Pierce County Councilman Derek Young (D-7th) met with the Key Peninsula Advisory Commission Oct. 20 to discuss social and financial issues affecting KP residents.
Young, who was elected to the county council in 2014, began the meeting by expressing his appreciation for KPAC and emphasizing the importance of local-level communication.
KPAC, a group of selected KP representatives, meets on the third Wednesday of each month to discuss land-use issues and make recommendations to Pierce County based on the needs of the peninsula.
Young’s first topic in the meeting was the difficulties of policing on the KP. Many complaints about response time and infrequent patrolling can be attributed to the lack of personnel, according to Young.
“The sheriff just completed his staffing study,” he said. “Basically, he’s about 70 people down, and that’s a huge deficit.” Young pointed to the Great Recession’s aftereffects and faulty county tax structures as the main reasons for the department’s staffing problems.
Despite these difficulties, Young emphasized that law enforcement officers have been finding success locally with the newly established Property Crimes Unit, which has a specific focus on the damage and theft infractions most common to the Key Peninsula. Young also suggested that some budgetary issues might be solved by the influx of cannabis revenue the state will see over the next few years.
Budget and tax problems were another recurring theme of the night’s discussion. Chuck West, chair of the Key Peninsula Community Council, presented a sheet of statistics showing the flow of tax money to and from the Key Peninsula. West’s main takeaway from this information was an apparent gap between the taxes paid by the Key Peninsula and the services received in return.
“We’re paying a million dollars a year for that little library in Key Center … and half a million dollars of that is going somewhere else, and we need that,” he said. “Public Works takes a lot of excess money from the Key Peninsula also.” West also pointed to gaps in surface-water management and public transit.
Young addressed each aspect of the tax gaps individually, offering explanations for some and potential solutions for others. He was responsive on some issues like transit and road maintenance, pointing to the Purdy Spit and the Lackey Road intersection as high priorities for repair and new construction. As for other subjects, like Flood Zone Management tax money, the overwhelming majority of which is used off the KP, Young didn’t see much potential for change.
“Unfortunately, we’re sort of at a strategic disadvantage, because it’s really just me and Doug Richardson who are in districts that are losing here,” he said. Young did offer some answers in the form of local culverts and drains that could be repaired using water-management money that is often sent off the KP.
The meeting also included several other topics such as timed bridge tolls, the responsiveness of the police nonemergency line, and fraud and waste in county government.
Young also emphasized the poor state of Pierce County’s mental health and substance abuse treatment programs, stating that, “(Washington state) is 47th in the nation in beds per capita … and Pierce County is dead last.”
Young expressed his support for the Red Barn Youth Center and said that he hopes to find additional funding for the facility. “It’s not only a great, safe place for kids to go, but also a first place to see if there are any problems,” he said, referring to his earlier statements on mental health.
Aquaculture and the environmental impact of new shellfish farms also took up part of the discussion.
The Pierce County Council will hold its next meeting at the KP Civic Center Nov. 1 at 6 p.m. This is an opportunity for KP citizens to address the county council directly. Each member of the council holds at least one in-district meeting per year in order to ensure meetings are more accessible to residents of Pierce County.
Councilman Derek Young can be reached at: www.co.pierce.wa.us, or 253-798-6654.