School-turned-civic complex in Port Townsend showing needs for repair; city doesn’t have ‘cash on hand’
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Pool employee Sarah Winslow shines some light on a portion of the ceiling in the women’s changing room at Mountain View Commons. The city of Port Townsend is looking for ways to pay for repairs of the building, which it cannot afford with the current budget.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — The maintenance of the former Mountain View School will be one of the city’s priorities for 2014 as the building has fallen into disrepair and the city doesn’t have the funds to support basic maintenance.

“We don’t have the cash on hand for repairs,” said Development Services Director Rick Sepler.

“We are just one event away from not being able to occupy the building.”

That one “event” nearly occurred earlier this month when a valve was jammed on the pipes leading into the community swimming pool and the hot water flow could not be controlled, “which turned it into a hot tub,” Sepler said.

The valve was repaired, dodging the bullet, as the final option was to turn off the heat, which would have affected all the other building occupants adversely, especially during the cold snap.

The building at 1919 Blaine St. operated as an elementary school from 1963 to 2009 before the school district moved the students to the Grant Street Elementary and Blue Heron Middle schools, then leased the campus to the city as the site of a police station and other offices.

In addition to serving as a police station where Police Chief Conner Daily occupies the principal’s former office, the renamed Mountain View Commons includes the pool, Port Townsend Food Bank, Jefferson County Family YMCA, the Red Cross branch, Working Image and the nonprofit radio station KPTZ, with the ReCyclery located in an outbuilding.

Most of the tenants pay little or no rent in exchange for services, Sepler said.

It is also the temporary home for the Port Townsend Library as it waits to move back into its Carnegie location, expected to occur sometime next year.

The building is in need of a new heating system, roof replacement and other repairs that add up to about $5 million, although Sepler said the cost could be less.

Whatever the cost, the city cannot afford these repairs and will need to go to the voters in order to subsidize them, Sepler said.

To this end, it plans to schedule a series of meetings to determine what the public wants for Mountain View Commons and gauge whether to go ahead with a levy lift or bond issue.

If that option is determined as infeasible, the city would give the required two-year notice on the lease, plan the construction of a new police station and work to find new homes for all the other tenants.

All of them can be relocated aside from the pool, Sepler said.

“It will be less expensive for us to build a new police station, which is the only thing we are required to do, than it would cost to fix Mountain View but will cost us more in social equity,” Sepler said.

“If you are a bean counter, you will favor closing Mountain View and building a new police station, but if you look at the impact of the services provided, it becomes very important to keep the doors open.”

Sepler said any funding measure could also include support for the Port Townsend Recreation Center, which is in need of a new roof, among other repairs.

While some grants are available, the city’s budget will not withstand the added strain, Sepler said.

“We can’t move things around and plug leaks in the dike anymore,” he said.

“We don’t have any more resources to draw from.”

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: December 14. 2013 6:12PM
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