The practice field next to Volunteer Field in Port Angeles, shown Wednesday, has been withdrawn from consideration for construction of a Joint Public Safety Facility. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

The practice field next to Volunteer Field in Port Angeles, shown Wednesday, has been withdrawn from consideration for construction of a Joint Public Safety Facility. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Practice field idea is dropped

Joint Public Safety Facility to be sited elsewhere

PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles City Council has backed down from considering city-owned property at 18th and L streets for the proposed site of the Joint Public Safety Facility after they heard objections from the community.

In a 5-1 vote Tuesday, the council chose to instead pursue an alternative site at 19th and O streets, which is owned by the Port of Port Angeles and would be leased for the facility at a cost estimated in 2020 to be more than $2 million over the life of the building.

Council member Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin was absent from the meeting.

Council member Brendan Meyer provided the one dissenting vote. He was the only council member to move to approve a proposed resolution to accept the practice field site.

The Joint Public Safety Facility would house the Clallam County Emergency Operations Center, which is commissioned during emergencies such as massive earthquakes, the city’s Peninsula Communications dispatch center used by law enforcement and, perhaps in the future, a fire station for the west side of town.

“We’ve received a lot of emails and heard a lot of discussions tonight talking about the field,” Council member LaTrisha Suggs said.

Volunteer Field, which was developed for sports, is a different site from Volunteer Practice Field,which is a grassy lot nearby. But many said they viewed Volunteer Practice Field as an extension of Volunteer Field.

“Tonight’s discussion was that you can’t have a Volunteer Field without the practice field, that they kind of go hand-in-hand,” Suggs said.

“I admire the intent of the resolution of securing and guaranteeing that the Volunteer Field would never be touched, but it’s a package deal. You can’t have Volunteer Field without the practice field, and even if we did build a practice site away from there, it just doesn’t have the same conduciveness,” she said.

Earlier in the evening during a public hearing, council members heard clearly from many members of the public that developing the Joint Public Safety Facility at that site would mean the loss of a well-used youth sports practice field, with little confidence that there would be a viable alternative or replacement.

“I would like you to strongly reconsider your placement for the emergency response center,” said Staci Politika, president of the Junior Babe Ruth League in Port Angeles. “There are other viable options.”

Politika accused the council of moving forward with the plan because of convenience after having conducted a land usage study in December.

“I am pretty frustrated, and I think our community deserves better than this knee-jerk reaction … ” he said.

“It’s more than just a practice field,” Politka said. “It is where people have learned skills. It’s where boys and girls have come to learn leadership … I don’t see in the budget where we have the allocation for another field.”

This area was identified by the City of Port Angeles and Clallam County as the preferred site for the Joint Public Safety Facility, with an alternative location identified at 19th and O streets, which is owned by the Port of Port Angeles.

The city was working on a contract to have a geotechnical survey performed on the practice field to determine if the site would be suitable for this type of development, but, in a 4-2 vote during the council meeting, the city chose to end that process as well.

Council members Charlie McCaughn and Suggs voted no.

The reason the practice field site was the preferred site was that it was property owned by the city, which would make development of the JPSF more cost-effective, staff members have said.

It would require a one-time mitigation cost of relocating the practice field versus having to pay a lease over the course of the next 50-60 years to the Port of Port Angeles for its property, they have said.

“The difference in cost is the city property would have required mitigation of impacts. So there would have been a cost to replace that practice field. That mitigation cost, depending on what was done, could be substantial and be much like the cost of paying the lease on the port property, paid over many years,” Police Chief Brian Smith said.

The estimated cost of the lease for the port property is $44,000 annually (not including utility and maintenance costs) which adds up to $2.3 million over a 50 year period, according to a presentation given to the city in 2020.

“So you have mitigation costs that would need to be paid like right now versus the long-term costs of a lease that would need to be negotiated between the city, county and port,” Smith said.

________

Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected].

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