Despite cuts to most senior center programs in Whatcom County, the Point Roberts program will continue to run two days a week under the new contract between the local parks district, and the county parks and recreation department.
“I don’t see any changes in our funding of the Point Roberts senior activity program for at least the next two years,” Rob Bunnett, senior services manager for Whatcom County, told local parks commissioners at their February 14 meeting.
There are few changes to the contract, under which the local parks district contributes $4,000 a year towards the operation of the senior program at the local community center Wednesdays and Fridays. Local parks board president Mark Robbins said a separate contract with the county’s council on aging, which provides lunches on those days, will also remain unchanged.
Bunnett said they had removed a non-binding clause under which the county parks department would help with maintenance issues at the community center. “We can’t put that promise in writing but it doesn’t prevent you from asking,” he said, adding that similar clauses were being struck from contracts with other senior programs.
Both parties also agreed to add a 60-day termination clause. “If we ever lose a ballot measure we need a way out,” Robbins said, referring to the parks department’s need to go to the voters every two years for approval of their operating levy. “It’s not that we would ever want to terminate the program.” Bunnett suggested the Point Roberts parks district could look to the seniors for support at election time. “When it comes to passing a levy, put the seniors to work,” he said.
Patricia McCairen, representing the Point Roberts senior association, said they currently have over 60 members, an all-time high. “Your community is different and a lot of people have chosen to retire here,” Bunnett said. “I see the Point Roberts program as having growth potential.”
In other parks business primary school teacher Mary Edgley said she was willing to fill the long-vacant fifth commissioner’s spot on the board. “The parks and the school are so closely related,” she said. “Parks facilities and programs are what make Point Roberts what it is. I care about these things and I need to step up.”
However, the seat has been vacant for longer than six months, beyond the periods for the parks district board and then the county executive to appoint someone. Robbins said his understanding was that they now needed approval from the governor’s office to fill the position. Commissioners voted unanimously to appoint Edgley by whatever legal means necessary.
All five positions on the parks board will be on the ballot this November.
Parks district commissioners also discussed seeking voter support for a capital improvement program that could include the renovation of the old Julius fire station as a new library, the re-roofing of the community center, which is prone to leaks, and improvements to Baker Field.
Architect David King has donated time to produce a conceptual design for the old fire station and prepare cost estimates. “That would help us enter into a dialogue with the public over the best use and appropriate public expenditure for that building,” Robbins said.
Commissioner Marco Aurilio added that he would draw up a proposal for improvements to Baker Field, including lighting and irrigation. Work is already underway in collaboration with the school to fill the holes in the athletic field.
Parks commissioners agreed to move forward with proposals for capital improvements that they could bring to the public for input and research what long-term funding mechanisms were available to the district.