PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend City Council has approved steering committee recommendations for a new pool facility to be located at the Mountain View Commons site and supports a county-wide vote to help pay for the project.
Following a tour of the pool facility on Monday, the council conducted a meeting at the current Mountain View Commons, where members unanimously approved the recommendations put forward by a committee formed to study the project.
The recommendations approved Monday will be sent to the Board of Jefferson County commissioners, who will decide whether or not to proceed with the plan as written.
Recommendations approved include placing the new pool at the Mountain View Commons site. The facility will be aquatic-only unless private funding can be secured for additional facilities.
The recommendations also included a commitment to raise $17 million through state, federal and private grants while continuing the City of Port Townsend’s $400,000 annual subsidy paid to the current pool.
In addition, the committee urged creating a new Public Facilities District, or PFD, and asking the voters of Jefferson County to approve a two-tenths of 1 percent sales tax.
The Public Facilities District must be created by Jefferson County, and then a special election would be held — potentially in April 2024 — to ask voters to approve the sales tax.
If the sales tax is approved, the steering committee projected the annual cost to be between $10 and $30 per person annually.
The committee also recommended the city split the cost of the $110,000 special election with the county and having the city commit to maintaining the current pool until the new facility is completed.
Council members added a recommendation that public shower facilities be included as part of the project.
The council delayed a vote approving the plan in October because the recommendations did not include public shower facilities.
The new facility will have locker rooms with showers, but those facilities will not be accessible to everyone and will only be available during business hours.
Wendy Bart, executive director of the Olympic Peninsula YMCA, which has agreed to administer the facility, said the current YMCA does offer tokens to access the facility to those who can’t afford membership fees, but those tokens are limited to people who can provide a government-issued ID and who pass a background check against a sex-offender registry.
If additional public shower facilities were to be added to the project, it would cost an additional $100,000 in construction and $50,000 annually in operations.
In addition to the sales tax, the PFD would also pursue a $20 million bond to be paid over 30 years at 5.5 percent interest rates. Should interest rates increase, the 5.5 percent rate will be locked in over the life of the bond, meeting documents say, and the PFD will be able to refinance the bond should rates go down.
The projected cost of the pool is roughly $37 million with $1.27 million in annual operation costs.
Though ultimately voting to approve the recommendations, council members Monica MickHagger and Ben Thomas expressed concerns about the lack of financial certainty around the project.
“I can’t be a yes tonight because I don’t know where this goes financially,” MickHagger said. “This city hasn’t worked out well when they’ve pushed and ended up in situations where the money wasn’t spent well.”
Despite being a joint project between the city and several other entities, MickHagger said she was concerned blame would fall with the city should the project go awry.
Thomas said he shared many of MickHagger’s concerns and had concerns about the lack of details.
“I’m on the fence,” Thomas said. “Only because of the details, not because of the pool.”
The new pool project — known as the Healthier Together Initiative — is a joint effort between Jefferson County, the City of Port Townsend, Jefferson Hospital District, Port Townsend School District, Olympic Peninsula YMCA, Jefferson Aquatic Coalition and the Port of Port Townsend.
The vast majority of public comment given in person and in writing support the pool project, although some did express concerns about the cost.
Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at email@example.com.