Clallam County considers use of historic preservation funds

Official: About $130,000 might remain

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County commissioners are considering how much of the recently discovered historic preservation funds, which the county had collected for 15 years, should be used for internal purposes.

Mark Lane, Clallam County chief financial officer, told commissioners during a work session last Monday that after reviewing expenses, the county might have only about $130,000 left of the $220,000 that he said the county might have had in historic preservation money during a work session last month.

The county has been collecting $1 per document recorded in the Auditor’s Office since the law was approved in 2005 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.

Lane — the county’s first chief financial officer, who has been on the job for three months — began looking into the funding stream at the request of Commissioner Mark Ozias, who said the executive director of Sequim Museum and Arts Center, Judy Reandeau Stipe, had been asking him for “several years” about how museums could access the funding.

Ozias suggested last Monday that the county should consider maintaining a balance that could be used for internal projects.

“As I’ve been thinking about this it makes a certain amount of sense to maintain the ability to utilize some of these funds internally,” Ozias said.

“Given the fact that we’ve got a fund balance and an ongoing revenue stream, there’s certainly the potential to be more creative in thinking about how to deploy this.”

Civil Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Elizabeth Stanley told commissioners she sought to find regulations on what is considered “historic preservation,” but was unable to do so.

She said officials at the Municipal Research and Services Center said the law is so unclear that they resorted to Googling the terms in the law.

“They said use the plain language … that county commissioners have the discretion to promote historical preservation or historic programs,” she said.

Lane said he identified two projects that the county spent General Fund dollars on that could be considered uses of the historic preservation funds.

That includes the 2010 remodel of the historic section of the Courthouse and improvements at the Salt Creek bunker site.

“We could conduct a forensic audit going back to 2005,” Lane said. “Rather than go that approach, I took the approach of identifying our major historic preservation initiatives.”

Lane suggested the county set a minimum reserve for the preservation funds.

The county has known about the funding for several years.

Ozias said the county needs to determine its internal needs before designing a process to disperse the funds for historic preservation projects in the community.

There was discussion about whether the Heritage Advisory Committee could be involved in the process for dispersing funds into the community, but Ozias said he wants to hear about county needs first.

He said it might be possible that the county’s Parks, Fair and Facilities Department could easily find historic preservation projects.

“If that’s the case, then we would at least be forced to question: do we want to allocate these internally as we have been — with better tracking — or do we want to intentionally deploy some of the dollars into the community,” Ozias said.

He said that when a public process is developed, the county needs to recognize it would only be looking at dispersing up to $15,000 per year.

“We want to develop a process that’s not overly onerous,” he said.


Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at

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