Jefferson County Commissioners approve review for taxing district

Healthier Together Initiative could raise funds for new pool

PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County Commissioners agreed to pay their half of an independent financial review for a special taxing district that could be used to generate money for a new pool facility.

Commissioners approved an interlocal agreement with the City of Port Townsend on Monday to pay for a financial review required by the state Department of Commerce before the creation of the new district.

Several Jefferson County entities including the county, the City of Port Townsend and Jefferson Healthcare have been working for several months on a plan to replace the aging pool facility in Port Townsend with a larger, more expansive aquatic center with extra amenities.

A steering committee for the project — known as the Healthier Together Initiative — recommended the creation of a Public Facilities District, or PFD, a countywide special taxing district that would enact a two-tenths of 1 percent sales tax to pay for the facility.

The review is projected to cost $15,000 and the county agreed to pay no more than $9,000 for its share of the study.

The review will be conducted by an independent consultant chosen by the Department of Commerce.

But the proposed scope and cost of the pool — along with the recommendation that the new facility be located in Port Townsend — have generated pushback in the community, particularly from county residents who feel they’re being asked to pay for a Port Townsend amenity not readily accessible to them.

District 2 Commissioner Heidi Eisenhour, who represents the Port Hadlock area, has expressed frustration with some of the project’s proposals and has voiced support for finding a location in the county. Eisenhour was the lone no vote last week when the board instructed county staff to prepare the interlocal agreement.

The agreement was initially placed on Monday’s consent agenda — items on the agenda that are already agreed to and approved en masse — but was moved before board members for deliberation.

Language in the agreement that would have created a study group to research the logistics of a PFD was removed. Only the financial review was approved.

“I still don’t feel like I have a sense of what that study team’s work plan is or what it needs to deliver to the county commissioners to inform our decision,” Eisenhour said.

The study team would have been made up of two county representatives and two city representatives and have produced a report no later than April 1.

Once the study team language was removed, commissioners unanimously supported the motion.

The agreement still needs to be approved by the Port Townsend City Council, which is scheduled to meet next on Jan. 2.

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Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at peter.segall@peninsuladailynews.com.

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