JEFFERSON COUNTY ELECTION UPDATE: Chimacum bond measure short 48 votes for passage after second vote count

PORT TOWNSEND — A second vote count of votes received in the $29.1 million Chimacum School bond election narrowed the gap to 48 votes but was not enough to push support over the required 60 percent approval threshold.

Today’s count of votes received in Tuesday’s election showed 3,244 votes in favor, or 59.12 percent, to 2,243 votes, or 40.88 percent opposed.

The results are 48 votes short of the 60 percent supermajority needed for passage of a bond.

Another count of votes is planned for noon Thursday, Elections Supervisor Betty Johnson said.

Tuesday night’s initial count was 2,994 votes, or 58.69 percent, approving the measure to 2,107 votes, or 41.31 percent opposed to it.

The second count tallied 386 votes with 250 in favor and 136 opposed, according to the Jefferson County Auditor’s Office.

Those to be counted Thursday will arrive by mail and need to have a Tuesday postmark, Johnson said.

This was the second apparent defeat for the $29.1 million construction bond to be used for new elementary school construction and capital improvements.

A $34 million bond with similar goals was defeated in Feb. 2015.

Tuesday night story

CHIMACUM — A $29.1 million Chimacum School District construction bond barely lost in the first returns Tuesday, gaining a majority of votes but not the 60 percent required for bond passage.

The special election vote was the third attempt to pass a bond for the school district.

The bond won 2,994 votes, or 58.69 percent, to 2,107 votes, or 41.31 percent opposed.

The Jefferson County Auditor’s Office on Tuesday counted 5,101 ballots out of 8,981 mailed — the number that had come in the mail and were in drop boxes by Tuesday morning — for a voter turnout of 56.79 percent.

The next scheduled count is by noon Thursday, but if there is a close contest and drop boxes when emptied Wednesday morning contain many ballots, “we may do a count on Wednesday,” said Betty Johnson, elections supervisor.

The majority of the money that would have been raised by the bond measure, $19.8 million, would have been allocated for the expansion of the Chimacum Creek Primary School that was built in 1999.

The kindergarten-through-third-grade-school would have been expanded into a full kindergarten-through-fifth-grade elementary school.

The remainder of the money would have been used for upgrades of technology, heating, electrical and the construction of an all-weather track at the school district’s main campus.

The current elementary school, a 1948 building in disrepair, would have been demolished.

The measure proposed a property tax levy rate of $1.21 per $1,000 assessed property value. It would have been expected to be required for 20 years to finance the bond.

The annual property tax for a $150,000 property would have increased by $189, district officials have said.

Attempts to pass a bond measure with 60 percent approval have failed twice before.

A $34.8 million proposal failed in February 2015 with a slim majority of 2,033 votes, or 50.88 percent, in favor and 1,963 votes, or 49.12 percent, opposed.

After obtaining public input through several public meetings, the school district scaled down the proposal, removing plans for a stadium with artificial turf and new buildings for the middle school and administration offices — items the district found that the public did not want.

On Feb. 6, a proposal for a $29.1 million bond measure gained support from 2,749 voters, or 58.04 percent, and was opposed by 1,987 voters, or 41.96 percent — about 100 votes short of what it needed.

The proposal was offered again in Tuesday’s third attempt to use the momentum gained during the February try.

A citizens’ group, Chimacum Grows Kids, formed to get the word out through campaigning, ringing doorbells and registering voters — an effort that drew some 130 volunteers.

The construction bond would have addressed both the poor condition of the elementary buildings and “the impractical configuration of the elementary program as it is currently split between two campuses,” said Eric Jorgenson, spokesman for We Grow Kids.

Security is another issue.

The open configuration of the elementary school classrooms allows access from the parking lot from a number of directions with no need to go through or past the main office building, Jorgenson pointed out.

“As with the split campus issues, this basic security issue simply can’t be rectified in a remodeling process,” he said.

The buildings are in poor repair, with all major systems — structural elements as well as plumbing, electrical, HVAC, and technology systems affected, he said.

Renovation would cost nearly as much as rebuilding, according to architects and builders, he said.

Technology also would have been improved, easing internet connections.

An opponent, lifetime Chimacum resident Ron Riggle, felt the measure was not specific enough and had too little public input.

The district’s plans can be found at http://tinyurl.com/PDN-chimacumbond.

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