Volunteers sought for pool task force

Options for Jefferson County location considered

PORT TOWNSEND — A new committee will look at options for building a new, low-cost pool facility in Jefferson County after a proposal for a new pool in Port Townsend failed to gain traction with county residents.

The Board of Jefferson County Commissioners approved a legal notice seeking applicants for the task force at their meeting Monday, with official notices to be posted Wednesday.

The eight-member task force will meet twice a month starting in April with an end date of June 30 to explore possible locations and designs for a pool facility located somewhere in Jefferson County. The task force is the result of pushback from within the county about a proposal to construct a new pool facility and to create a new taxing district to pay for it.

The task force will have two members from each county commissioner district, chosen by the representing commissioner, and two at-large members who reside in the county but outside Port Townsend, appointed by the Jefferson Aquatics Coalition.

Interested parties are asked to submit a one-page letter of interest and fill out a boards and commissioners volunteer application, available at the county’s website. Applications are due by March 27.

“Appointments will depend on selected criteria; familiarity with the Steering Committee work, a balance of skill sets; i.e. construction, finance, etc., and have an interest in finding a path to a new public pool in Jefferson County,” the county’s notice said. “Additionally, the board seeks representation of geographic, economic, gender, age and racial/ ethnic diversity.”

Last year, the City of Port Townsend began working with several area partners, including the county, Jefferson Healthcare and the Port Townsend School District, to draft a plan to replace the city’s aging Mountain View Commons facility.

A steering committee for the project, known as Healthier Together, ended up recommending a new and expanded pool facility at the current site with an estimated cost of $37 million.

The committee, which included District 1 Commissioner Kate Dean, also recommended establishing a countywide Public Facilities District (PFD), which would then enact a sales tax to help pay for the project.

Many residents, both in the city and the county, objected to the cost and scope of the project and said the committee had failed to adequately consider locations outside Port Townsend. The City of Port Townsend currently provides a $400,000 annual subsidy to the pool, which is managed by the Olympic Peninsula YMCA, which would continue if the facility were located in Port Townsend.

The steering committee’s recommendation received the backing of the Port Townsend City Council, but not from the Board of County Commissioners.

All three county commissioners have expressed interest in potentially supporting a pool facility but formed the task force to look at other locations and alternative construction options to bring costs down.

“The task force will report on the feasibility of building an aquatic center within the Port Hadlock (urban growth area), answering questions about specific available sites, financing costs, public infrastructure, traffic analysis, and market analysis focused on expected usage,” the scope of work document approved by commissioners said.

The task force, known at the Healthier Together Task Force (HTTF), will also consider adding additional county amenities to be funded by the PFD.

The steering committee’s proposal would construct a new, two-tank indoor pool facility with plans for additional amenities if enough funding could be secured whereas the task force is looking for cheaper options.

One of the options specifically mentioned by the task force’s documents is Sprung Instant Structures LTD of Alberta, Canada. Sprung builds advanced pre-fabricated structures and its clients include Apple, Google and SpaceX.

In addition to the volunteer members, the task force will also include any existing steering committee members: Port Townsend Director of Parks and Recreation Strategy Carrie Hite; County Administrator Mark McCauley and Board of County Commissioners Clerk Carolyn Gallaway.

Task force meetings will be held mostly online, but the body is subject to the Open Public Meetings Act and will accept written public comments for each meeting.

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Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at peter.segall@peninsulanews.us.

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