By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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Longtime Sequim resident and political leader Pat Johansen was given authority by the City Council on Monday night to look at how it might be possible to turn the 32-year-old facility into a more modern meeting venue.
“Let’s define what the community wants and then bring that back to you,” Johansen told the council.
“I just hope we all survive to see it done.”
A 2012 effort to turn the 8,000-square-foot center into a more desirable meeting hall designed by Councilman Ken Hays, who was mayor at the time, stalled.
But the effort remains one of the council’s primary goals.
“I would get stopped on the street, and people would say, ‘Oh, isn’t this wonderful we’re going to do something with Guy Cole?’ ” Johansen said of support she heard from the community then.
The convention center was built by the Lions Club in honor of member Guy Cole, former owner of Cole’s Jewelry, and donated to the city in 1982.
Johansen said her attention turned back to the Guy Cole center after having a hard time finding a venue for an event she planned last fall.
“That was my needs assessment, folks,” she said.
Now, she will speak with users and operators of convention centers in other cities to determine what features a new Guy Cole center may need.
City Manager Steve Burkett said the “revitalization” effort that began in 2012 came with cost estimates that ranged from $200,000 to $1.6 million.
Johansen said the scope of the remodel increased when the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe considered helping rebuild the convention center before the tribe moved on to upgrade its facilities at the Cedars at Dungeness golf course.
“We did get diverted a little when the tribe expressed its interest and willingness to move forward in a big way on the effort,” she said.
“Then they made other plans.”
Johansen also will look into potential grants to fund the remodel and begin to organize a fundraising campaign.
She added that the North Peninsula Builders Association has expressed support for the project.
She is planning a meeting in June for the community to meet and talk about the building’s future.
Burkett said the city will look into basic estimates of how much a remodel of the building would cost to determine whether that could be made up with user fees.
“Obviously we’re not in it to make it a source of revenue for the city,” Burkett said. “But we certainly want to cover our costs.”
Council members were largely quiet on the proposal, though Councilman Ted Miller did ask whether Johansen would be reimbursed costs she expends in her needs assessment.
Burkett said that was the plan.
Johansen noted that the Olympic View Community Foundation has pledged to lend office support to the effort in the forms of sending out correspondence, filing grant paperwork and accounting for grant funds.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.