Clallam approves spending authority for infrastructure project

Clallam administrator Jim Jones

Clallam administrator Jim Jones

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County commissioners have approved a $901,200 budget emergency for infrastructure needed to redevelop the Mount Angeles View neighborhood.

The Opportunity Fund grant to the Peninsula Housing Authority would be used exclusively for infrastructure in the first phase of a major overhaul for the family housing complex in Port Angeles.

The long-planned, $18.2 million Mount Angeles View Phase 1 redevelopment and lot site development project will replace 33 affordable housing units with 63 new units.

It will realign three city streets within the 18-acre complex and provide infrastructure for a larger Boys &Girls Club, according to the grant application.

“We have a demand in this community for affordable housing,” Peninsula Housing Authority Executive Director Kay Kassinger told commissioners Tuesday.

“We always have and we always will.”

Commissioners voted 3-0 Tuesday to approve the spending authority for the Opportunity Fund grant and six other debatable budget emergencies.

Budget emergencies amend the county budget to allow future spending to occur. They do not represent final approval.

“This is just a budget authority thing,” County Administrator Jim Jones said.

In addition to a contract with the Peninsula Housing Authority and a board-approved resolution, the Opportunity Fund grant is contingent on the city of Port Angeles adding the Mount Angeles View project to its comprehensive plan.

Several speakers who testified in a public hearing before the vote complained that the posted agenda item said the grant would be used for the construction of a Boys &Girls Club.

Several complained that the Peninsula Daily News repeated the error in a Sunday story advancing government meetings.

“There’s been some misinformation,” said Alan Barnard, chair of the Opportunity Fund Advisory Board, which voted unanimously to recommend the grant Jan. 5.

“This is not to build the building for the Boys &Girls Club, or to demolish any buildings or anything else that’s been bantered around.

“This is for site preparation, grading, stormwater remediation, utilities servicing, curb, gutter, sidewalks, water, sewer, power and communications infrastructure.”

The grant would provide infrastructure for future phases of the Mount Angeles View project, Barnard said.

“This is like the linchpin from the beginning to allow the rest to happen,” Barnard said.

Board Chairman Mark Ozias apologized to the audience for the language that appeared on the agenda.

“I did not catch that in my agenda review last week and I should have,” Ozias said. “So I apologize.”

The Opportunity Fund is a portion of state sales tax that supports infrastructure and economic development in rural counties.

Barnard said the proposal would create jobs, support working families, add an emergency shelter and help facilitate a larger Boys &Girls Club center in Port Angeles.

Kassinger said the new townhouses and apartments planned for Mount Angeles View will help alleviate a community housing shortage.

“We carry at our properties anywhere from 200 to 400 people on our wait list, depending on which property it is and where it’s located,” Kassinger told commissioners.

“Our family public housing, which is the Mount Angeles View, has had a wait list for a one-bedroom unit that has over 300 people on it right now.”

The housing authority has already invested $500,000 in Phase 1 redevelopment and lot site improvements, she added.

Expansion of the Mount Angeles View complex, which has been in the works since 2009, will eventually increase the number of affordable housing units from 100 to 232, Kassinger said.

In a Tuesday interview, Kassinger said the housing authority plans to begin demolishing the 33 existing units in June. The 63 new units will be occupied by the end of next year, she said.

All but two of the families living in the old units have moved to other properties, Kassinger said.

Kassinger added that the Peninsula Housing Authority has been trying “from the very beginning” to recycle the existing buildings, which were built in 1942.

“We are reaching out to any organization that might have an interest in them, and eventually we’ll publish a request for proposals so we can find out the true interest of the community,” Kassinger told commissioners.

Steve Zenovic, a Port Angeles engineer who generated the estimate for the infrastructure costs, said the Opportunity Fund grant is “one small element” of the total project.

“We’re not talking about something that is exclusively for the Boys &Girls Club by any stretch of the imagination,” Zenovic told the board.

“Yes, it supports the Boys &Girls Club, but it’s part of a much bigger element of our community.”

Terry Weed, chairman of the Peninsula Housing Authority board, encouraged commissioners to approve the budget emergency as a “placeholder” for future action.

Weed added that the project would support short-term construction jobs and provide expanded child care for working parents.

“It just makes for a stronger community, and that’s what our goal is,” Weed said.

The Peninsula Housing Authority will use low-income housing tax credits to cover $11.7 million of the total cost of Phase 1 redevelopment and lot site development, according to the grant application.

Other funding sources include the state Department of Commerce ($3 million), city of Port Angeles ($1.2 million) and housing authority itself ($1 million).

Commissioners will discuss the merits of the project in a yet-t0-be-scheduled meeting before considering the Opportunity Fund grant.

All three commissioners expressed support for the project in a Feb. 6 work session.

“There’s no doubt that housing right now is an issue,” Commissioner Randy Johnson said at that meeting.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

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