County eyeing lease with OlyCAP

Move would benefit Caswell-Brown Village

PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County officials are leaning toward a leasing agreement with Olympic Community Action Programs for the Caswell-Brown Village property.

Since September 2021, county officials have been engaged in a professional services agreement with Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP) to manage properties purchased by the county to provide housing to unhoused people who had previously resided at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds.

One of those properties is Caswell-Brown Village, named for John Caswell and Victoria Brown. Caswell, 62, was an unhoused man who died after he was exposed to the elements during last summer’s heat wave. Victoria Brown, 23, died outside of her home at the Jefferson County fairgrounds from an overdose last winter.

The village is located on Mill Road near the Larry Scott Trail and Port Townsend Paper Corp. and is monitored by OlyCAP.

OlyCAP officials hope to make the village a more long-term, if not permanent, solution for those struggling to find housing. The agency is seeking a grant from the state Department of Commerce to construct more housing in the village.

In order to secure the grant, OlyCAP must be given control of the property for 40 years via a lease agreement or lease purchase.

OlyCAP has to have all of its documents completed for the grant by the end of August.

County staff recommends that the county lease the property for 40 years with an option for purchase after 10 years.

“The one big-picture question for the board is lease or lease purchase,” said Philip Hunsucker, chief civil deputy prosecuting attorney.

Hunsucker noted that a lease purchase would allow greater flexibility but that the three county commissioners indicated a 40-year lease would suffice.

“There was a rapid rehousing grant that they (OlyCAP) were considering going after, and they would have been able with our agreement to potentially turn that right around into operations, but at this point, the purchase would come out of the total grant that they would be getting for capital. So there is no actual advantage to purchase,” Commissioner Greg Brotherton said.

“I think if there is not a compelling reason to do a lease purchase right now, then we don’t need to, but if there is a good reason to do in the future, then we should strongly consider it,” Commissioner Kate Dean added.

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Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected].

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