In what proved to be a big year for the future of Sequim, city councilors set the stage for some of the town’s biggest projects in its 99 years of existence.
Amid some controversy, councilors stayed mostly positive while reflecting on 2012. Most agreed their biggest accomplishment was securing support for a public safety tax to build a new police department. The city also plans to build a city hall at the same time.
Mayor Ken Hays said the project was a tough sell but voters approved it partly because they feel the city staff is doing a good job.
Contracts for designs and construction should be in place by March or April said Mayor Pro Tem Ted Miller. A timetable for construction is not yet set.
Councilor Laura Dubois said she’s proud that the city continues to push forward even with the economy slowly recovering.
“There are signs we’re picking up, and we’ll be ready,” she said.
One of her biggest goals this year is to help revitalize downtown Sequim.
“There are a few storefronts that are closed but it will improve,” she said.
“There’s a whole segment who think we’re anti-growth but if you’re not growing, you’re decaying. We’re ready for growth. We’ve planned for growth. It will be better planned in the future because we will grow.”
Through the year, work began on the city’s update to the comprehensive plan, branded the Sequim 120 Plan, while other plans such as updates to the critical areas ordinance, shoreline master plan and transportation master plan were approved.
Councilor Candace Pratt said the council’s biggest accomplishment was public meeting with Clallam PUD and Clallam County Commissioners late last year.
“I saw it as a great start for the future,” Pratt said. “These days we have to think about sharing resources and we share a lot of the same resources.”
While the city hall/police station project is going smoothly, some city plans have been put on hold or contested by fellow councilors, businesses and/or residents.
In August, Battelle, the contract agency at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, announced it was no longer pursuing annexation into the city for the time being.
Finding the right mix for sign codes remains a work-in-progress, and entertainment-based events like “At the Movies” split councilors on supporting another year due to fluctuating attendance and lost revenues. Sequim’s only mobile food vendor closed and new fees and limited hours were put in place for any new mobile food vendors.
Two tenured councilors, Bill Huizinga and Don Hall, both resigned last year. Huizinga resigned in August citing a move to the county and Hall in November to retire. The remaining councilors selected Dennis Smith in October with another expected to be chosen at the Jan. 14 meeting.
Councilors unanimously approved efforts to lobby for air monitors to be put in place to see if air quality will be affected by the incoming Nippon biomass plant. They also saw the completion of the Albert Haller Playfields and work begin on improvements to the city’s reuse water system to increase usage. Major roadways at Seventh Avenue and the intersection of Sequim Avenue and Washington Street saw improvements, too.
The climate in the Sequim City Council chambers is a positive one, councilors say.
“Despite some people’s perceptions, which aren’t necessarily positive, we continue to have seven independent thinking people,” Mayor Ken Hays said.
Mayor Pro Tem Ted Miller said each councilor has respect for the others.
“Here’s the key, everyone accepts the decision, they don’t belabor the decision and we move on,” he said.
Often, a “No” vote came from councilor Erik Erichsen. Last year he voted against 14 separate items, which is the same amount as all other councilors combined.
While choosing not to elaborate on how he voted, Erichsen said when he votes he’s not playing on emotions and always thinks the issue through.
“The way I vote I feel is the best thing for the city,” he said.
“My goal is to try and have the people on council proposing to do that too and be fiscally responsible because none of us has much money.”
In 2012, Erichsen retained his stance not to increase taxes. He was the lone nay vote against the public safety tax, and he opposed the 2013 budget and fees increases because he predicts they would negatively impact residents.
Erichsen said he thinks more than half the city is made up of people on fixed incomes and he remains on council to be a voice for those people. “Nobody survives on Social Security alone,” he said.
Hays said Erichsen votes his conscience and that he respects that.
One item that didn’t come up this year was developing contracts with local agencies such as the Boys & Girls Club for services the city cannot provide. Erichsen voted against these because he thinks the money should stay with the voters; however, most councilors agreed to a three-year contract last year for a few agencies so that the discussion wouldn’t be debated every year.
Hays said because of Erichsen’s comments they approached the funding differently.
Looking back at last year’s accomplishments, Erichsen said he doesn’t look at milestones.
“I do things when I feel they’re right and I move on from them,” he said.
“I don’t dwell on it.”