City manager withdraws rejected recreation plan; Port Townsend, county to work independently on parks
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From left, Bodie LaBrie, Sarah Rogers, Jamie Rogers and Gabe Petrick, all 13, play foosball Thursday at the Port Townsend Community Center. — Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — City Manager David Timmons said Jefferson County staff has turned down his plan to support recreation in East Jefferson County, and that the city and county will now go their separate ways.

But County Administrator Philip Morley said he feels that the two entities can work together to solve the recreation shortfall.

On Jan. 6, Timmons presented a plan that he said would support Memorial Field, the Port Townsend Community Center — both county properties — and Mountain View Commons, which the city leases from the Port Townsend School District.

He proposed that the county use its bond capacity to secure money for the estimated repair of Mountain View, which could cost as much as $5 million.

The city would assume the debt service and reallocate the sales tax funds for support of Memorial Field and the Port Townsend Community Center beginning in 2017.

The city’s obligation to provide funds generated by a 2010 voter-approved sales tax increase to Memorial Field and the community center expires in June 2015.

An attempt to put a proposal for a joint city/county metropolitan parks district before voters was dropped last fall.

On Jan. 11, Timmons told the City Council that the county had rejected the plan and that it was now off the table.

That includes options for continued funding that he had delineated in the plan that included the creation of a special-purpose parks and facilities district, a 0.02 percent sales tax increase and a 10-cent special purpose levy, all of which would require voter approval.

On Thursday, Timmons said all city resources would be devoted to Mountain View and that the other two properties would become the county’s sole responsibility.

“We are done with our collaboration efforts,” Timmons said.

“We will focus our attention on Mountain View.

“[The county] is going to deal with finding their own solution.

Timmons is sending out a letter today to the Jefferson County commissioners and the metropolitan parks district steering committee task force announcing the city’s decision to withdraw the plan.

“The County has politely but firmly rejected the City Manager’s plan [and] has not proposed an alternative,” the letter says.

Timmons said he has not received anything in writing from the county about its rejection of the plan.

County Administrator Philip Morley said the city’s plan was “multifaceted” and that the county was not confident the city could assume the bond debt considering all of its other obligations.

“The county was not prepared to take on county debt by issuing councilmanic bonds for the city to repair Mountain View Commons, a facility owned by the Port Townsend School District,” Morley said.

Morley said the county offered several alternatives for repairing the community center, which was part of the city’s proposal, as well as funding for recreation programming and that the city has expressed no interest in the county’s proposals.

“The county will continue to manage the county-owned PT Community Center and Memorial Field and provide recreation programming within our financial means,” he said.

“We continue to work with community partners to help enhance recreation programming that the county can provide, and we remain open to continued cooperation with the city on park and recreation issues.”

A parent group has taken matters into its own hands and plans a brainstorming session from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday to find creative ways to keep recreation programs going.

The session will be at the Port Townsend Community Center, 620 Tyler St.

“There is a difference between sustaining certain programs and making them sustainable for their kids,” said Shelly Randall, one of the leaders of Parents Loudly Advocating for Youth, or PLAY.

“We hope that parents, grandparents and anyone else who is involved with the care of children will take the time out of their weekend to come out and advocate for youth,” Randall said.

“It will give us a chance to regroup from the effects of recent budget cuts and have conversations about what we want our parks and recreation system to be.”

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

Last modified: January 23. 2014 6:42PM
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