Clallam County considers heritage funds distribution

PORT ANGELES — The Clallam County Heritage Advisory Board is considering how best to disperse the recently discovered historic preservation funds that county officials said they had not known had been collected for 15 years.

On Monday, the board began tackling how it should deal with the approximately $130,000 currently available for grants, knowing that the fund only grows by about $15,000 each year.

Board member Larry Lang suggested the board consider awarding $50,000 in the first year, $40,000 in the second year, $30,000 in the third year and a $20,000 in the following years until the fund is depleted to about $15,000.

Lang emphasized throughout the meeting that there’s no way to know yet how much of a demand there will be for the funds until the board begins accepting applications.

“There’s various scenarios and there’s no way to know until we get applications,” he said.

Still deciding

The board did not reach a decision Monday, but agreed to bring the topic up again at its Dec. 2 meeting.

The Board of County Commissioners learned earlier this year that the county has been collecting $1 per document recorded in the Auditor’s Office since the state approved a law in 2005, which allows commissioners to use the funds at their discretion to promote historic preservation and historical programs.

That has amounted to about $15,000 each year.

The county has determined that it has already spent about $90,000 of the $220,000 that has been collected since 2005, leaving $130,000 that can potentially be awarded in grants.

Recommendations

The Heritage Advisory Board will make recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners as to how the money should be spent, but it is the county commissioners who have the final say.

Former County Commissioner and Heritage Advisory Board member Mike Doherty cautioned the board against spending the bulk of the funds in the first two or three years.

“I would favor at most $25,000,” Doherty said. “It’s so important to set a precedent that we’re stingy, so they aren’t dreaming really big and we say no.”

The board did not settle on how it should split the available funds each year.

There was discussion about whether there should be a large award and multiple smaller awards.

Doherty and others said they would like to see those who apply for a grant to also provide some sort of match.

“A match at some level shows you … have some skin in the game,” Doherty said. “It makes the applicant think twice before doing the paperwork, instead of thinking of it as free money.”

Spirit of intent

Judy Reandeau Stipe, director of Sequim Museum and Arts Center and board member, said that however the money is spent, it should be spent with the intent in which the law was written, not on posters and brochures.

She said there should be a focus on digitizing records, picture preservation and capital improvements.

“The intent was to preserve things,” Stipe said. “The bricks and mortar ought to take precedence over training and paper. We need to look a little harder at something that’s permanent.”

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsula dailynews.com.

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