By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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During a work session preceding the regular meeting Tuesday, two commissioners directed Parks, Fair and Facilities Director Joel Winborn to proceed with a $166,264 upgrade to the facility at 261 S. Francis St. later this year.
No vote was taken. The money for the project had been budgeted.
Pending final approval from the Clallam County Veterans Association, the 5,152-square-foot building will be remodeled to maximize space for veterans and various ceremonies held in the 1945 facility, which is adjacent to the Olympic Peninsula YMCA and Erickson Playfield.
Winborn's proposal includes new windows, interior and exterior paint, floor coverings, kitchen improvements and upgrades to electrical and heating and air conditioning systems.
The wooden building got a new roof and plumbing system as part of an earlier upgrade that began in 2002.
Winborn said he met with members of the veterans association Jan. 9 to discuss needed improvements to the center.
“Based on our discussion and our meetings with them, I began to do some cost analysis as to what all this stuff would eventually cost,” he said.
Winborn said he sought professional opinions to come up with a realistic estimate.
“Actually, they're bumped up just a hair just to make sure that we don't miss anything,” he said.
The second floor of the veterans center has limited access because of a steep staircase.
“The 1,400 square feet above the center is usable, but there are lots of alterations that would need to be made in order to do that,” Winborn said.
Eventually, the 1,372-square-foot business annex just west of the center could be removed to provide parking space.
“The main parking is off of the alley,” Winborn said.
“When there are events scheduled there, they park across Francis Street in the city park parking lot.”
Commissioners Mike Chapman and Jim McEntire directed Winborn to proceed with the project.
Former fire hall
Commissioner Mike Doherty said he preferred applying for a historic preservation grant to improve the Port Angeles-owned former fire hall on Lincoln Street and possibly convert it into a veterans center.
“We have a chance to get some outside money to work on the fire hall, veterans center or not, possibly with the city,” Doherty said.
“It's got a unique history, it's got a unique architecture, and it's got a unique location being part of a civic historic district.”
The 1931 art deco building at 215 S. Lincoln St. is in the heart of a historic district that includes Veterans Memorial Park, Museum at the Carnegie and the historic Clallam County Courthouse.
“Sometimes, you have to look ahead and think about the best investment and ancillary things, like is Lincoln Street a more respectful, high-visibility situation for veterans vs. the Francis Street location, which is kind of hidden away in a neighborhood?” Doherty said.
“It's an older wooden-framed building. You can put cosmetics on a pig; it's still a pig. It's still an older building. So to me, those are reasons, plus I think there are many others, that make me want to look into this [state grant].”
Veterans coordinator Tammy Sullenger said association members discussed upgrades to the existing veterans center with the understanding that the “other building was off the table.”
Doherty pitched a phased approach to preserve the fire hall and possibly move the veterans center, which would allow the YMCA or another nonprofit to move into the existing veterans center.
“I am not comfortable moving forward for a grant application for a building that the county doesn't own,” Chapman said, repeating concerns he raised when the issue was discussed in a joint meeting with then-Mayor and current City Councilwoman Cherie Kidd last July.
“That's been my position all along. I'm not going to change my mind.”
'I don't want it'
Doherty said the city previously indicated “they're almost ready to give it to us.”
“I don't want it,” Chapman said.
“As one commissioner, I wouldn't accept it.”
Funding for the $166,264 improvements to the existing veterans center would come from a $300,000 match for a fire hall preservation grant that was not awarded.
“The fundamentals all seem to be kind of the same as what we had discussed previously,” McEntire said.
“My main concern is affordability.”
He added: “It sounds like we've got a plan that I think is pretty suitable for the existing veterans center.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.