PORT ANGELES — The Clallam County commissioners are exploring funding options as the Quillayute Valley Park and Recreation District looks to make much-needed repairs at the Forks Aquatic Center.
The district has the money to do the work, but due to conflicting legal opinions between the state Attorney General’s Office and the district’s bond council, the district is unable to touch its nearly $1 million in timber sales revenue.
“We’ve tried really hard to keep it operational and it’s hard to ask for money when we have $900,000 sitting in the Treasurer’s Office,” said Quillayute Valley Park and Recreation District Chair Nedra Reed.
Civil Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Elizabeth Stanley said she has only seen the legal opinion from the Attorney General’s Office and that she would like to see the opinion from the district’s bond council before determining the district can’t access the money and before asking the Attorney General’s Office to take another look at the opinion.
“I want to see the opinion before we commit to this concept that they are totally conflicting,” Stanley said.
Clallam County Commissioner Mark Ozias said the county needs to learn more about the situation, but suggested that the Opportunity Fund could be a resource if the district is unable to access its money.
“We want to do a little more thorough analysis to see if we have more leverage or flexibility to access those funds,” Ozias said. “If we are able to access them and we find that is a possibility … that’s the easy answer. But if not, how can we best fund or be a partner in funding these repairs so it does not get worse?”
Ozias said he was unsure of the cash flow in the Opportunity Fund, but he doesn’t believe there would be an issue that would prevent the county from using the Opportunity Fund.
Reed has estimated that it would cost about $125,000 to repair the roof, heat pumps and HVAC system, but because the district does not have a maintenance and operation levy, it is not allowed to use timber revenue to maintain the building.
Reed has said the building has a number of issues that need to be addressed. She said it could cost up to $32,000 to repair the HVAC system and $60,000 for the roof and sides of the building. She said it could cost another $18,000 for a heat pump.
She told commissioners the building has “significant” leaks that she is concerned will continue to cause damage in the building. She said the district has been unable to get parts for the two water fountains in the building too, so the fitness center operator provides bottled water for people.
Reed said the district has close to $1 million in an investment account and that in 2023, when the bonds are paid off, that money will be available to use for repairs, but she fears waiting will lead to the building deteriorating further.
The issue stems from two conflicting interpretations of state law.
The Quillayute Valley Park and Recreation District’s bond council had issued an opinion that the district can use the timber tax dollars for capital improvements.
The state Attorney General’s Office issued a conflicting opinion, Reed said. That opinion was that the district could not use timber taxes to repay a $255,000 loan from Clallam County that was used to buy rental houses and that timber tax revenues can only be used to pay debt services related to capital bonds.
The Attorney General’s Office issued that opinion in 2013 when then-Treasurer Selinda Barkhuis asked the Board of County Commissioners to consider having the district repay the loan with timber taxes.
Following that opinion, the commissioners forgave the loan instead of waiting until 2023 when the money would be available.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].