By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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Return addresses on a majority of mail-back envelopes provided to the owners of 325 parcels within the district listed the wrong ZIP code and street number for the Clallam County Courthouse.
Property owners who have direct access to Lake Sutherland are deciding whether to renew a $50-per-parcel annual tax to fund milfoil control efforts for another 10 years.
Original ballots were mailed July 11. Ballots are due back Aug. 11.
A mistake on an Excel spreadsheet caused different ZIP codes and street numbers to randomly appear on return envelopes, Clallam County Noxious Weed Coordinator Cathy Lucero said.
Lucero took responsibility for the error.
“Certainly it was horrifying to me,” she said Wednesday.
When the mistake was discovered July 14, a second set of ballot packets were mailed to those who had not dropped off a ballot at the courthouse, along with an explanation of the error, Lucero said.
“There was just nothing more I could do,” she added.
Lucero emphasized that those who return a duplicate ballot would be counted only once, as all ballots are checked against a master sheet.
Ballots must be received in the mail or hand-delivered to the commissioners’ office in Suite 4 of the courthouse at 223 E. Fourth St. by the close of business Aug. 11.
Instructions were provided in the ballot packets.
County commissioners voted 3-0 to allow a vote to renew the management district after nine property owners expressed overwhelming support in a public hearing July 8.
In that hearing, Lucero said past efforts to remove the underwater plant from the lake west of Port Angeles have been successful, but more control is needed to prevent the aggressive species from reinfesting the 300-acre lake.
Lucero said the vote is being handled outside of the purview of the Clallam County Auditor’s Office, which handles all other elections in the county, because of cost.
“This was set up so it was inexpensive and regulation-free but represented the will of the people,” Lucero said in earlier interview.
Ballots will be tabulated at 1 p.m. Aug. 12 in the commissioners’ office.
A representative of the Auditor’s Office and commissioners staff will be on hand, Lucero said.
Paul Breitbach, who has opposed the management district since its 2004 inception, criticized the way the election is being handled.
“My personal opinion is the high school put out more effort in the vote for homecoming queen than they did on this,” he said.
“I think it’s just a poor excuse for an election.”
Mike Price, a member of the district steering committee, said he explained the mishap to about two dozen neighbors, and “nobody seemed to be upset about it.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.