PORT TOWNSEND — The Board of Jefferson County Commissioners unanimously approved moving ahead with applying for $700,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding from the state Department of Commerce for an early childcare learning and family support center to be constructed by the Olympic Peninsula YMCA on the Port Townsend High School campus.
The county, YMCA, Port Townsend School District and Jefferson Healthcare are partners in the $2.9 million facility, which will have a daycare center and commercial kitchen, and provide early childhood education and family support services.
“We’ve been allied with this project since the beginning, so really the issue in front of us today is do we apply for this additional funding made possible by the grant administrator,” Commissioner Greg Brotherton said Monday in reference to county grant manager Michael Mark.
The Department of Commerce is administering $11 million in CDBG general purpose grants for projects that will benefit primarily low- to middle-income residents in Jefferson County. The maximum grant amount is $2 million for construction projects.
Olympic Peninsula YMCA executive director Wendy Bart, who made a presentation to the board virtually, said there was escalating demand and a need for these services in Jefferson County, particularly child care.
“We have 645 children that are eligible, but only 130 are being served,” Bart said. “Child care benefits employers. Employees quit, are fired and leave work early because they can’t access childcare, so there is a financial impact.”
Bart said the commercial kitchen would streamline and enhance the food services the YMCA already offers, such as providing meals to students when school is out of session, and the ability to hire more family resource navigators to assist families seeking housing, medical and behavioral health counseling.
During the public comment period, Tom Thiersch of Port Townsend, who participated online, said that while he was not opposed to the county applying for the grant, he was skeptical the facility would serve county residents who needed it most.
“This seems like yet another Port Townsend-centric facility,” Thiersch said. “Most of these people don’t live in Port Townsend or live anywhere near Port Townsend. The underserved population will continue to be underserved.”
East Jefferson Population Health Chief Medical Officer Molly Parker said a lot of thought went into where to locate the facility and it was determined a site in Port Townsend would best meet clients’ needs.
“We did early on surveys and asked where the primary employers were and asked the parents exactly where they’d prefer it, and they said near where they worked rather than where they lived,” Parker said.
Commissioner Kate Dean said the county’s largest employers are within or immediately adjacent to the city limits.
In other news from Monday’s meeting:
• Commissioners approved a letter to state Department of Transportation requesting more accurate and communications regarding openings and closures of the Hood Canal Bridge while it is undergoing repairs on the weekends this summer. Dean said confusing and poorly timed communications made an already challenging travel schedule to avoid delay more difficult. “You can’t plan when the information is unreliable,” Dean said.
• County associate planner Joel Peterson presented an update on expanding the existing 167-acre mineral resource land overlay for Miles Sand & Gravel in the Wall Lake Area. The MRL would extend Miles Sand & Gravel’s current mineral extraction zone, but it would not increase its production or traffic. Correcting of fish passage barriers and monitoring groundwater and surface water for potential impact on Thorndyke Creek would be ongoing.
• The county will hold a public hearing on proposed changes to the Department of Public Works, Parks and Recreation fee schedule for athletic fields, campgrounds, event shelters and recreation facilities at 10 a.m. June 12 in the Commissioners’ Chambers, County Courthouse, 1820 Jefferson St.
• Washington State Ferries will hold a virtual community meeting tonight at 6 p.m. to discuss proposed fee changes on and projects related to the Mukilteo/Clinton and Port Townsend/Coupeville routes. Participants much register for the webinar ahead of time at tinyurl.com/yjvvtm8y.
Virtual community meetings will be held on the Seattle/Bainbridge route on Thursday and the Edmonds/Kingston route on June 1. For more information, go to tinyurl.com/2uz6p4t8.
• County offices will be closed and the board of commissioners meeting will not be held Memorial Day, Monday, May 29.
Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.