Port Angeles mayor, Clallam board mull historical hall's future
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Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
The former Port Angeles fire hall on South Lincoln Street is being studied for restoration as part of the city's civic historic district.

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Mayor Cherie Kidd and the three Clallam County commissioners Monday expressed a shared desire to stabilize and weatherproof the historical fire hall on Lincoln Street.

Exactly who pays for the $229,511 in initial improvements to the Depression-era Art Deco building is far less certain.

“I don't think we're here to make a final decision on bringing it up to the total reconditioning at this point,” Kidd told commissioners at their work session.

“We need to stabilize it, and we need to put ourselves in a position to save the building.”

The city-owned building at 215 S. Lincoln St. is envisioned as a future veterans' center because of its proximity to Veterans Memorial Park and prominence within the Port Angeles Historic District.

The estimated cost of repairing and converting the 6,238-square-foot onetime City Hall into a veterans center is $2.27 million.

“Unfortunately at the city, we don't have the funds available right now,” said Kidd, who attended Monday's work session to discuss next steps with commissioners.

County Parks, Fair and Facilities Manager Joel Winborn said the first phase of the renovation would be to protect, maintain and stabilize the building.

The $229,511 phase would include a new roof, parapet, a stabilized foundation and the removal of hazardous materials such as lead and asbestos.

“We're not in plastic surgery yet,” Kidd said. “We're starting in ICU.”

Commissioner Mike Doherty, who has testified about the historical fire hall at the state Heritage Caucus on three occasions, said he supports doing the first phase “for sure.”

Doherty said the existing veterans center at 261 S. Francis St. in Port Angeles is “a much less respectful position for a veterans facility” than the city's historical district.

The district includes the fire hall, veterans park, Museum at the Carnegie and the original Clallam County Courthouse.

Doherty added that U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, a Gig Harbor Democrat and Port Angeles native, supports the idea of putting a veterans center in the building.

“He, like [former U.S. Rep.] Norm Dicks, seems to think it's so logical, but State of American Treasures [grant] funding no longer has an appropriation since the change in the House, so that may be an issue,” Doherty said.

“The money in the past has been there. Whether the money in the future will be back again is difficult to say the way government expenditures are going.”

County Administrator Jim Jones said the city had expressed a willingness to transfer ownership of the fire hall — and its liability — to the county through an interlocal agreement.

Clallam County budgeted $300,000 this year to match a historical preservation grant but did not receive the grant.

While conceding an immediate need to stabilize the fire hall, Commissioner Jim McEntire said he was not prepared to commit to the project without knowing the long-term maintenance and operations costs.

“I'm just interested in the affordability in the future, if this helps or hurts,” McEntire said.

Commissioners took no action Monday.

“Let's just save the building, and we'll talk about ownership and exchange an interlocal, whatever we have to do, at a later stage,” Kidd said.

“The city is willing to work with you on whatever's doable at this point.”

Winborn, who opened the discussion by reviewing estimates that a city-contracted structural engineering firm developed in 2011, said a core budget of
$1.07 million was established to improve and modernize the shell and core of the building.

An additional $1.2 million would be needed to convert the fire hall into a veterans center.

Kidd, who led the March 2011 establishment of the historic district, said the building opened as a fire hall in 1931 and eventually housed city offices, the City Council chambers and jail.

Following its city service, the building hosted a bakery, delicatessen and restaurant.

“This is such an important part of our history, right there on Lincoln Street,” Kidd said. “This is who we are, and it's important we preserve it.”

Kidd said the renovation would attract tourists and serve a good use.

She noted that the fire hall would double the functional space of the Francis Street veterans center.

County Veterans' Coordinator Tammy Sullenger and Veterans Association Board Member Terry Roth each spoke in favor of the move to Lincoln Street.

“It can't be done all at once, but I think the grants are out there,” Roth said.

Roth said the existing veterans center would be an asset for the nearby Olympic Peninsula YMCA, a private enterprise or could be used as a satellite for county operations.

Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: July 08. 2013 6:14PM
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