PORT ANGELES — Clallam County will develop a COVID-19 recovery plan with the help of a steering committee, commissioners said.
Commissioner Mark Ozias proposed Monday a “Clallam Cares” recovery plan that would take advantage of state and federal coronavirus relief and build a more resilient future.
“We’ve got an opportunity not just to try and plug some holes in the dike, but potentially really advance ourselves and to build a more resilient and more sustainable, more economically healthy community moving forward,” Ozias said.
Ozias drafted a three-page memo that maps out the COVID-19 landscape, lists recovery programs offered by local governments and nonprofits, identifies needs and opportunities, and proposes the makeup of a steering committee.
“I think we might be able to make some really significant gains beyond what we would be able to do under normal times, because these are not normal times,” Ozias said.
“Rising right to the top of the list, for me, anyway, is rural broadband.”
Ozias said there were “a lot of reasons” to make investments in rural broadband, including the increased use of telemedicine, distance learning and remote working during COVID-19.
Other opportunities exist in affordable housing, agriculture and local food systems, education, workforce training and public health, Ozias said.
He suggested a steering committee to lead the Clallam Cares recovery effort.
“I think that it would be really meaningful for our community, and it would be a real confidence-builder — and help make sure that we’re all doing as good a job as possible of working together — if the county were to provide some overarching guidance and leadership to help move us forward,” Ozias said.
The committee as proposed would include one county commissioner and one representative from the Port Angeles, Sequim and Forks city councils.
It would have representatives from the Lower Elwha, Jamestown S’Klallam, Quileute and Makah tribes, Port of Port Angeles, Clallam County Economic Development Council, North Olympic Development Council, Washington State University Extension, Olympic Community Action Programs and the Clallam County Public Utility District.
“I’m sure there are others out there,” Ozias said.
No commissioner objected to the Clallam Cares recovery plan or proposed steering committee Monday.
Commissioner Bill Peach said it would be “very helpful” to identify performance metrics to help the committee stay on track.
“I’m wondering if there’s maybe a need for just general public participation,” Peach said in the work session.
“Other than that, I think you’ve got a really good start for a working document.”
Commissioner Randy Johnson said the proposal “certainly makes a lot of sense.”
“It’s the beginning step that is, I believe, very necessary, both short term and, I think, longer term,” Johnson said.
Johnson questioned how the committee would interface with the county’s Emergency Operations Center, which is handling the county’s COVID-19 response.
Ozias said he would reach out to Health Officer Dr. Allison Unthank and Undersheriff Ron Cameron before presenting a second iteration of his proposal.
Johnson said the steering committee would need to be flexible and respond quickly.
“I know there are gaps out there,” Johnson said.
“I think we all do. We just don’t know where they are right now.”
Clallam County will be eligible for about $4 million in coronavirus relief through a portion of the federal CARES Act, Ozias said.
County Chief Financial Officer Mark Lane planned to participate in a Washington State Association of Counties conference on the COVID-19 pandemic today.
“I think we’re going to know a lot more over the next week or so about how local governments’ budgets should look,” Ozias said.
“We have a lot of reason to be strategic.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.