Future of Port Townsend's Mountain View Commons to be discussed tonight
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Sylvia Heroldand Chuck Ervin perform on the air at KPTZ-FM. The nonprofit radio station is one of the tenants of Mountain View Commons that will meet with the city of Port Townsend today. -- Photo by Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Tenants of Mountain View Commons can hear options for the future of the building at a meeting tonight.

What happens next concerning the building at 1919 Blaine St., which is owned by the Port Townsend School District and operated by the city of Port Townsend, will be determined by how much it will take to renovate and repair the facility, city officials say.

The city and school district hammered out a 35-year lease agreement earlier this year, but city officials have declined to finalize the lease, in which the city is responsible for improvements, until an accurate estimate for the repairs is determined.

“We need to know what it will take to bring the building back from years of deferred maintenance,” said Rick Sepler, the city's development services director.

“When you buy a used car, you kick the tires, put it on the lift and find out what it's going to get it running again.”

If estimated costs are too high, then city officials will consider no longer leasing the building and finding new homes for the Port Townsend Police Department station.

Several nonprofits that now are tenants also would have to relocate.

Tonight's meeting — which will be at 6:30 p.m. at the Cotton Building, 607 Water St. — will present options for the building and has invited all of the tenants to hear the presentation and ask questions.

The purpose of the meeting is to let the tenants know of the city's plans while preventing the spread of rumors, Sepler said.

“Some people have already come up to us and asked if we close the facility if there will be another city building to where they can move,” he said.

“Right now we won't have to move, so we want to correct any misinformation, but we don't have the answers as to exactly how much will be needed to bring [Mountain View] back.”

The 60-year-old 51,644 square foot facility has been leased by the city for five years.

It was operated as an elementary school from 1963 to 2009 before the school district closed it and leased the campus to the city.

The tenants in the building are the Port Townsend Police Department, the Port Townsend Food Bank, the YMCA, municipal pool, the Jefferson County office of the American Red Cross of the Olympic Peninsula, KPTZ-91.9 FM radio station, Working Image and the Recyclery.

Mountain View also is the temporary home of the Port Townsend Library, which is not expected to move into its permanent location until mid-2014, Sepler said.

If the building cannot be repaired, the city would need to build a new police station.

That could cost $5 million. The city doesn't have the money, Sepler said.

While a police station could operate out of another location, a pool could not.

Sepler said that most of the tenants pay little or no rent in exchange for services.

For example, the Red Cross runs programs that benefit the city and KPTZ can provide emergency communications services in case of a disaster.

The goal is to get enough money back that covers the cost of maintenance and repairs, Sepler said.

Maintaining the building costs about $300,000 a year.

That is only a baseline since both the heating system and the roof need repair, he said.

The building is heated by a single boiler that has no thermostatic controls. Changing the temperature requires removing a panel and turning the boiler on or off with a wrench.

Implementing a new heating system would save the city $90,000 a year in maintenance and labor costs, Sepler said.

The cost of replacing the heating system is about $1.7 million.

Some of the costs would be covered by a $500,000 U.S. Department of Commerce grant as long as construction begins by the middle of 2015.

A long-term lease is necessary to complete the Commerce grant.

The present lease of the former Mountain View School campus, for which the city pays $68,178 a year, expires in 2014.

The proposed 35-year agreement, which has an optional 15-year extension, would maintain the same rent with a small consumer price index adjustment.

Under the terms of the propsed lease, the school district will not collect the annual rent during the loan payback period which is expected to be between 12 to 15 years.

The City Council has approved a draft memorandum of understanding that will serve as the basis for a long-term lease.

The extent of needed roof repairs was discovered only earlier this month so there has been no time to get an estimate, but Sepler said that a “kick the tires” cost would be about $200,000 or $300,000.

“The roof needed repair sooner than when we expected,” Sepler said.

“So we need to get our arms around the total cost to fix the building and come back with an estimate, then decide how to go forward.

“We need to go into this with our eyes wide open.”

That determination will be made sometime in October, Sepler said.

The school district “has been great” and is not pressing the city to sign the lease until all the data is gathered, he said.

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

Last modified: September 29. 2013 6:16PM
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