “I’ve applied to a bunch of other places, but I haven’t heard back from anyone yet.”


Waiting on results and exploring options

Although it won’t immediately secure jobs like Henninger’s, SARC commissioners are waiting to get results back from a feasibility study completed in October on the Olympic Peninsula YMCA running the Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center.

Using funding from, but not limited to the Olympic Medical Center, City of Sequim and Clallam County, the SARC board paid for the $36,000 survey in part to consider a partnership with the Olympic Peninsula YMCA that also operates facilities in Port Angeles and Port Townsend.

“We anticipate hearing from the YMCA sometime in November,” Pickering said.

Until the survey results are analyzed and a business plan is provided from YMCA officials, the SARC board intends to monitor the facility carefully and ensure its security.

“We’re not mothballing the place up,” Pickering said. “We’ll keep it in good condition while we try to work with the Y and others.”

The option to pursue a levy still is on the SARC board’s table, but because the cost to run a levy falls between $20,000-$40,000, it would need community support to do so, Pickering said.

“I would just do a maintenance and operations levy for the pool only,” Richardson said.

To pursue a levy of any kind by early next year, the SARC board would need to have a resolution by Dec. 11, Pickering said.

While the board seeks to secure a reliable funding plan and/or partnership, the total costs associated with closing SARC are about $140,000, but the “actual costs of closing” is about $5,000, Pickering said. Most of the remaining costs are tied to monthly payroll, payroll taxes, severance costs for contracted employees, sales tax, utilities and legal fees.

SARC funds from a certificate of deposit totaling about $85,000 made available via collaboration between the county treasurer and First Federal, as well as recent revenues, reserves and possibly the sale of surplus property will all help to cover the costs, Pickering said.

Relying on $7,500 raised by the SARC Foundation, the pool will remain open to the Sequim High School girls swim team only, allowing the swimmers to continue practicing until their season ends on Nov. 12.

The SARC Foundation is a nonprofit entity established to accept tax-deducible funds on behalf of SARC.

 

Reach Alana Linderoth at alinderoth@sequimgazette.com.

 

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