SEQUIM — With a fraction of anticipated funds available to revitalize the Guy Cole Mini-Convention Center in Carrie Blake Park, Sequim City Council members are looking to prioritize projects.
Initially, city staff estimated the center’s revitalization price as between $800,000 and $1.2 million.
The staff requested $750,000 from the state in grants but received $450,000 from the 2015-17 state capital budget through the Department of Commerce Direct Grant Program.
An administrative fee lowered the grant to $436,000 for the city to allocate to the project.
Council members Monday voted 6-1, with Councilman John Miller voting against, to work with the state Department of Enterprise Services to conduct a free energy audit of the convention center.
Joe Irvin, assistant to the city manager/parks manager, said the free audit could help prioritize improvements in the building.
“I think it’ll have some helpful information,” he said.
The audit might identify energy cost-saving opportunities for the city such as installing a dropped ceiling in the main gathering space, replacing the HVAC system, replacing windows and upgrading kitchen appliances and bathroom fixtures.
However, Irvin said, several other non-energy-related projects are needed in the center such as installing new flooring, new paint and window treatments, a new roof, building additions and storage, and building a south-facing exterior patio.
“When we look at the menu of what we need to do, some of these items would fall off [due to funding],” Irvin said.
He added that there might be other issues discovered, such as not enough power being run into the building for a possible HVAC system.
The Guy Cole Mini-Convention Center was built in 1982 by members of the Sequim Lions Club and named after a former member. They donated it to the city that year.
The City Council endorsed a floor and elevation plan of the center in November 2014 following an effort to widen its usefulness and attractiveness to locals and visitors that started a few years prior.
North Olympic Peninsula Skills Center students started work in the fall of 2014 building a wall and kitchen space in the east wing, saving the city some on construction costs.
On Monday, Irvin directed council members to a conceptual drawing of the revitalized center, saying, “Without continued investment or additional resources, it’s highly unlikely we’re going to get this building on the screen right now.”
One contingency of the free audit is that if the city does go forward with projects that are energy-related, then it would pay an administrative fee to the Department of Enterprise Services based on a fluctuating scale of the project’s cost.
As an example, an energy-related project between $100,000 and $200,000 would cost a fee of $13,800.
The city would be obligated to have the department contract any energy-related projects through Dec. 31, 2019, the contract states.
Council members Ted Miller and Genaveve Starr expressed concerns over the partnership.
Starr said there might be an ethical objection to accepting the free services and thus committing the city to more work by the Department of Enterprise Services.
Ted Miller said his highest priority is reopening the center and that energy issues are secondary or tertiary.
“If we don’t have enough money to do the full scope, then we need to back off a little bit and come up with something that is doable and that the people of the city will be able to use,” he said.
“If there’s one or two or three things we have to give up to have it open, then so be it,” he said.
“It’s far better to have it open with some utility than half-completed for a couple of years and unusable by anyone.”
Ted Miller also said he’s concerned the city might be steered in a more expensive, not-cost-effective way.
As another possible cost savings, Councilwoman Candace Pratt encouraged recruiting volunteers to help with elements of the project in the breakout rooms on the east side of the convention center.
Irvin said he has not actively recruited volunteers for the project since students finished their tenure on the building.
________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 firstname.lastname@example.org.