Sequim Council wants highway safety project to be 2023 legislative priority

Other requests include new city shop, utility connections, rent caps

SEQUIM — The Sequim City Council recently set the city’s priorities for its lobbyist in the upcoming legislative session set to start Jan. 10.

After years of advocating for the project, council members said their highest priority remains starting construction on the Simdars bypass and other nearby safety measures with the U.S. 101 East Sequim Road Project.

They’ve also added some requests for sizable projects, a land purchase and rent control for manufactured homes among their priorities.

Council members on Nov. 14 agreed 6-0 — with council member William Armacost excused — to set their priorities with the city’s lobbyist Davor Gjurasic, who began work with the city in 2018, to advocate with legislators.

“We want to be as a city, as crystal clear on what our issues are,” Gjurasic told the council.

“It’s not a laundry list, but very specific.”

He said that the East Sequim Road project is a good example of getting legislators engaged, since many others may be applying for grants.

“There’s lots and lots of competition,” Gjurasic said. “It’s crucial you prioritize what you want.”

Council members aim to spur the state Legislature to help the Sequim School District build a Career and Technical Education (CTE) building.

They also added potential provisions to help with rent/lease caps — in particular for manufactured homes — after groups of residents from various manufactured home parks testified about monthly increases negatively impacting them.

Council members voted 5-0 later in the Nov. 14 meeting, with Deputy Mayor Brandon Janisse and Armacost excused, for staff to look into provisions and restrictions in creating a zone for manufactured homes.

While Gjurasic wasn’t aware of specifics on rent caps for manufactured homes in the Legislature, he said, “housing affordability will be one of four or five top priorities along with mental health.”

Council members Vicki Lowe and Lowell Rathbun asked that the city be flexible in its priorities as opportunities arise in the legislative session.

Sequim priorities include the following;

• Highway safety

In the most recent legislative session, Sequim and agency partners learned $30.5 million was allocated from the Move Ahead Washington transportation package that spans 16 years.

City staff wrote in the Nov. 14 priorities document that “we will need to ensure that these funds are allocated in a timely manner that will lead us to construction funding in 2025 to coincide with the state culvert replacement at Johnson Creek.”

Funding would include the state Department of Transportation completing design, permitting and construction to finish Simdars interchange’s on- and off-ramps, construct frontage roads from Palo Alto Road and Happy Valley roads to the new interchange, and add new landscaping and art along the corridor.

• City shop

With more than $1 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding budgeted for design work on a city shop upgrade in 2023, council members and staff are asking for an additional $33.5 million from the state for construction.

According to city documents, the shop would be centralized and expanded to accommodate more equipment, increasing staff numbers and include a regional fuel station for emergency responders during weather and event emergencies.

• PNNL-Sequim services

Another city priority includes a $10 million request for construction funds to make major sewer and water improvements on West Sequim Bay Road to connect to the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s (PNNL-Sequim) planned expansion. Improvements would also support John Wayne Marina and incoming developments, according to city staff.

• Deep well

City staff say Sequim was conditionally awarded funding for construction of a deep well at Silberhorn Wellfield in the Dungeness River watershed. The project, estimated at $4.83 million, would increase water supply, quality and resiliency while replacing older infrastructure.

• Park land

The city seeks $750,000 in matching funds to purchase property in northwest Sequim adjacent to the Olympic Discovery Trail near the Sequim School District campus. City staff said amenities could include trails, a futsal court, splash pad or pump track.

Council members also agreed to support the Association of Washington Cities and the North Olympic Legislative Alliance’s legislative priorities.

In a separate motion, council members unanimously agreed to increase Gjurasic’s contract to $5,000 per month, not to exceed $60,000 per year, for two years.

For more about the priorities, see sequimwa.gov.

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Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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