Port Angeles City Council creates panel to mull funding for Civic Field project

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — City Council members have formed a committee intent on generating a plan for funding improvements to Civic Field.

The idea for the committee grew out of Port Angeles City Council discussions about possible funding sources for the $3.5 million needed to replace Civic Field’s turf, which has historically been plagued by drainage issues that close the field between October and March.

The money would pay for an artificial turf with a built-in drainage system that would allow the field at Fourth and Race streets, used for school sports, to remain open year-round.

Council members Lee Whetham, Sissi Bruch and Deputy Mayor Patrick Downie volunteered for the committee on Tuesday.

“This is our field,” Whethan said. “We need to take the lead on this.”

Corey Delikat, the city’s parks and recreation director, said he and City Manager Dan McKeen also likely would be involved.

Whetham said Wednesday he would like to see the committee meet as soon as possible and develop a funding plan that would allow Civic Field to have its turf replaced by the end of next year.

“I would like to see this going to build next summer,” Whetham said.

Whetham said he would like to see other parties, such as the Port Angeles School District, which uses field for sporting events under an agreement with the city, be a part of the committee and potentially provide funding.

Any funding solution, Whetham said, should avoid an additional tax burden on the community’ taxpayers.

“I can’t get behind anything that would increase the tax burden,” Whetham said.

In May, Whetham called for a staff presentation to council members on potential funding for Civic Field improvements.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Delikat and city Chief Financial Officer Byron Olson presented several funding options, including issuing municipal bonds, seeking state grants and using city lodging tax money, collected through taxes on hotels and motels.

Depending upon the type of municipal bond and the time period over which the city repays them, Olson said the city could end up paying between about $372,000 and $486,000 per year over a 10-to-15-year period.

Using lodging tax funds is another option, Olson said, though the city might have difficult proving to the state that the funds will directly result in more people staying in Port Angeles hotels and motels.

This is a statewide requirement for lodging tax fund use, Olson explained.

“In my mind, I don’t see it as an eligible expenditure,” Mayor Dan Di Guilio said during Tuesday’s meeting.

Bruch said she sees lodging tax funds as an option, since the field catering to more sporting events by being open year-round could increase the number of people staying in town.

“We could start having some of these regional [tournaments] that could bring folks in,” Bruch said.

A $4 million bond to upgrade the field failed in 2012 with 56.9 percent of voters approving it, according to the Clallam County Auditor’s Office. Such bonds need a 60 percent majority to pass.

The bond also would have paid to replace the field’s failing water boiler and lighting, Delikat said.

The Port Angeles School District has pledged $60,000 to help the city replace the 36-year-old lights.

Delikat estimated replacement lights will cost $400,000 and has applied for a $200,000 state Recreation and Conservation Office Local Parks grant. The city would pay a 50-percent match.

About $50,000 has been budgeted to replace the boiler, a project Delikat said he expects to be done by the beginning of the football season this fall.

Delikat said he’s hopeful the committee organized Tuesday will ultimately lead to Civic Field improvements.

“We just need to keep the ball rolling on it,” Delikat said.

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Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: July 02. 2014 8:12PM
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