The Key Peninsula Civic Center has been granted $60,000 in the state capital budget for the purchase of an emergency power generator.

The generator will be the latest improvement towards the building’s use as an emergency shelter. “We started this process close to five years ago,” said Bruce Macdonald, treasurer of the KP Civic Center Association. “As a board, we recognized that while the civic center cannot fulfill all the needs of the community in an emergency situation, we can and will be a significant part of emergency preparedness on the Key.”

The board of directors developed a plan for updating the civic center, starting with an upgrade to the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning. The HVAC system was replaced by 2016, after which the board turned to the question of emergency power. Several upgrades were made to the infrastructure and electrical systems to allow hooking up a generator to the building. Now that the new budget allocation has come in, the KP Civic Center Association can move forward with acquiring the generator itself.

“Next, there will be a contract between us and the state of Washington, detailing what we plan to do with the funds and spelling out the obligations that go along with public funds projects,” said James Allyn, caretaker of the civic center. Once the contract is finalized, all that will be left is to purchase the generator itself after receiving bids from electrical contractors. A Cummins 1,000-kilowatt propane generator selected by the board will be ordered as soon as the funds are in place. “We’re expecting the generator to be in place in the next couple of months,” said Peggy Gablehouse, a KPCCA board member.

With the HVAC upgrades and a new electrical generator, the civic center will stay warm and keep the lights on in a major emergency or natural disaster. According to Gablehouse, the civic center would mostly be used as a “warming shelter” in a crisis; a place for people to come during the day to warm up, dry off and have some soup and coffee. 

The building would also serve as a communications hub, connecting people who need help with willing volunteers. “The idea is that it’s where you come and say, ‘I have a tree on my house, I need to have someone come and cut it down,’ and I’d say, ‘I know this guy over here, he’s a good guy, we can send him out,’” said Gablehouse. The major limitation on the building’s ability to serve as an emergency shelter is its lack of beds and showers, which makes it unsuitable as an overnight shelter in all but the worst emergencies.

The emergency upgrade improvements made at the civic center have been supported by dozens of individuals, from state representatives securing funding, to local volunteers contributing their own time and money to the project. “As undignified as it may seem, we just kept talking to everyone we knew until we found the right connections,” said Allyn, who added that although a large amount of funding has come directly from the government, “there are tens of thousands of dollars in in-kind donations and volunteer hours involved in the process as well, without which it would never have been affordable.”

The generator is currently on track to be installed and operational this summer. The installation will complete the KPCCA’s plan for upgrading their emergency shelter capacity, although possible future upgrades aren’t being ruled out. “We’re not able to do everything simply because of the physical limitations of the facility, but what we can do, we hope to do well,” said Allyn.

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