Clallam County parks to begin annual fee increases based on inflation

Annual bumps tied to Consumer Price Index

PORT ANGELES — The county’s Parks, Fair and Facilities Department will begin updating its fees annually based on the Consumer Price Index, which means some years may not see any increase, director Don Crawford told the commissioners last week.

“This concept does not change how fees are enacted,” he told commissioners last Tuesday.

“The process stays the same. The only thing this does is strategizes how we get to the point where we make recommendations to the board so you can follow the current circumstance to get things done.”

Crawford said when he began reviewing the department’s fees earlier this year, he found some hadn’t been adjusted since 2011, and before last year, some hadn’t been adjusted since 2006.

“So when you have a situation where there’s a lot of disjointed fee management, you end up having essentially discounts,” he said. “You’re trying to operate in 2022 with 2011 revenue.”

“What we are actively working on is to create a departmental master fee schedule. We get all the fees in one place and then, in addition to that, we put the last time they were updated so that we know exactly where we are,” Crawford said.

A concept he came up with is using the Consumer Price Index on an annual basis to determine what fee increase recommendations the parks and recreation department would bring to the commissioners for approval, he said.

That will allow the department to have very small, incremental increases that are very digestible, Crawford said.

“Right now, when I come before you over the course of the next couple of months to update some things, when you go from 2011 numbers to 2022 numbers, it’s going to be big numbers and none of us want to do that to the public.

“The important thing is, by using the CPI, there may be years where we don’t have an increase. It all depends on what the economy is doing,” he said.

Crawford said this process will ensure the county’s fees keep pace with its operating costs and maintain closer parity with the county’s peer groups.

“Right now we are significantly cheaper than our peers in the state and federal campgrounds and day use areas. And while that is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s bad enough that we really are underpricing ourselves,” he said.

Commissioner Bill Peach said: “I recall a conversation the commissioners had a few years ago dealing with the fees for camping. There was a remark from private industry that the county had not kept pace with the market.

“The county actually was undercutting their business on price. So I appreciate the approach you are taking. Let’s be fair and let’s not let us get so far apart from where the market is that we are impairing them, private industry.”

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Reporter Brian Gawley can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at brian.gawley@soundpublishing.com.

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