Port Angeles approves funds for housing project

City also OKs five-year police body-worn camera contract

PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles City Council approved $740,000 toward Peninsula Behavioral Health’s Second and Oak supportive housing project, with the potential for additional funding once city-owned infrastructure needs have been determined.

The council also signed off on a five-year, $313,000 contract to provide 35 body-worn cameras for the Port Angeles Police Department on Tuesday.

The housing project will cost between $11 million and $13 million, said Peninsula Behavioral Health CEO Wendy Sisk. About $3.1 million has been committed so far, including $1.85 million from Clallam County, Sisk said. The city, which contributed from its housing sales tax funds, also waived building permit fees that would have cost an additional $100,000, according to city documents.

“We know we have a workforce housing problem,” Sisk said during her presentation to the council. “We know we have a low-income housing problem.”

Peninsula Behavioral Health’s Second and Oak project is proposed for 36 units of permanent supportive housing, primarily for people who receive services from the agency. It would be in addition to Dawn View Court, the former All-View Motel on Lauridsen Boulevard that the agency converted into supportive housing.

Sisk said Dawn View Court has seen “incredible success,” with 21 units of permanent housing and only two residents who have left in the past year. It has also reunited several families, she said.

“There was a lot of concern about law enforcement,” Sisk said about criticism of the project.

Emergency medical services have been called twice and law enforcement a total of three times in the past year, she said.

“We’re not seeing any more police or EMS action than we would (elsewhere),” she said.

At Second and Oak streets, the focus will be on patients who earn 30 percent of the average median income (AMI), plus a handful of units at 60 percent AMI and one at market rate reserved for a veteran, she said.

PBH plans to combine two lots and build a 7,000-square-foot building with four stories for a total of 28,000 square feet, Sisk said.

It will feature mostly one-bedroom apartments but also offer four two-bedroom units and seven studios, she said.

There will be a centralized laundry room and many other features such as 34 rooftop solar panels, a heat pump system, air conditioning and low-flow faucets.

“Everything about this building will be highly efficient,” Sisk said. “Fifty years we’re committing to run this building.”

Residents will be active in behavioral health care at time of entry, and they can stay in housing as long as they meet income requirements, Sisk said.

“(We want to) help people live their best independent life, with hope that they can access market-rate housing down the road,” she said.

The city’s housing sales tax fund, which voters passed in November 2019, comes from a 0.1 percent sales tax on all retail sales within city limits to go toward affordable housing grants. The fund had a total available balance of more than $1.9 million before Tuesday’s allocation, according to city documents, and there is $587,900 available in Neighborhood Improvement Community Enhancement (NICE) funds this year.

“We’re talking about folks who nobody else is going to help them except for Peninsula Behavioral Health,” council member Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin said.

“This is really the best way for us to use this money.”

Sisk said PBH’s plan is to remove the existing facilities by late summer and to break ground in mid-November. After a 12- to 14-month construction process, they hope to be ready to use the building by late 2025 or the first quarter of 2026.

In addition to contributions from the city and county, the agency received a $750,000 donation — “probably the largest donation PBH has ever seen,” Sisk said — from a local family who had someone receive treatment from PBH.

It also has 37 letters of support from the community, Sisk said.

“People know we need housing and know we need housing for people who might be the most challenging to house,” she said.

Body cameras

The council unanimously approved 35 body-worn cameras from Axon Enterprises Inc. along with associated equipment and unlimited data storage as part of its consent agenda.

The five-year contract is a culmination of more than a decade of testing body-worn cameras and systems, according to a council memo from Police Chief Brian Smith.

During that time, the department has tested and piloted cameras and systems from several vendors, and product development has improved performance, reduced cost and addressed redaction challenges with the state Public Records Act, Smith said.

During the past two years, the police department wore products from three well-established companies, and a team comprised of records specialists, patrol and code enforcement officers and members of the detective division chose Axon Enterprises’ cameras, Smith said.

The $62,000 annual cost will come from the city’s Capital Facilities Plan. The police department also has received several grants in the past and has submitted grant applications to both the U.S. Department of Justice and the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs to potentially offset the impact on the city’s general fund in the Capital Facilities Plan, Smith said.

“The consistent use of the (body-worn cameras) in modern law enforcement is considered a best practice,” Smith wrote in the memo. “BWC benefits are numerous and they include increased efficiency, improved report accuracy and better transparency when dealing with the public and the media.”

He also noted that the Port Angeles Police Department will be the last agency on the Olympic Peninsula to deploy body-worn cameras or police vehicle dash cameras.

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Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-417-3521 or by email at brian.mclean@peninsulanews.us.

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