SEQUIM — Most of those who spoke at the latest Sequim City Council meeting indicated that they don’t want a Medication-Assisted Treatment center coming into town.
As many as 500 people — many with a group called Save Our Sequim — packed the Guy Cole Event Center on Monday night for a special City Council meeting on the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s proposed facility near Costco.
Nearly 50 people spoke to council members, with concerns ranging from social well-being to impact on senior citizens and children, personal stories of addiction and its impact on other communities to general concerns about crime and safety.
Karen Willcutt, who lives in Sequim but outside city limits, told the council: “Drug dealers follow drug addicts. Drug addicts follow other drug addicts.
“There are plenty of other ways to spend grant money (the tribe received for the facility),” Willcutt said. “We don’t need this huge thing. This is about profit. We’re begging you to stop this before it gets started.”
A few speakers shared their support for the facility. Among these was Sandy Goodwick of Agnew. She urged people and groups dealing with addiction be involved in discussions of the facility.
She asked for leadership to speak about why it would and wouldn’t work, too.
“This isn’t politics; this is real life,” Goodwick said. “These are your family members, your neighbors, your coworkers.
“If your goal is to not have a MAT center, then it starts with owning your stigma.”
City staff opened the meeting with discussions about the city’s procedures for handling a potential center like the tribe that’s proposed at a cost of $20 million on 19.5 acres, land which has been purchased by the tribe.
City Manager Charlie Bush told the crowd that he met with tribal chairman Ron Allen last week and that the tribe seeks to acquire land west of the proposed facility for street access to River Road.
Brent Simcosky, director of Health Services for the tribe, confirmed this, Bush said, saying that the tribe is “working to secure an option on additional land next to the potential Phase One and Phase Two projects for possible access to River Road.”
Phase Two would be an in-patient behavioral health facility. That has not been funded at this time.
Management for the tribe’s facility features an agreement with Olympic Medical Center to operate the psychiatric facility, as well as potential agreements to collaborate with Jefferson Healthcare, Forks Community Hospital and Peninsula Behavioral Health in Phase 2.
Bush said, “it is unusual for us to be discussing a process a project may follow prior to an application, or even a pre-application meeting.”
“We are all speculating at this point until something arrives in writing from an applicant,” Bush said. “We had been expecting an application to follow an A1 or A2 process, based upon what the tribe had previously told us about their project.
“With this new information about possible additional development, their application may result in a process that involves a conditional use or special use permit.”
He said city staff plan to ask questions at a 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 8 meeting to be hosted by the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe at the Guy Cole Event Center, 202 N. Blake Ave.
Two speakers, including Save Our Sequim chair Jodi Wilke, asked council members to impose a moratorium on the property for no less than one year for “adequate analysis, deliberation, and public discussion or influence on the project.”
Wilke also asked that an Environmental Impact Study be required along with striking out the city’s resolution about the Economic Opportunity Zone and reinstate the city’s previous sub-area plan.
Wendy Goldberg, who lives near Sequim, said many people at the meeting don’t feel the Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) center can be compared to such medical clinics as those for treatment of diseases of the feet or eyes.
Jerene Broker of Sequim asked where those who drop out of the program would go.
“As a mother, fellow citizen of Sequim, and a business owner, I want that answered before considering (the MAT facility),” she said. “They aren’t going to go home. They’re not going to go back in their little bus. I don’t want it to be life-threatening to go to Costco.”
Brody Broker, a real estate agent, said that a reigonal clinic should be considered a conditional use.”
Inga Able, a Sequim-area county resident, said she called the area’s clinics offering methadone and other drug treatments for addiction and they were all accepting patients.
“I do not believe a MAT clinic is a solution,” she said. “I don’t see with those facilities being there, we don’t have any additional need for a MAT facility on the peninsula.”
Val Shaw, a city resident, said her farm is next to the proposed site and that she’s concerned about the impact on her ability to farm.
Shaw said her family has been on the property since the 1890s, and that the facility would destroy their way of life.
Ed Watson of Dungeness said there aren’t any guarantees that the facility won’t lead to more crime.
“I came here to retire here in a safety,” he said. “Obviously there’s a need for MAT clinics. Where does their need for care and my need for safety begin?”
Tom Fenner, a Sequim city resident, said he’s concerned for senior citizens in the community if a facility were to come in.
“One of the reasons we have a lot of opioids is because we have a lot of assisted living facilities,” he said. “Don’t you know these addicts are going to know these assisted living facilities are going to have opioids in there? They are going to attack, and I mean attack, to get their drugs.”
Cindy Schmidt, a city resident, said she doesn’t want to feel afraid in Sequim after moving from the Seattle area.
“This is heaven,” she said.
Her husband continues to work in Seattle, she said, and sees impacts of similar facilities daily.
“We don’t want that here,” Schmidt said. “Whose pockets have been padded for this freaking bad deal?”
Bill Walsh, a Sequim-area county resident, said, “Relying on big pharma for the treatment of the addiction they created seems like an oxymoron.”
He said those trying to kick drugs make it only on abstinence.
“We don’t need this stuff in Sequim,” he said.
City staff said all questions will be submitted to the tribe, and a “frequently asked question” page will be put up on the city’s website soon at www.sequimwa.gov.
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].