Port Townsend Council clears city manager to prep proposed ballot measure election choices
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
Aliina Lahti, the volunteer manager for the ReCyclery in Port Townsend, works on a bike Tuesday afternoon. The ReCyclery is one of several nonprofits housed in Mountain View Commons, which is in need of renovation and is the subject of a potential ballot measure.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — The City Council has paved the way to consider a $4.1 million ballot measure, which would represent $1.8 million in new costs for taxpayers, to generate funds for repair and renovation of Mountain View Commons.

The council Monday night by a 6-1 vote authorized City Manager David Timmons to prepare descriptions of the choices of a November, February or April election.

“The council didn't commit to it but asked me to prepare the options,” Timmons said.

Mayor David King, Deputy Mayor Kris Nelson and council members Michelle Sandoval, Deborah Stinson, Bob Gray and Pamela Adams approved the direction to Timmons, while Councilwoman Catharine Robinson abstained.

“I can't go for this,” Robinson said. “We need more information.”

Mountain View Commons at 1925 Blaine St. houses the Port Townsend police station and city pool as well as several nonprofits including the food bank, the ReCyclery and the YMCA.

The aging complex, which is owned by the Port Townsend School District and leased by the city, requires repairs and upgrades.

The measure that would appear on the ballot would be for $4.1 million in general obligation bonds. The whole amount must be voter-approved to get a better bond rate, Timmons has said.

Most of the bonds would be paid back over 15 years through a combination of utility savings, grants and revenue from the Proposition 1 sales tax increase voters approved in 2010.

The amount that the public would fund through a property tax levy would be much less — about $1.8 million, which would be paid through a property tax increase of no more than 13 cents on $1,000 of valuation for 15 years, Timmons has said.

The additional property tax revenue would subsidize the third phase of the renovation.

The revenue would provide a bridge between the total cost of the third phase and funds available from other sources.

Sandoval, while casting a supporting vote, said she wanted to provide more information about the measure before announcing the possibility of a ballot measure, “but that horse has already left the barn,” she said.

“I don't see why this is on the agenda,” she said.

“We need to present our case and build passion for this in the community before we start talking about how much it will cost.”

The deadline for completing the measure for a November ballot is in August, while the February deadline is in November.

Timmons recommended waiting, saying it would allow more time for preparation of the measure and wouldn't compete with the crowded November ballot.

Gray disagreed, saying the matter could be discussed as part of this year's election and running a recreation-based tax increase during the summer would increase the chance of its passage.

“We have a lot of strong candidates running this year, and this could become part of the debate and the discussion,” he said.

The bond measure would require a 60 percent majority and include a number equal or greater to 40 percent of those voting in the last general election, Timmons said.

Sandoval said this creates a “numbers game” in which the February option would require fewer votes for passage.

Sandoval estimated there could be 8,000 votes cast in the city in the November election, requiring 4,800 in favor, while in February, a voter turnout of 2,000 would be required and could be carried by just 1,200 votes.

Whenever the ballot measure takes place, several council members underscored the need to clarify the message.

“We need to be very specific about what this will buy,” King said.

“People won't mind paying a little extra tax if they know what it will achieve for them.”

Council members Monday approved on a first reading a supplemental budget to allow emergency repairs at Mountain View Commons.

Emergency repairs include replacing the two boilers, the classroom roof and the air system.

The council will conduct the second reading and a final vote this coming Monday.

Before repairs can be done, the school district must approve a new lease for Mountain View Commons, which was once an elementary school.

The School Board is expected to consider the 15-year lease Monday.

The council has approved the lease, which specifies that the city would pay the district $60,000 annually for five years and then $1 per year for the next 10 years.

Emergency repairs would be funded through temporary financing, pending the results of an election on a bond measure.

The $4.1 million in bonds would include refinancing the emergency work to get a better interest rate, Timmons said.

It also would include energy retrofit measures at Mountain View and the Port Townsend Library as well as installing a master control system for energy management in all city facilities.

The energy measure would cost $2.3 million. Proposition 1 revenue and utility savings will cover the cost, along with grants the city has acquired.

The city has $800,000 in grants for the work: $500,000 from the state Department of Commerce and $300,000 from the state Department of Ecology's sulphur reduction program, which the city gets because it will switch from diesel to condensed propane in the boiler system.

What the city would ask of voters is that they “pay for the final elements to secure Mountain View for the next 15 years and beyond,” Timmons has said.

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

Last modified: June 17. 2014 7:58PM
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