Port Townsend ‘strong but tired’

City manager outlines success, issues

John Mauro

John Mauro

PORT TOWNSEND — In his “State of the City” presentation, City Manager John Mauro gave a kind of pep talk, along with an acknowledgement of the troubles Port Townsend is facing.

“The state of the city is strong, but tired,” said Mauro, who started his job in November 2019.

In his livestreamed “Chamber Cafe” discussion hosted by The Chamber of Jefferson County on Friday, he got the “Challenges” PowerPoint slide out of the way first.

The list of obstacles the city faces includes the pandemic, the housing shortage, supply chain problems, inflation, climate change — and the effects of all that on our mental health.

Then Mauro and his co-presenter, Mayor David Faber, turned to the positive.

“I’d like to call some attention to successes of the past year,” the city manager said before showing slides with dozens of bullet points about parks, building permits, a property purchase, the city pool and the balanced budget.

Among the items on the success list:

• The city bought 14 acres on Evans Vista, near the Rainier Street roundabout, for affordable housing development.

• An agreement for water use and facility maintenance was finalized with the Port Townsend Paper Corp.

• In 2021 the city issued 969 permits totaling $28.6 million in valuation.

• Operations of the Mountain View Pool were transferred to the Olympic Peninsula YMCA.

• The “Engage PT” portal was redesigned and posted on the cityofPT.us website.

• The city approved permits for the Seventh Haven affordable housing project, the Pat’s Place transitional housing village and the Trail Crest development off Cook Avenue.

• The city and Port of Port Townsend and the Jefferson County Public Utilities District embarked on the Sims Way Gateway Project, which includes cutting and replacement of poplar trees, construction of a pedestrian-bicycle path and expansion of the Boat Haven.

For 2022, Mauro had another list. Under the heading “Quality of Life” were just four bullet points:

• Kicking off a communitywide discussion on the future of city parks, the pool, the golf course and the Mountain View Commons campus;

• Launching a new Race and Social Justice Advisory Board;

• Delivering the Sims Way Gateway Project with “extensive public and stakeholder engagement;”

• Bolstering programs at the pool and at the Port Townsend Library “through increased hours and partnerships.”

During the question-and-answer session, Faber and Mauro were asked about topics ranging from public transit to what Port Townsend’s leaders are doing about climate change.

On the latter, Faber said there are two components: resilience and trying to forestall climate disaster.

“I was delighted to see we have an interagency Climate Action Committee,” Mauro added.

This joint panel of the city and Jefferson County, meets on even-numbered months; its next meeting is set for April 12. Information is found at cityofPT.us under Government and then Boards and Commissions.

Mauro then added he is planning to use a grant to look at how vulnerable the city’s assets are to the effects of climate change, such as sea-level rise, storm surges and other impacts.

“Hopefully that will be a jump start to a conversation about how do we work together,” Mauro said.

As for public transit, Faber noted that Jefferson Transit, an agency separate from the city, is launching its new route to Kingston this Tuesday, to connect with Seattle- and Edmonds-bound ferries.

The transit agency is also looking into electric buses, Faber added, but their range presents a problem in this rural county.

Mauro, for his part, summed up his point of view with a couple of statements during Friday’s discussion.

“We are a community where we all depend on each other,” he said.

“We have talent. We have energy. We have creativity.”

The Chamber of Jefferson County will present two more Chamber Cafes next month: On March 4, Port Townsend Library Director Melody Sky Weaver and a panel will discuss the path to reengagement and a “new normal” for 2022, and on March 18, Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Jefferson and Clallam counties, will be the speaker.

For information and to register for these sessions, both at 10 a.m., visit jeffcountychamber.org. The chamber also can be reached at 360-385-7869.

________

Jefferson County Senior Reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]

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