County sinks pool funding

Posted 11/29/23


Although no vote was taken, two of the three members of the Board of Jefferson County Commissioners expressed unfavorable opinions regarding the proposed funding mechanism recommendations …

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County sinks pool funding



Although no vote was taken, two of the three members of the Board of Jefferson County Commissioners expressed unfavorable opinions regarding the proposed funding mechanism recommendations for a prospective new pool facility in Port Townsend during the commission’s Nov. 20 meeting.

Jefferson County District 3 Commissioner Greg Brotherton voiced support for the proposed pool, but not for the county-wide taxing district also proposed to pay for it, unless the pool were to be more centrally located within the county.

“I would be interested in exploring a Metropolitan Park District if the pool were still in Port Townsend, although I understand it would be a heavier lift,” said Brotherton, who emphasized that the commission’s Nov. 20 meeting was “our first opportunity” to discuss the most recent form of the proposal, and to share their reactions.

The commissioners plan to discuss the matter further during their Dec. 4 meeting, and Brotherton added, “I am still parsing information.”

Jefferson County District 2 Commissioner Heidi Eisenhour noted during the meeting that the Public Facilities District proposal would draw 2/10 of 1 percent of sales tax, while the county commits 1/10 of 1 percent each for behavioral health services, and affordable and homeless housing within the county.

Eisenhour said she agrees that a new or renewed pool facility for East Jefferson County is needed, but she would have preferred for the proposed pool’s steering committee to have developed three proposals of different scales, with two being less expensive than what the county commission was presented.

Eisenhour also wished aloud that a closer look would have been taken at the portion of Port Hadlock where a sewer is currently being installed, which she believes could service the pool.

“It was mentioned that they looked at HJ Carroll Park, but that’s not in the current sewer boundary,” Eisenhour said. “There are, however, a number of potential locations for a pool facility in the Phase 1 sewer boundary currently being developed. People have said the sewer in Port Hadlock won’t be completed in time for the pool timeline, but that’s just not the case.”

Both during the meeting and her interview with The Leader, Eisenhour reiterated her conviction that “we don’t have all the information we need to make an informed decision at this time, and (she has) felt a couple of times we are being rushed.”

Jefferson County District 1 Commissioner Kate Dean sought to remind county residents that they pay taxes to support programs and facilities across the county.

“All taxpayers help pay for after-school care in Brinnon, a service not offered by the county anywhere else,” Dean said. “Should we make only Brinnon taxpayers cover this cost? No. This might not make sense financially, but it’s still the right thing to do.”

Dean elaborated that county residents pay for schools and community colleges, whether they or their families use them or not.

“If you shop in Kitsap County or Clallam County, you are supporting parks and recreation programs there with your tax dollars,” Dean said. “Society works by sharing the financial burden of providing diverse services to diverse people, over many people and many years. It’s how all infrastructure has been funded in this country, for as long as it’s existed. I hope people will remember this every time they drive on our roads, call 911 or visit a community center.”

Port Townsend School District Superintendent Dr. Linda Rosenbury told The Leader that the school district remains invested in having a pool for its students to learn to swim, as well as to support mental health, reduce substance abuse and offer an opportunity for Port Townsend and Chimacum student athletes to compete on the Rivals swim team.

“A key part of the financial model currently proposed for the pool involves the school district leasing our land at Mountain View Commons for $1 a year, to help keep costs down for the project,” Rosenbury said. “Moving the pool to a different location in our county would mean losing that land, but if a more central location is preferred, to allow better access for all county families and students, the Port Townsend School District supports that. We want to find a solution that works for all. Our youth deserve our investment.”

Shelly Leavens, communications and marketing manager for the City of Port Townsend, informed The Leader that Carrie Hite, director of parks and recreation strategy for the city, has scheduled a Dec. 8 meeting of the Healthier Together steering committee.

“The next step in this process is to commission an independent financial study from the Department of Commerce,” Hite said. “After this is complete, it will provide additional financial information that may help the commissioners understand the puzzle and the funding better. The commission will then need to adopt by resolution the creation of a Public Facilities District board. They will then seat the board, who will be charged with adopting the ballot language.”