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Community gathers to consider ideas for SARC

by Lois Krafsky-Perry
for  Citizen Review

Monday, August 17, 2015

Sequim, WA – “This is a very important meeting for our Board of Commissioners.  It appears public funding will not be available,” said Chairman of the Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center (SARC) Frank Pickering.  “Do not refight election or place blame.  We are looking for broad scale ideas.  What is practical and what happens as a Board.  How long funds will last depends on monthly review.  If we cannot find anything, there will be a shut-down,” continued Pickering.

A meeting of approximately 150 people rallied August 12, at the SARC  gymnasium to try to figure out what to do about the reported threat for running out of funds this next year  for SARC.

New business included:
1-Briefing of options (Legal and Financial) Facing SARC – Craig L Miller Atty.
2-Consolidation of SARC Accounts (Craig L Miller)

Many people were there to offer innovative ideas on keeping  the pool and  not relying on giving it to other sources.

Craig Ritchie, speaking for  the City of Sequim,  and YMCA representative Gary Huff,  expressed an interest in taking or sharing SARC.

SARC owns 5.0400 acres, and was purchased for $100,000, according to Clallam County assessment records.

The pool was voted on by the people in 1984, and after much opposition, was passed by a little over 60 percent.  The people were promised  they would have a swimming pool, for the community, if they passed that levy. (The summer only outdoor pool, located NW of  Sequim high school,  was later destroyed.)  The plan was to make the new indoor pool self-sufficient, as soon as possible.

Several  years later, the tax-payers were relieved as that goal was met as promised and SARC became self-sufficient.

Many people in the community, at the time of the building, worked on raising funds through donations and selling memberships.

Excitement filled the air with the realization that children could learn to swim all year round and adults could also enjoy year- round recreation.

SARC was built in 1986-87 and opened Spring of 1988. The facility housed a swimming pool, a small children’ pool, a sauna, a hot tub and a diving board. There was an upstairs office section, and a workout and/or meeting room. A gymnasium downstairs, two exercise rooms with exercise machines, a small racket-ball court and small handball court were also included. It was publicized, at that time, that it would be a two million dollar building project.  The exact figures may have been lost in records which have been reported as destroyed, with the exception of the past five years.

Since the building of our community pool, there have been expansions such as: extra rooms with work-out equipment, steam room and large pool slide.  Maintenance and operations expenses have increased. Many blame poor management, in the past. These reasons have been given to challenge the community for more tax dollars.

An appeal to the tax-payers for another six year levy operations and maintenance levy failed in November 2014. They asked for 12 cents per thousand assessed value, of property taxes.

In August 2015, an independent group, Citizens for SARC, placed Proposition 1 which would have created a Metropolitan Park District (MPD) on the August 4 ballot. It failed by 60-40 % vote. They suggested 12 cents per thousand; however, according to state law, it could have run as high as 75 cents per thousand.

An August 13 letter of support was sent to the Board Chair, Frank Pickering from Dist 1 Clallam County Commissioner Jim McEntire. He wrote, “As for me, now that the people have spoken, I want to be part of the solution in finding a way forward for SARC’s survival.  If we can find a business model that solves SARC’s cash flow issue, I will be happy to support a grant from the Opportunity Fund to solve the pool air handler problem.”

Attendee Rick Zander said he talked to a lot of people about ideas to save money.  Close the big pool in the winter,” suggested Zander. “Perhaps a small levy,” was another idea.

” A levy just for the pool?” asked Board Chair Frank Pickering. “I will put it on the list, ” he added.

One Sequim citizen, who had worked on the original plans for the pool, shared some history.  “We helped build the pool with fundraisers. It was positive.  Nobody paid except for what was necessary.  We built the pool for education and children.  That pool is the foundation of SARC.  We all pitched in and sold over 2,000 passes,” she said.

The longtime resident exhorted people to turn negative around now.  “We paid for this pool, in the black, for years,” she recalled.

She complimented Director Scott Deschenes and asked for support for the elected board. “The City gave us a headache, when we started,” she said. She recommended fundraisers, grants, bricks etc, for ways to keep the pool. She received a large applause for her comments.

Dick Hazleton, said he was a member, but not a user.”I voted yes each time,” he announced. He continued, “this is a valuable asset.  Look at the pool to look at the future.  “Save SARC why,” he asked. He suggested good marketing to let people feel ownership.  “There is a lack of sense of ownership,” said Hazleton.

A gentleman, in response to an earlier presentation by City of Sequim, Craig Ritchie, asked if the park district does not go, will it go to the school district?  “What if the school district does not want it, can they sell it?” he asked.

“The Superior Court would ask for someone else,” was the answer, from  Board attorney Craig Miller.

Eckart Mildenstein, who ran for commissioner, if the Metropolitan Park District levy had passed, shared some ideas.  “It needs to be a community effort, not just taxpayers,” he announced. He suggested raising money through drives. He offered to give a thousand dollars of his money if others would donate a certain amount. He also suggested, ‘a legacy program’.

Volunteers was another suggestion, but Miller stated that SARC insurance does not allow it. “Lower the hours and create another fee structure,” was also suggested.

Trainer Alicia Demetropolis asked if they could file a new levy ballot, but Miller said the date to decide for the November ballot would have been August 4th.  That was the deadline date for the Proposition 1 election.

Craig Ritchie, attorney for City of Sequim, was introduced by Pickering, to speak about Legal Options. “I’m not a finance person. The matter is left to those responsible for funds,” he said.  He noted some matters exist for a shut-down.

Ritchie discussed dissolution of SARC,” as a ‘separate entity’.

“Authority is vested in the [SARC] Board of Commissioners. That has not changed. The Board is the best way to proceed.  They have the power to determine closure, if necessary, use of funds and alter operations in any fashion,” determined Ritchie. He said the Board  determines closing all or part of the facility and also hours reduction.

“What happens in the event SARC does not find a way to proceed for future? There is a State Park Resolution that deals with dissolution. It is a type of municipal entity,” noted Ritchie.
He stated that the SARC Board of Commissioners can declare to dissolve or declare other districts for succession for transfer of assets, if not indebtedness, transfer contracts or real property.  All districts, if they want a successor taxing district, when you have had discussion and is acceptable to Board.

Ritchie gave an example of a Port District amendment or Statute, dealing with dissolution of non-functioning district. A Superior Court hearing for a petition, if solvent, and all assets would be transferred to School District. He did not note the Statute number.

An audience member then uttered, “no way.”

The City representative then continued, “If a court determines, assets could be sold at a Sheriff’s sale (distress not fair market) for cash, etc.  It would be applied to Park and Recreation District  obligation.”

Ritchie stated there could be a levy to taxpayers to pay off debt.  “Not aware that latter procedure to be triggered,” he added.  He said there could be transfer to another taxing district, which brought sighs from several attendees.

Chairman Pickering announced, there has been a lot of mis-information going around.  We will discuss at a Work Session or Board meeting–to be announced.”

“Asking  questions and also asking the Public and City of Sequim.  “the Board would like to see a 3 way partnership City, County, and SARC and a win, win, win combination,” announced Pickering.

Craig Ritchie continued by pitching for MPD (Municipal Park District), combining several ideas, for the future. “I feel more comfortable with a written intergovernmental document or agreement,” he announced, as he mentioned a Statute. He did not supply the statute number, which is apparently a statute about a Municipal Park District.  He offered a prepared  sample agreement for the Board.

It should be included in Board minutes, for approval at the next Board meeting.

“How an MPD is run and how funds are distributed… terms should be in there.” stated Ritchie.
He stated that SARC is top number one of Clallam County.  A constant figure is $384,000 starting off as soon as we can get money–2017. He mentioned tennis courts and the school district, and  stated that the Senior Center could be a contract for  supplemental activities.

Ritchie discussed Master Projects and also City operation with Boys and Girls Club.  He stated that Kirkland’s- National was $1,000,000 for a Recreation Center. “The City paid the rest and contracted back,” he said.

Ritchie said that 19 cents per thousand would be a starting figure for a levy.

Board member Sherry Nagel asked,”Why does the City think 19 cents might work? It is actually 75 cents figure.”

Ritchie answered, “We are planning on asking for this.”

Miller asked if the people would vote for it.  It was discussed that a larger amount of people users increases the voter base. “Typically elected officials don’t want to increase taxes, or they don’t get elected,” offered Ritchie.  Miller said, “Trust that they will do what they say and not what they want to do.”

Citizen David LaFreed asked,” Does the law allow when formed, what taxes will be for start?” Ritchie said, “no” and they could not tell voters.

Pickering stated, ‘we said we would work with the City Council.” He said they are working to get a group together. Board member Gil (Goodman) will be working with you,” he said.

Pickering  then remarked, “the only people that lose are the citizens of the area”

“We could reach agreement for a temporary financing that would have to be contingent on the MPD and the MPD money would come in later,” said Ritchie. Then he added, “we could possibly get bonds.”

Attorney Miller said, “Yes, they could sell it, ” which was in answer to a question, by an attendee. The question was about a sale of SARC.

Port Angeles YMCA (Young Mens Christian Association) Financial Director, Gary Huff was introduced and voiced some possible ideas. “I am here to suggest or at least look at an option.  Unfortunately we are not a white knight,” he announced.  Huff said they have the same mission as SARC.  “We  have 80 percent membership and 20 percent is raised….We have a policy that nobody is turned away, ” he said.

YMCA also has scholarships. Huff offered a Consultant at the YMCA’s expense.  “Could we really make it work?” he asked.  He said it would take a couple months to do fund raising possibilities, business plan and audits. “Duplicating and competing is not our business,” said Huff.

It was announced that Frank Pickering and Sherry Nagel will work with Huff.

Tom Locke, Chairman of Olympic Medical Center, said, “we also are not a white knight.” He expressed an interest in examining ideas to work with SARC.

Robert Hitchcock, General manager of Sherwood Village said,” we are looking for memberships for all our residents.

SARC Board chairman Pickering announced that they are still meeting their budget.

July Vouchers  were $37,939.

Director Scott Deschenes reported that the National average is 65 percent spent and 68 percent was spent.

Pickering said he is being asked if SARC is remaining open.  “Based on future sales, 80 percent revenue is good,”he said.

The board chairman is hoping the community will keep up revenue and keep SARC going.

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