Port Townsend council looks at possible annexation into fire district

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend City Council discussed a possible ballot measure proposing the city be annexed into the East Jefferson Fire-Rescue district.

“Currently, the City Council operates only in an advisory capacity,” said City Manager David Timmons after Monday’s meeting. “They do not have a veto, or any power to influence an outcome.”

“This annexation would give Port Townsend two commissioners to represent the city’s interests on a five-member board.”

A proposed measure is expected to be on a ballot in either August or November.

The public will be apprised of proposed annexation details during three community meetings to be scheduled in March and April.

“The first meeting would discuss the community’s public safety priorities and needs,” Timmons said.

“The second meeting will focus on the city’s finances and how annexation will impact not only the city’s finances, but the taxpayers as well.

“The third meeting will explain choices and options for the general fund dollars previously allocated for Fire that could be reserved or allocated to address community priorities,” he said.

Timmons said the system is complicated, and it’s sometimes difficult to understand where the money goes.

“As a taxpayer, I want to know what this annexation means to me and what am I going to get out of it,” he said.

If voters approve annexation this summer or fall, the existing Interlocal Agreement would continue through 2019 and tax collections would not begin until 2020.

In other action, the council unanimously adopted a 2018 State Legislative Agenda.

Items of specific interest to the council are funding of mental health and social services, addressing the housing trust fund, economic development focusing on business development and broadband, shared resources from liquor and marijuana revenues and fully funding the Public Works Trust Fund.

Council members discussed higher education and the desire to have more than one college in the area.

“As an underserved county, we are lobbying for additional colleges and expanded higher education opportunities. Right now, only Peninsula College can service this area,” Councilwoman Michelle Sandoval said.

“We got $4 million from State Parks and the Community College Capital Fund,” Sandoval said.

“The plan had been this was a college center. It was not for just Peninsula College. That has not been achieved at all. There’s a wonderful, beautiful building out there that can be used to a much greater extent,” she said.

“I feel we’re hamstrung.”

After more discussion, the council added language to the agenda that “supports a change that would allow more than one community college to serve East Jefferson County or incentivize the existing community college in an area to cooperate with other higher education programs and institutions.”

In other business, the council unanimously approved a city manager transition plan that authorizes the negotiation of an employment contract extension for Timmons through June 30, 2019.

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Jeannie McMacken is a freelance writer and photographer living in Port Townsend.

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