Advisory board told to develop process for historic preservation funds

PORT ANGELES — The Clallam County commissioners have directed the county’s Historic Advisory Board to draft a process for recommending uses for the recently discovered historic preservation funds the county has been collecting since 2005.

Commissioner Randy Johnson suggested the Board of County Commissioners should listen to members of the Historic Advisory Board as the process is developed and that the money should be used to benefit organizations in the community.

“My first recommendation is the Heritage Advisory Board is perfect for this as far as allocating,” Johnson said.

“These people are knowledgeable, they understand what goes on in this specific field, they know all the ins and outs and all of those other good things.”

Johnson said the county should have consistent funding every year and that he believes the money should be allocated outside of the county government.

In April, county Chief Financial Officer Mark Lane told commissioners that for about 15 years the county had been collecting $1 per document recorded in the auditor’s office to be used at the discretion of the commissioners to promote historic preservation and historical programs. That has amounted to about $15,000 each year.

The county has collected $221,612 since 2005, $91,489 of which officials now say has already been spent on historic preservation projects on county property.

Interim Administrator Rich Sill said the county has identified another potential use of those funds: spending upward of $70,000 to make repairs to the county’s law library.

Sill said the county already has had to shore up the floor in the library and suggested there may be better places for the library than in the historic courthouse.

He also said that many of the books in the library are duplicates or outdated. He estimated about half of the books could be removed from the library, which would remove about half of the weight load that’s causing the problems.

“We need to offload those books immediately,” Sill said.

If the county uses $70,000 out of the historic preservation money, the money that has accumulated would be reduced to about $60,000.

Johnson said it won’t be known for about three or four months whether the county will use that $70,000.

“It sounds like where your thinking is currently is that certainly all future revenue from this fund be deployed into the community,” Commissioner Mark Ozias said.

“The existing fund balance, it makes sense to just make sure we understand what the historic courthouse needs are going to be … and then we’ll know how much of that fund we’ll be able to deploy in addition to the annual revenue.”

Judy Reandeau Stipe, executive director of the Sequim Museum & Arts Center, told county officials about the funding several years ago.

She has said that there should be a reserve in the fund and that the money should be dispersed into the community.

“The intent of the money, in the House Bill, was to spread it through your county,” she said.

“As it stands now since 2005 it has stayed right here.”

She said capital projects may only come once every five to 10 years and that it may need a couple years’ worth of funding.

Ozias focused many of his comments on the need to develop a good process for spending the funds.

“What’s important to me is to take the small amount of time necessary to put a good process in place that the Heritage Advisory Board can use year after year,” Ozias said. “I think it’s well worth taking that time.”

Ozias said that it is “the clear intent of this board to put as much of those funds that exist currently and future dollars out into the community.”

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected] dailynews.com.

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