PORT TOWNSEND — At 2:45 p.m. each school day, Port Townsend Police Chief Conner Daily looks out his window and watches children swarm out of a bus onto the lawn of the Mountain View Commons and run to the YMCA to swim in the pool or play ball in the gym.
“It’s absolutely awesome to see them here,” said Daily, whose office and department shares a space next to the YMCA. “This has worked out absolutely amazing.
“Police departments nationwide are working as standalone entities in their own building, yet here we are as one of many occupants in a great public space.
“If you want to define ‘community oriented policing,’ come down and take a look at this because this is it.”
Port Townsend Police Sgt. Ed Green said the children see officers almost daily as they congregate in the pool and gym area at the corner of Blaine and Walker streets.
“And they aren’t afraid of us,” Green said.
In fact, everyone who uses the location gets much more time to speak with the police in a role other than when they intervene in a crisis.
“The community is getting to see us on regular basis and speak with us and interact with us when not in a bad situation,” Green said. “So far, this has worked out great, and I have a feeling it is only going to get better.”
The police share the location with the city parks offices, city maintenance staff, Port Townsend Food Bank, YMCA and a radio station being developed in Port Townsend.
“We are also in talks with the farmers market to potentially relocated, and also with the Red Cross and Olympic Area Agency on Aging about potentially moving in here,” said Port Townsend City Manager David Timmons.
“So far, yeah, I would say this has worked out how we were hoping.
“There was obviously the demand for a space like this and it’s much better than the alternative.”
The alternative was potentially an abandoned school building.
Closed school in June
The Port Townsend School District, facing declining enrollment and rising operating costs, closed Mountain View Elementary School in June.
On Aug. 9, in a unanimous decision, the School Board leased the Mountain View Elementary School campus to the city of Port Townsend.
The place now is known as the Mountain View Commons.
“It’s one of those things where you would rather use it than have it sitting there empty,” Timmons said.
“Getting it utilized and having it as a community center for community activity is great.”
The Port Townsend Food Bank has reported a steady increase in clients since its move to the new location in November.
Port Townsend Food Bank Assistant Director Shirley Moss called the location an “absolute upgrade” from its former site at 731 W. Park Ave., saying that the easy access to bus routes has increased traffic.
“Plus, at the campus here the people can wait in line inside and stay warm and dry,” she said. “It’s been great.”
Timmons also said there was potential for the gym at the campus to be used more in the wake of Jefferson County budget cuts that have closed the local recreation center.
“It’s a gym that is there and the intent is for the community to use it,” Timmons said.
“So yeah, it will be something to look at.”
Daily said he welcomes the growth.
“I absolutely love it,” he said. “I love having everyone here working around us and with us.
“And it’s true that this is only going to get better.”
________Reporter Erik Hidle can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected]