Applicants sought for Pierce County Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission

Applicants sought for Pierce County Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission Applications are being accepted to fill six positions on the...

Applications are being accepted to fill six positions on the Pierce County Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission. The Commission makes recommendations to the County Executive and County Council on historic preservation-related matters, including nominations to historic registers and applications for historic road names. The Commission also conducts design reviews, reviews special tax valuation applications on rehabilitation of historic properties, and administers special projects funded by the Historic Document Fund, such as grant programs and historic surveys. The Commission is comprised of 11 members, representing each of the seven County Council districts, and four at-large members who bring expertise in history, historic architecture, archaeology, archival science and information technology. Pierce County residents who are practicing professionals in the fields listed are encouraged to apply. Vacancies exist in Council Districts 2, 3, and 5, as well as three at-large positions. Executive Pat McCarthy will make a recommendation to fill positions subject to County Council confirmation. Applications and more information can be obtained the following ways: Online — http://www.piercecountywa.org/boards ; In person — Planning and Land Services Department, 2401 S. 35th Street, Room 228, Tacoma; Phone — (253) 798-3683; and E-mail — cwillia@co.pierce.wa.us . Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission meetings are held generally on the second Tuesday of each month from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Pierce County Annex. Project-related community workshops or informational meetings may occasionally be held in various locations in Pierce County.

For earlier Tacoma Daily Index coverage of the Pierce County Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission, read the following articles:

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Pierce County drops historic preservation officer

Jan. 20, 2010

By Todd Matthews, Editor

Pierce County officials have confirmed budget cuts have forced the county to eliminate its historic preservation officer position.

The position, once held by Julia Park, was part of the Planning and Land Services (PALS) Department. Park spent 20 hours per week supporting the Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission and the overall historic preservation program, and 20 hours per week as a senior planner.

Park’s last day was Dec. 31.

“We’re all rolling up our sleeves,” said PALS Division Manager Sean Gaffney, who supervised the historic preservation officer. Gaffney said he will support the landmarks commission on an interim basis until another staff member is selected. “We’re doing more with less and not hiring anyone else. It’s been a whirlwind around here. Some people think we are stopping [the landmarks commission]. That’s not the case. It’s not business as usual, but I’m going to make every commitment to keep things rolling.”

The landmarks commission discussed the possibility of losing the position during its Dec. 8 meeting. Some members were scheduled to meet with PALS director Chuck Kleeberg the following week to discuss their concerns.

During an interview Dec. 9, Kleeberg told the Index layoff notices were sent to 27 people in his department. He pointed to slumps in new construction of residential housing, and permitting fees associated with that activity, as the major factor for declining revenue. A permitting boom in 2005 began to drop off in mid-2006 and bottomed out in 2007, he said.

“It sucks to lose any program,” said Kleeberg. “These are real people with real families. I hate it. But when the council or policymakers decide it’s going to be those cuts, we’re going to do it. There’s not a single person on the layoff list that we’re better off rid of. ”I’m sort of at the bottom of my bag of tricks,” he added.

A BUDGET ‘ROLLER COASTER’ FOR PALS

Indeed, on Oct. 29, Kleeberg appeared before Pierce County Council to present his budget proposal for 2010. He reported that 2010 revenue was expected to be down 2.5 percent against 2009 revenue. He added that since 2006, PALS has eliminated 26 full-time positions. In 2009, the entire department (except for members of one union) participated in nine days of unpaid furloughs. “We’ve been on our own little roller coaster ride,” Kleeberg told councilmembers.

He hoped to offset the deficit by eliminating three full-time positions, collecting revenue from a “slight uptick” in residential building permits, and raising fees. But his proposal also called for less spending in the area of historic preservation: $100,000 would be spent on historical document maintenance in 2010 compared to $496,200 budgeted in 2009. Similarly, the budget proposal eliminated funding for a part-time employee to write grants seeking money for historic preservation projects. In the end, County Council adopted a budget that cut $1.9 million from PALS.

A PROGRAM WITH SOME MOMENTUM

The loss of the historic preservation officer comes at a time when the county’s program was starting to gain momentum.

In 2008, Pierce County awarded $194,162.68 to 15 organizations for a variety of historic preservation projects such as artifact conservation at Fort Nisqually, newspaper clipping preservation at the Tacoma Public Library, and a monument for Allen C. Mason Plaza ( http://www.co.pierce.wa.us/xml/services/home/property/pals/other/histpresgrantrecipients08-09.pdf ).

Last year, the County Council awarded $110,000 to Artifacts Architectural Consulting to undertake an historic property survey. Similarly, Historical Research Associates was awarded $60,000 to conduct a survey of historic documents including photographs, maps, newspaper clippings, and oral histories. The County Council authorized an additional $70,000 for five cities with historic preservation programs to do their own historic property surveys. The projects were funded by a $1 recording fee surcharge passed by the Washington Legislature. The results will be compiled in a database that will be available to historians, educators, researchers, and the general public online via the Pierce County Library System later this year.

Last month, Pierce County was one of six counties to receive a Landmark Deeds Award for Public Service from the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.

FUNCTIONING WITH FEWER RESOURCES

Gaffney is unsure if there will be another grant program this year. He said there may be an opportunity to do a small grant cycle if any money is left over from the historic document maintenance budget. “There might be an opportunity to do a small grant cycle with a small amount of money,” he said. “We talked about that at our last meeting. We would like to do something just to keep the momentum going.”

In the interim, the commission is trying to function with fewer resources.

“We were very disappointed to see Julia let go,” said landmarks commissioner Bob Peters. “We had our meeting last week. Everybody is learning. [Sean Gaffney] is learning the job by being dumped into the middle of it.”

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‘Roller coaster’ economy taps Pierce County PALS budget

Nov. 3, 2009

By Todd Matthews, Editor

Pierce County’s Planning and Land Services (PALS) director told councilmembers Thursday that revenue is expected to be down 2.5 percent in 2010 in comparison to the revenue projected by the end of this year.

PALS Director Chuck Kleeberg spoke during Pierce County Council’s Committee of the Whole meeting. The meeting was one of a series that began last month to focus on the finances of each department as the county finalizes next year’s budget.

According to Kleeberg, the deficit is expected to be offset by eliminating three full-time positions, collecting revenue from a “slight uptick” in residential building permits, and possible fee increases. The current budget proposed by Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy calls raising fee increases by an average of 6.8 percent to generate $1.3 million. A bulk of the increases would be applied to PALS.

He noted commercial and land use activities will continue to lag throughout 2010. But his department has seen a gradual increase in residential permitting that is expected to continue even after a federal first-time-homebuyer incentive program expires in November; there is some discussion of extending the program into April 2010.

PALS currently has 126 full-time employees. Since 2006, the department has eliminated 50 full-time positions. This year, the department — except for one union — participated in nine days of unpaid furloughs. “We’ve been on our own little roller coaster ride,” said Kleeberg. He noted a permitting boom in 2005 began to drop off in mid-2006 and bottomed out in 2007.

A building amnesty program was introduced earlier this month. It allows property owners who built structures or purchased property with a structure built without permits to get into compliance without paying penalties. PALS is expected to begin using Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping tools to identify undocumented construction and contact property owners about possible penalties and getting into compliance. According to Kleeberg, the program arose after hearing from building inspectors who reported a high number of non-permitted activity. The program will run until Sept. 30, 2012.

Although the amnesty program is expected to bring in $310,000 in 2010, it will only cover the costs of the employees assigned to the program. “I think the program will pay for itself in the first year,” said Kleeberg.

The current budget proposal also calls for less spending in the area of historic preservation, which is a division of PALS. As currently proposed, the county has budgeted $100,000 on historical document maintenance in 2010 compared to $496,200 budgeted in 2009. Similarly, the budget proposal would eliminate funding for a part-time employee to write grants seeking money for historic preservation projects.

Public testimony will be accepted Nov. 5, 6, 9 and 10 in the Council Chambers. Written testimony may be submitted at any time to the council office — http://www.piercecountywa.gov/pc/abtus/ourorg/council/contactus.htm . The final budget will be adopted Nov. 10.

For more information about the 2010 Pierce County budget, visit http://www.piercecountywa.gov/pc/abtus/ourorg/council/budget.htm .

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Budget amendment bitter-sweet for Pierce County historic preservation

March 20, 2009

Article and Photos By Todd Matthews, Editor

When the dust settles at the end of this month, and Pierce County finalizes its amended General Fund budget to bridge an estimated $8- to $10- million revenue shortfall, county-wide historic preservation programming will come away with its share of bumps and bruises — and a couple small victories. On the down-side, funding for Historical Document Maintenance is expected to drop from $627,200 to $496,200. The bulk of the cut will impact money set aside for a long-overdue county-wide historical property survey. In 2007, the county council allocated $366,000 toward the historic survey. A budget amendment released by the county executive’s office earlier this year aimed to reduce that figure to $111,000. However, an amendment proposed and approved March 18 by the council provides $180,000 — more than the county executive’s recommendation, but less than half of the original amount allotted for the survey.

Another bit of bad news: $131,000 collected through state Legislation will be spread across all departments to cover their historical document micro-filming, records retention, and other state-archivist expenditures. It’s money that could be spent on historic preservation projects that could spur economic development.

What’s troubling, however, is all the money set aside for historic preservation was collected at no cost to the county. As background, the money had accrued as a result of state legislation enacted in 2005. The legislation directed $1 of a $5 filing fee toward “historic preservation and historical programming, which may include document preservation.”

Between 2005 and 2008, revenue from the surcharge reached just over $1 million, according to county officials.

In November 2007, the county council approved an ordinance directing $366,000 for a historic property survey, $60,000 for a historic document survey, $200,000 for a grant program, $37,000 to turn the half-time historic preservation officer into a full-time position, and $37,000 for a part-time grant writer.

However, the county has only spent money on some of those directives. Now, in the middle of a budget deficit, the money is being used to cover historical document micro-filming, records retention, and other state-archivist expenditures throughout county departments when it could be spent, for example, to fully fund the grant program for preservation projects throughout Pierce County, as well as the county-wide historical property survey. Indeed, it’s money that should have already been spent.

According to the county’s Budget and Finance Department, $173,529 was expended in 2006 for “internal purposes”; $65,524 was expended in 2008 for a grant program and funding for the part-time preservation officer; this year, $100,000 was allocated for document preservation purposes, and $108,000 for historical document microfilming, records retention and management, and other state archivist related expenditures department-wide. Although Historic Tacoma has asked for line-item details on what “internal purposes” and “document preservation purposes” specifically mean, the organization has yet to receive an answer, according to board president Sharon Winters.

Subtracting those expenditures — roughly $446,000 — from the $1 million pool would leave approximately $554,000 for historic preservation, historical programming, and document preservation.

To its credit, the county did award approximately $195,000 in grants to more than a dozen local preservation groups for various projects last year. The money will be paid out to the organizations on a reimbursement basis.

Two positive developments, however, could come out of the budget amendment approved this week.

First, the amendment would increase the historic preservation officer position from part-time to full-time. It’s no small feat at a time when the county is looking everywhere to close the deficit — some departments face one-percent budget reductions; others face three-percent reductions.

Second, Pierce County Councilmember Tim Farrell is pushing to move the preservation office from Planning and Land Services (PALS) to the Economic Development department. The move would put the county in line with most other municipalities in terms of where to place the historic preservation office. It could also be the first step toward convincing the county that historic preservation isn’t just a nice thing to have — it’s an economic development tool.

The council is expected to vote on a final amended budget March 31.

On March 18, several people appeared before the council’s Committee of the Whole to share their views of the budget amendment as it relates to historic preservation. County Councilmember Tim Farrell also commented on the issue. Here are excerpts of what they said during and after the meeting.

I. Sharon Winters, Board President, Historic Tacoma

I’m speaking on the proposed $131,000 transfer of funds from the county’s historic preservation program. At the March 10 County Council meeting, the preservation community outlined several reasons why the funding should not be transferred. I’d like to focus on two areas.

First, lack of compelling need for another $131,000 for document preservation by county departments. Since 2005, the county has received over $4 million in new funding for preservation of historical documents for county departments, but the county budget manager is unable to provide detail as to how that money has been expended beyond its distribution to county departments or how the proposed transfer will be expended. I understand that the county has no organization-wide system for records management, so I am also concerned about how effectively these funds are being used. While acknowledging the budget crisis, with no detail on how these funds have or will be used, I believe there is a more compelling case to conduct the historic resource inventories, as planned.

Second, a need to equitably distribute court filing fee revenues collected across the county. Over $1 million has been collected to date from the one dollar surcharge, designated by the legislature “to promote historical preservation or historical programming.”

Since 2005, close to half has been retained for “ongoing preservation of historical documents of county departments.”

By agreement of the Pierce County Landmarks Preservation Commission and the county’s Historic Preservation Office, early this year $336,000 was to be distributed, based on population, to the county and city historic preservation programs in Tacoma, Steilacoom, Lakewood, Puyallup, and Gig Harbor to support historic resource inventories. Tacoma, which has been proactive about historic preservation but still has areas of the city which have not been inventoried in close to 30 years, was due to receive approximately $90,000.

Colleagues from Lakewood, Tacoma and Gig Harbor spoke last week about their needs and how they would put the funding to use.

I’d like to comment on Councilman Farrell’s proposed budget amendment. We support his amendment to fund creation of a full-time historic preservation officer for the county with revenue from the one-dollar surcharge. The ad hoc committee, formed by Councilman Farrell in late 2007, recommended additional staffing beyond the current half-time position. Until the county has adequate staffing levels and the professional expertise and experience in historic preservation on board, effective management of the county’s historic preservation program and this new funding stream will be difficult. Though we acknowledge Councilman Farrell’s proposal to transfer $131,000 rather than $225,000, we must respectfully express concern that it leaves just $180,000 for inventory work, when $336,000 was originally allocated.

We recommend that County Council leave the $225,000 in the historic preservation program so these much-needed and long-overdue inventories can be accomplished and staffing can be added.

II. Tim Farrell, Pierce County Councilmember

I’ve heard some people commend us on historical document preservation, I’ve heard some people harangue us on it. Here’s a little bit of education on where that money is coming from. It comes from a dollar surcharge the Legislature gave us the ability to affect. Some legislators have come to me and said Pierce County needs to make sure we be careful about how we spend that money because if it is not spent in the way the Legislature wishes us to spend it, they will take that away. So we could, in theory, eliminate the entire department and the entire program. But what would happen is the Legislature would say, ‘OK, you don’t need that money. Fine.’ And they would take it away. So it’s either cuts now or cuts later. At least this way we are able to have some kind of wiggle room until we get to a better position.

III. Chris Moore, Field Director, Washington Trust for Historic Preservation

Thank you for the opportunity to be with you here this morning. My name is Chris Moore and I am the field director for the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. We are a state-wide, non-profit advocacy group that works to safeguard Washington’s cultural and historic resources. I just want to briefly speak to you about the county’s historic preservation program.

It’s been alluded to earlier, but of course in 2005 the state Legislature passed House Bill 1386 that includes increasing the recording fee from two dollars to five dollars, and then a part of that bill required earmarking one dollar of that to go to historic preservation programming. Since that time, several counties across the state have implemented programming. Given the revenue that was generated from this fund, Pierce County is well positioned.

I think the proposal to have a full-time historic preservation officer is long overdue, and certainly a welcomed one.

There are a couple concerns that I wanted to bring up. It’s great to see the grant program in place, but it would be great to have annual grant awards.

The initial grant cycle in 2008 was an annual source of funding. Wonderful. Not funding a new grant cycle for 2009, and just moving it forward from 2008 because not all the money had been spent is a concern because it is an annual source of revenue, and there should be concurrent annual grant cycle.

It’s very good to have the $180,00 for survey work, but I know that’s diminished.

I just want to note that surveying is really the foundation of all historic preservation work. The National Park Service released their 2008 annual report for the Federal Historic Tax Credit. Through this program, nearly $5.7 billion was invested in qualified historic rehabilitation projects. Nearly 67,000 jobs created through that investment, and nearly 17,000 housing units.

In Washington State, between 2000 and 2005, an average of $84 million per year was invested in historic properties. It’s the survey and a full-time historic preservation officer that identifies the properties that are eligible to participate in that historic tax credit program. So really what we are talking about is funding for economic development.

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Department shift for Pierce County’s historic preservation program?

March 17, 2009

Article and Photo by Todd Matthews, Editor

A Pierce County Councilmember is expected next month to propose moving the county’s historic preservation office from the Planning and Land Services (PALS) department to the Economic Development department.

If supported and approved by a majority of councilmembers, the move could pave the way for a full-time historic preservation officer, according to Pierce County Councilmember Tim Farrell, who is spearheading the plan.

Currently, the county’s historic preservation officer splits her time between preservation and county-wide planning unrelated to preservation. Under Farrell’s plan, “the position would be made whole and this would be a new position that anyone could apply for,” says Farrell. The model is similar to the one at the City of Tacoma, where the historic preservation office has for years been a division of the city’s Economic Development Department. “Since the landmarks commission really is the holder of Pierce County’s first real assets and stimulus dollars county-wide, it makes sense that it should be under economic development,” says Farrell.

In 2007, the county discovered a pool of money slated to be used for historic preservation. The money had accrued as a result of state legislation enacted in 2005. The legislation directed $1 of a $5 filing fee toward “historic preservation and historical programming, which may include document preservation.”

Between 2005 and 2008 the revenue from the surcharge reached just over $1 million, according to county officials.

In November 2007, the county council approved an ordinance directing $366,000 for a historic property survey, $60,000 for a historic document survey, $200,000 for a grant program, $37,000 to turn the half-time historic preservation officer into a full-time position, and $37,000 for a part-time grant writer.

However, the county has only spent money on some of those directives.

According to budget and finance director Patrick Kenney, budget manager Aaron BeMiller, and legislative budget analyst Paul Bocchi, who all provided financial information for a summary prepared by the advocacy organization Historic Tacoma earlier this month (that document is available at wahmee.com/docs/pcfunding_summary.pdf), $173,529 was expended in 2006 for “internal purposes”; $65,524 was expended in 2008 for a grant program and funding for the part-time preservation officer; this year, $100,000 has been allocated for document preservation purposes, and $108,000 for historical document microfilming, records retention and management, and other state archivist related expenditures department-wide. Subtracting those expenditures — roughly $446,000 — from the $1 million pool would leave approximately $554,000 for historic preservation, historical programming, and document preservation.

To its credit, the county did award approximately $195,000 in grants to more than a dozen local preservation groups for various projects last year. The money will be paid out to the organizations on a reimbursement basis.

PALS director Chuck Kleeberg says Farrell has approached him about the idea and that he doesn’t feel strongly one way or another if the office is moved. “Mostly what you worry about is coordination between departments,” says Kleeberg. “I don’t know that there’s a whole lot of coordination between [PALS and] what the historic preservation officer does. I don’t feel like there’s a strong need to be in one place versus the other.”

Farrell says the plan will be introduced to the county council in April, after budget amendments are adopted March 31.

“Right now, I’m offering it to my council colleagues,” says Farrell. “It doesn’t mean they’ll go for it.”

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Pierce County Council Committee will discuss proposed historic preservation funding cuts

March 6, 2009

By Todd Matthews, Editor

The Pierce County Council Committee of the Whole is scheduled March 10 to discuss a budget amendment that could significantly reduce the amount of money set aside for historic preservation.

At issue is a budget shortfall that county officials say could reach $12 million. The county is looking across all departments to make reductions in order to close the deficit.

On Jan. 23, the county’s director of budget and finance, Patrick Kenney, sent a letter to elected officials and department directors outlining Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy’s proposal for bridging what was then a projected $8 million shortfall in the county’s current budget. It’s a four-page letter of recommendations available here — wahmee.com/docs/pcbudget_letter.pdf .

That shortfall has since been projected to reach $10 to $12 million.

Similarly, in a memo to employees Jan. 23, McCarthy reported that revenue from sales tax, new construction, and interest on investments has declined, and Pierce County experienced negative general fund growth last year. “A budget crisis is not the way I wanted to begin my new administration,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, that is the reality.”

Two recommendations have concerned some local historic preservation advocates.

One calls for eliminating $225,000 from the county’s historical documents program, most importantly a county-wide historic resource inventory. “Some inventories have not been updated in over 30 years,” said Historic Tacoma Board President Sharon Winters in a statement last month. “Historic Tacoma believes that inventory work is vital. If we don’t know what we’ve got, it is difficult to preserve it.”

Another recommendation calls for eliminating $261,600 from the Planning and Land Services (PALS) department “to be determined by the department.” The latter is relevant because the county’s historic preservation office is a division of PALS. A fear exists that the office could be a target of some of those reductions.

Over the past four years, money has been set aside for countywide preservation. In 2007, the county discovered a pool of money slated to be used for historic preservation. The money had accrued as a result of state legislation enacted in 2005. The legislation directed $1 of a $5 filing fee toward “historic preservation and historical programming, which may include document preservation.”

Between 2005 and 2008 the revenue from the surcharge reached just over $1 million, according to county officials.

In November 2007, Pierce County Council approved an ordinance directing $366,000 for a historic property survey, $60,000 for a historic document survey, $200,000 for a grant program, $37,000 to turn the half-time historic preservation officer into a full-time position, and $37,000 for a part-time grant writer.

However, the county has only spent money on some of those directives.

According to Kenney, budget manager Aaron BeMiller, and legislative budget analyst Paul Bocchi, who all provided financial information for a summary prepared by Historic Tacoma in January (that document is available at http://www.wahmee.com/docs/pcfunding_summary.pdf ), $173,529 was expended in 2006 for “internal purposes”; $65,524 was expended in 2008 for a grant program and funding for the part-time preservation officer; this year, $100,000 has been allocated for document preservation purposes, and $108,000 for historical document microfilming, records retention and management, and other state archivist related expenditures department-wide. Subtracting those expenditures — roughly $446,000 — from the $1 million pool would leave approximately $554,000 for historic preservation, historical programming, and document preservation.

To its credit, the county did award approximately $195,000 in grants to more than a dozen local preservation groups for various projects last year.

The money will be paid out to the organizations on a reimbursement basis.

Putting preservation money on the chopping block during current budget amendment deliberations could kill that momentum.

Pierce County Council’s Committee of the Whole will discuss budget amendment 2009-16, which includes the proposed $225,000 cut to the county’s historic preservation program/special fund, Tues., March 10, at 9:30am in room 1045 of the County City Building, 930 Tacoma Ave. So.

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Will $8 million budget shortfall touch Pierce County historic preservation?

Jan. 29, 2009

Editorial by Todd Matthews, Editor

When an amendment to the 2009 Pierce County budget was proposed last week, it raised concerns for some local historic preservationists.

On Jan. 23, the county’s director of budget and finance, Patrick Kenney, sent a letter to elected officials and department directors outlining Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy’s proposal for bridging a projected $8 million shortfall in the county’s current budget. It’s a four-page letter of recommendations available here — http://www.wahmee.com/pcbudget_letter.pdf .

Two recommendations are important to anyone interested in historic preservation.

One calls for eliminating $225,000 from the county’s historical documents program. Another calls for eliminating $261,600 from the Planning and Land Services (PALS) department “to be determined by the department.” The latter is relevant because the county’s historic preservation office is a division of PALS. A fear exists that preservation could be a target of some of those cuts.

This all comes at a time when the county’s preservation program could use some work. The Index noted as much in a feature article last spring (see “Behind The Times,” 04/02/08 or http://www.wahmee.com/tdi_pierce_county_preservation.pdf ).

Two years ago, there was hope.

In 2007, the county discovered a pool of money slated to be used for historic preservation. The money had accrued as a result of state legislation enacted in 2005. The legislation directed $1 of a $5 filing fee toward “historic preservation and historical programming, which may include document preservation.”

Between 2005 and 2008 the revenue from the surcharge reached just over $1 million, according to county officials.

In November 2007, Pierce County Council approved an ordinance directing $366,000 for a historic property survey, $60,000 for a historic document survey, $200,000 for a grant program, $37,000 to turn the half-time historic preservation officer into a full-time position, and $37,000 for a part-time grant writer.

However, the county has only spent money on some of those directives.

According to Kenney, budget manager Aaron BeMiller, and legislative budget analyst Paul Bocchi, who all provided financial information for a summary prepared by the advocacy organization Historic Tacoma earlier this month (that document is available at http://www.wahmee.com/pcfundings_summary.pdf ), $173,529 was expended in 2006 for “internal purposes”; $65,524 was expended in 2008 for a grant program and funding for the part-time preservation officer; this year, $100,000 has been allocated for document preservation purposes, and $108,000 for historical document microfilming, records retention and management, and other state archivist related expenditures department-wide. Subtracting those expenditures — roughly $446,000 — from the $1 million pool would leave approximately $554,000 for historic preservation, historical programming, and document preservation.

To its credit, the county did award approximately $195,000 in grants to more than a dozen local preservation groups for various projects last year. The money will be paid out to the organizations on a reimbursement basis.

Putting preservation money on the chopping block during current budget amendment deliberations could kill that momentum.

With a recommendation now to cut $261,600 from PALS and $225,000 from the county’s historical documents program, the following questions will likely be answered when Pierce County Council finalizes and approves the budget amendments in the near future:

— How much of the proposed $261,600 PALS budget reduction will come out of the historic preservation program within PALS?

— Will anyone within county government lobby hard to leave historic preservation money alone?

— Will the county follow through on the council’s direction to increase the part-time preservation officer position to a full-time slot while other departments are asked to make cuts?

— Similarly, will the county still (a.) spend the money set aside for an updated inventory and (b.) continue to fund its grant program as directed by the council in 2007?

To be sure, these are difficult times for many municipalities. Pierce County is no exception. In a memo to employees Jan. 23, McCarthy reported that revenue from sales tax, new construction, and interest on investments has declined, and Pierce County experienced negative general fund growth last year. “A budget crisis is not the way I wanted to begin my new administration,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, that is the reality.”

True.

It’s a tough economy now.

But history shows the American economy slumps and soars. As most preservationists will tell you, the effects of failing to protect and support local history are long-term.

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Candidate McCarthy on historic preservation

Jan. 29, 2009

Article and Photo By Todd Matthews, Editor

Last year, this newspaper interviewed then-candidate for Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy for a story published in the Index, posted on Exit133.com, and aired on KXOT-FM 91.7. During the interview, we asked her if historic preservation funds would be in jeopardy under her leadership. Though she did express her support for historic preservation, it was peppered with the realities associated with a tough economy. Her remarks didn’t make the final edit, but they are included in today’s edition:

TACOMA DAILY INDEX: For the first time in a long time — and I don’t know how familiar you are with the county’s preservation program — but for the first time in awhile there has been money available —

PAT MCCARTHY: Right —

INDEX: — for Pierce County’s preservation program. I have heard, in covering general historic preservation in Tacoma, a concern that with budget cuts at the county, that money could be in jeopardy. What is your feeling on that? As I understand it, there is close to $900,000 that has been collected from a filing fee that can be used by the county. Is that protected? Is that something that preservationists should be concerned about when they read about the budget cuts and the county trying to find money elsewhere?

MCCARTHY: Well, I’m tremendously familiar with the recorded document fee because of the work that I do, and the association that I’m a member of — the Washington State Auditor’s Association — did fight to get those preservation dollars and worked very hard hand-in-hand with Representative Paul King from King County. He was actually the sponsor of that legislation. It provides a dedicated dollar, if you will, to historical preservation groups outside of the county. We do a tremendous amount of historical preservation of recorded documents in Pierce County, and I’m very proud of the work we’ve done in preserving, really, the history, from a documents point of view, in the county. So a certain portion of those dollars go to preserving the documents we have in Pierce County — those records — which is our history. But there’s dedicated dollars specifically for outside entities to go through a grant process to be able to secure for either buildings or it could be for documents or for a whole host of preservation activities. It doesn’t necessarily have to be buildings, but it can. So I’m very supportive of it. I testified on behalf of the association because I was co-chair of the legislative committee on this very issue. So I’m very supportive of that. We need to preserve our history in Pierce County. Those dollars are dedicated dollars that can’t be used for other entities. So they won’t be removed from those funds to be able to put back into the general fund. However, I do think everyone needs to know that revenue is down. So if we’re recording less documents in the county, we’re not generating and it’s not increasing that pool of money. There will be a drop in revenue, but not from taking those monies out of that dedicated fund and putting it into the general fund — unless the county council decides they are going to try and do something like that. I don’t know if that can happen. Other things have happened that are surprising. But it is a dedicated dollar and it is a dedicated fund. I would think it would be very questionable if someone tried to grab into those dollars and tried to use them somewhere else.

INDEX: There is also money for making the preservation officer a full-time position — right now it’s part-time. In speaking to the preservation officer, she works half-time as a preservation officer, and half-time as a planner. How do you increase that position at a time when other departments are asked to cut back? I guess I’m getting to the point of whether [preservation is] something that is important to the county, or something that is just nice to have.

MCCARTHY: Well, first of all, from just a management point of view and a logistics point of view, it would be incumbent to know if there is enough work to generate a full-time position. Or is it feasible to be able to have a person half-time doing this and half-time doing that or three-quarters of a particular activity and a quarter-time doing another activity. I don’t know. I haven’t researched that particular position. I do think the county needs to look at each division and what we provide with regard to services to the citizens of Pierce County. In difficult budget times, we do have to tighten the belt. We do have to look at how we provide services. For me, it’s all about providing good customer service. In all of these different divisions, we really need to look at it from that perspective. What are we providing? How can we provide it better? Does it require us to add more staff or just diversify the opportunity for what staff can do? Especially if there are peaks and valleys, where you have a huge amount of work at this time of the month, and you have less amount at another time. That kind of efficiency analysis is something I do in my office every day. That’s something I would do as county executive as well. Division by division: How we are doing it? Who do we have? How do we employ people? All of those things.

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Pierce County’s History Detectives — http://wahmee.com/tdi_pc_history_detectives.pdf (10/15/09)

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A Conversation with Pierce County’s History Detectives

Oct. 16, 2009

By Todd Matthews, Editor

Since the beginning of September, Katie Chase and Susan Johnson, two architectural historians at Artifacts Consulting in Tacoma, have driven to nearly every pocket of rural Pierce County — former mining settlements, ghost towns, ruins of logging mills, and even an abandoned slaughterhouse — to document historic sites and buildings. Their work is a milestone survey that, when completed next spring, will give local historians, county councilmembers, urban planners, developers, and even regular residents a better understanding of the region’s history and historically significant buildings.

“We meet a lot of history geeks out there,” says Johnson. “People are very interested. They see us with the clipboard and camera and stop to ask what we are doing. They get excited. It’s nice to work on a project people are excited about.”

Earlier this year, the Pierce County Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission assigned the project to Artifacts. The results will be available online via the Pierce County Library System next year. More than simply a list of old buildings, Chase and Johnson are creating a Pierce County biography of sorts. In the interim, they are providing updates on the project through an e-newsletter (if you would like to subscribe, send an e-mail to Christy Johnson at cjohnson@artifacts-inc.com ).

Yesterday’s edition of the Index included an in-depth feature on their work in the field (see “Pierce County’s History Detectives,” 10/15/09 — http://www.wahmee.com/tdi_pc_history_detectives.pdf ). In today’s edition, we catch up with them for a brief interview.

TACOMA DAILY INDEX: You have been going out into Pierce County to do field work for the survey since Sept. 1. What are some interesting stories, homes, buildings, or people you have come across?

SUSAN JOHNSON: I really liked the mining towns: Wilkeson, Carbonado, and Burnett. These towns have miners’ cottages of all different types. Wilkeson has a great downtown with stone buildings that were built from Wilkeson stones.

KATIE CHASE: The school in Wilkeson was terrific. Completely unexpected and up in the mountains. It is this gorgeous old building made of sandstone. This idea of a company town where you can walk down a street and — even though it has changed over time — you can still see the housing that was built at the time. Maybe there is new siding or a couple new windows, but you are able to feel, ‘OK, this is what this town was like.’ You still have that idea. Whereas some other areas you have in-fill or things are completely gone. I really enjoyed that aspect of Wilkeson.

JOHNSON: I loved the old Old Cannery in Sumner. It’s a great re-use of a building: long, straight, and very open inside, which is great for a furniture warehouse. You could see the roof structure. One of the ‘mystery photos’ from our newsletter shows the shadows of cans that were on the floor and left there when the building was vacant for a period. The concrete floor shows the imprint of cans. I don’t know if they were canning fruit or vegetable produce, but the Puyallup Valley is known for farming. That had been the use of this building most of the century. Unfortunately, most of the canneries are gone.

CHASE: It’s great because it’s an old building, you can see that it’s been around for awhile especially if you go inside, but it’s being used for a modern purpose. I loved that. Any other company could tear it down and build something new if they wanted a warehouse or a big box store. But it’s being used as a furniture warehouse. It shows that old buildings like that can be re-used. And the owners loved their building.

INDEX: What else have you discovered?

CHASE: We did see one — and we probably shouldn’t say where it was because the owner was very private about it — but we were driving around doing some reconnaissance work, and Susan spotted an old log house. It was an amazing find because it was really tucked back there behind some really old and mature trees that were probably planted when the house was built. Across the road was a barn from the 1940s. I thought it was a great juxtaposition of a 1940s barn with an old log cabin. You never see those. And the cabin was still being used as a house. It was fantastic. Also, we had this great opportunity to survey by boat around the Key Peninsula, Fox Island, and Anderson Island. A wonderful volunteer took time out of his day to take us around on his boat. It was great because we had been trying to see stuff on the peninsula by road but people have long, private driveways that we don’t want to go down, there are so many trees, and things are built to the water.

JOHNSON: It’s exciting to find remnants of history in architecture where there is some story in the county, such as labor history or ethnic settlements. In the case of Burnett, you can still tell it was a mining town. The houses still look like miners’ cottages. There was Upper Burnett — which was referred to as “Scab Town” for the workers who were breaking some of the strikes — and Lower Burnett — where the coal mining activity was located. Most of the mining activity closed down by the late 1920s. But earlier in that decade, the miners in Carbonado and Wilkeson tried to form labor unions and get higher wages. They were company towns so they were kicked out of company housing for being on strike. A bunch of them settled in South Prairie on what is now called Union Hill. They were originally housed in tents on the local landowner’s property who let them be there. Those tents evolved into houses, and there are still houses that look like miners’ cottages up on Union Hill. That’s what I mean by the inter-relationships between towns. You could say this was a mining town, but South Prairie wasn’t. Then why are there miners cottages there? Because that’s where the miners ended up.

INDEX: What are your backgrounds in historic preservation and architectural history?

JOHNSON: When I was in college, I started volunteering at, and later interned for, an historic farm in Michigan that uses draft animals. I went on to work at another historic farm before I left for the Peace Corps. So I was introduced to heritage tourism and historic preservation that way. I just didn’t know you could make a career of it. I did my time as a docent in costume interpreting the 1880s and working in barns and appreciating barns. Years later, I learned there was a field called architectural history. I went to Graduate School at the University of Oregon. I was thinking I would be a barn preservationist and work in small towns that were sort of suffering and trying to reinvigorate their economies through heritage tourism. But then I fell in love with city architecture, too. I have a Masters of Science in Historic Preservation from the University of Oregon. I finished officially in 2008, but I began working before my thesis was done. So I took a year to finish my final project. I went to work for Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department researching Golden, an old gold mining settlement. I came to Artifacts in 2008 to do a statewide theatre survey.

CHASE: I majored in history and always loved buildings and houses. My dad is an appraiser so I grew up kind of looking through blueprints and having a love for history. I didn’t really know I could combine the two until I went to college. I had worked primarily in archival work. I spent a couple internships with different archival institutions. Whenever you major in history, everyone says, ‘Oh, so you want to teach.’ I didn’t want to teach — at least not right away. I started looking at jobs before I was ready to apply. Everything I was interested in was related to architectural history. I realized I needed a Masters Degree. I graduated from college in 2007 and went to graduate school at the University of Oregon. I just finished in June. So this is my very first job. Not a lot of people start in historic preservation right out of college. It’s usually something you work your way into or you discover along the way. I love it. It’s been great.

INDEX: In the end, what do you hope to do with this project?

JOHNSON: We hope to generate interest in the county’s history and maybe reinvigorate the landmarks program. For any survey or inventory, the basic aim is to get things down for posterity so that in the case of resources being lost in the future, you have a record of what was there. Also, getting people talking and getting some of the long-time residents’ stories documented. There are community history books out there, but sometimes they are limited publications and aren’t widely available. This will be sort of a county-wide history of all the stories in one place available to everybody. I think the fact that it’s being done at all is amazing and it’s great the county had money earmarked for cultural resources. I’m sure it wouldn’t be funded otherwise. It’s a hard economic time.

CHASE: There’s definitely a lot of community pride in some of the areas that don’t get as much recognition because they are small or their industry has left. In Wilkeson, for example, there is the sandstone quarry, but mining is done. They have a few businesses in town, but that’s it. Everyone is so excited to tell us as much as they can about their hometown and the surrounding area.

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Behind The Times: Never mind the buildings. Can Pierce County restore its historic preservation program? (04/02/08) — http://www.wahmee.com/tdi_pierce_county_preservation.pdf .

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