SITTING ON THE table is $18.4 million in already collected state taxpayer funds available to be spent on new school buildings in Port Angeles.
But Port Angeles can access those funds only if we, the Port Angeles community, begin to invest again in replacing our old and outdated schools.
We only get that $18.4 million if we vote YES on the Feb. 11 Port Angeles School District capital levy measure.
If we don’t, those funds benefit another school district in our state other than ours.
Port Angeles is booming. People who believe in our future are investing in our community. McKinley Paper mill is preparing to open soon. The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula is getting a new Port Angeles clubhouse.
The new Shore Aquatics Center will open in June.
Construction is underway for the Field Arts & Events Hall.
Coming soon is a new four-story hotel downtown; and a new parking garage with 60 condominiums is becoming a reality.
Against that backdrop, our outdated schools, built in the 1950s and 1960s, are unsafe, insecure, full of asbestos and becoming more expensive and impossible to maintain as each year goes by.
We’re closer now to 2060 than we are to 1960; and, as a community, we haven’t invested in our school buildings since 2003.
If we don’t act soon, we will have failed to invest in an entire generation of students and families, while the cost of building schools, high as it already is because of state laws and requirements, is only going to get worse.
The Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce Education Committee has spent many hours and meetings analyzing the proposed capital levy plan through the lens of a business model, and our Board of Directors has unanimously endorsed it without reservation.
It makes great business sense to have a nearly 30-year performance-based plan with level rates that are predictable for local residents and property owners. The result will be a new paid-for school in six years; safer and secure schools throughout the district in the very near term; and the promise of more new schools in the coming years that can be used as disaster shelters in the event of an earthquake.
We like that the plan includes a transparency and oversight check-and-balance measure with a community advisory board to ensure smart and sound decisions about capital facilities stay on track as we go forward.
Finally, we appreciate the careful consideration given to the life-cycle cost of buildings, eschewing the cheap option of modular construction — which sends our dollars away to the community where modular components are built and guarantees exorbitantly high maintenance costs in the future — and favoring instead higher quality buildings that will stand the test of time, be built by locals, survive earthquakes and bullets, and be much less costly to maintain.
Having just completed another season of the Winter Ice Village and the annual Community Awards, the Chamber of Commerce’s view on this capital levy is shaped by our devotion to this community.
Through the 4th of July Celebration, Concerts on the Pier, the Maritime Festival and many other community activities, we invest a great deal of our time — and the volunteer time of many gracious fellow citizens — into making Port Angeles as extraordinary as the natural environment in which we live and work.
Rebuilding our old schools is the most important thing we’ve identified that we as a community need to get done for our future.
Now is the time to invest in our school buildings. Let’s not leave that $18.4 million on the table for some other community in Washington state to enjoy.
We strongly urge you to vote YES.
Thank you for believing in and investing in our local community — for the love of Port Angeles.
Marc Abshire is the executive director of the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce.
Terry Ward, publisher of the Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum, serves on the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce board of directors.