By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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PORT ANGELES -- Port Angeles is ready for change, City Manager Kent Myers says.
"I keep hearing the term 'languishing,'" Myers said in a wide-ranging address at the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Monday.
"There is kind of a lack of consensus as far as a vision for the community."
In his first major talk since assuming the top staff position at City Hall in January, Myers laid out his vision for the future and offered his initial impressions of the city while speaking to a capacity crowd in the upstairs ballroom of the Port Angeles CrabHouse Restaurant.
After the address, he was asked if the city sees itself paying for the cleanup of the contaminated site of the former Rayonier Inc. pulp mill at the foot of Ennis Street.
"No," Myers said.
He said the cleanup will be paid for by Rayonier Inc. and the state of Washington.
"At this point, we don't have any money in our budget for the cleanup, and I don't anticipate us putting in money in our budget for the cleanup," he said.
As it stands, if the Harbor-Works Public Development Authority acquires the property, it will become a liable party for the cleanup.
Harbor-Works' only sources of funds are the city and the Port of Port Angeles.
In other mill cleanup news, Myers was asked about the city's plans for the cleanup of the KPly plywood mill site on Marine Drive.
He said a prospective buyer failed to meet financing deadlines, and the Port of Port Angeles is taking back the 19-acre site.
"We want to get that property cleaned up," Myers said.
"It's an eyesore."
Myers was the city manager in Hot Springs, Ark., for 14 years before moving to Port Angeles with his wife, Diane, about three months ago.
His first day as Port Angeles city manager was Jan. 12.
"It's been a busy couple of months," Myers said.
"I realized, as a new kid on the block, I don't have all the answers."
To get a pulse of the community, Myers said he has spent a lot of time listening and learning.
He said Port Angeles has some key assets, such as its location, outdoor activities, walkability, solid facilities, police and fire services, low crime rate and quality members of the City Council and city staff.
"We really feel like this community has a lot of potential, and I'm talking about the next five to 10 years," Myers said.
Before the city can reach that potential, Myers said, Port Angeles needs to "get a handle" on its finances and compwlete projects like The Gateway transit center and pavilion at Front and Lincoln streets.
To that end, Myers said buses will begin using the $14.7 million downtown depot next Monday, but the nearby pavilion still has "engineering issues," namely a crack in a horizontal concrete beam.
The parking area underneath the pavilion will remain closed until repair is approved and made. He said it will probably take between 30 and 60 days.
"That's kind of a good-news, bad-news story," Myers said of The Gateway.
There are 169 parking spaces at the complex.
Downtown parking is one of Myers' goals.
Others include a proposed National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration center in Port Angeles, saving William Shore Memorial Pool, keeping Kenmore Air flying to Port Angeles and marketing Port Angeles to Twilight visitors.
Myers said the city intends to implement some ideas generated last month by a group of American Institute of Architects consultants. A written report from the group is due in late May, Myers said.
Port Angeles officials need to be more transparent, he said.
"We're getting a lot of requests from the community for public records," Myers said.
"We've basically got to open the doors at City Hall."
In a City Council retreat two weeks from now, Myers and the council members will discuss city sales tax revenue, which is down 15 percent this year, he said.
To maximize the city's potential, Myers said, Port Angeles needs to improve its partnerships with tribal governments, county government and the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Myers said the city needs to capitalize on its strong citizen participation.
He encouraged residents to use the city's Web site, www.cityofpa.us, to correspond with him and other city officials.
"There is somewhat of a lack of trust in city government," he said.
"I think we have a lot of rebuilding to do with our citizens."
Myers also said he wants to work on preserving the quality of life in Port Angeles, improving the waterfront by developing the Rayonier mill site, marketing the Elwha River dam-removal project and finding a new tenant for the Gottschalks store downtown.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-417-3537 or at email@example.com.