Comment: If I am reading this correctly, you are suggesting getting out of PenMet, with nothing in place to support the facilities that you are describing (Demolay, Pier)….so those would close until such time that some other organization is put in place? I agree that the communication with PenMet is bad, based on your description. But it seems like a more practical, and timely approach would be to work with them to figure out a solution.
Additionally, I attended a zoom call many months ago where there was a description of what was intended to be done for the Demolay facility, specifically the bulkheads and tidal zones. It seemed like a very complex problem that a bunch of people on the call were working on. How, exactly, would this new Fox Island organization work with these
organizations and update the Demolay facility in and environmentally sound way?
Response: With regard to having “nothing in place,” as we’ve stated in an earlier response, there are multiple options available to us with the three main options being a Fox Island Metropolitan Park District, allowing the FICRA Trust to own and manage the three properties, or form a new entity that will assume those responsibilities. Which option to choose is going to be up to all Fox Islanders and certainly not just our group. We will be holding meetings on these options at some point in the future. Probably at some point once we know we will be before the Boundary Review Board. We presume to have no authority nor do we presume to know what all of us on Fox Island might want going forward. There will be much more on this topic in the future. As for what PenMet might do if we are successful in removing Fox Island, who knows at this point? All we know at this point is that PenMet is opposing our efforts. We’ll let you surmise why. As for working with PenMet, several of us have been communicating with PenMet for over a year now. We’ve been asking for meetings (all, but two of which have been ignored) and for joint tours of the properties so we can point out our concerns while standing on the properties (all of which have been ignored). We’ve asked a few questions to better understand how PenMet operates and how it trains its employees and volunteers, and how it spends its money. In very case we are either ignored or told to file Public Record Requests. We will be providing a detailed update on those PRR’s in the very near future. Working with PenMet is simply not an option. More than a year’s worth of efforts have proven worthless. With respect to your comments about the Zoom meeting you attended, we are very aware of this. The Pierce Conservation District (“PCD”) scheduled three Zoom meetings last year and conducted two of them. The agenda item being discussed was a project to improve, protect, and rehabilitate the DeMolay Sandspit property. There were three options developed by the PCD and several experts were brought in to discuss the habitat, erosion, natural landscaping, fixing or removing the broken down seawall, etc. Only two of the three scheduled Zoom meetings took place. The third meeting never happened. We called a contact at the Pierce Conservation District to ask about the third meeting and the status of the project. We were told the third meeting never took place. We were told that the contact person at PenMet had retired impeding the lines of communication and that a new Executive Director had come on board. We don’t know if that reference was to PenMet’s new Executive Director or to a new Executive Director for the PCD. That said, we were told that the PCD has continued to reach out to PenMet to get this project moving forward, but to date not much has happened—at least that we are aware of. We were also told by PenMet that they felt the PCD turned away from this project and that’s why nothing has happened. Who knows the truth, but there is a kicker to this story: We were told the project being proposed by the PCD was FULLY FUNDED and could be done with no expenditure on PenMet’s part!!
Comment: I have lived on the island since 1977 and have seen our community grow substantially. I have never needed the opportunity to use either of the sites but this is OUR community and if PenMet can’t or won’t take care of either of the sites and still collect funds, they need to go.
Response: We agree that Fox Island is a tremendous community that has proven it can mobilize the address the needs of Fox Island. We have a long and successful records of protecting our history. Our group is very confident that we can do a far better job in managing and maintaining the three “parks” on our island. We invite all Fox Islanders to visit the three PenMet properties and see for yourself their current condition. If you look at PenMet’s 2022 Budget Book, you will see some items listed for the Fishing Pier and the DeMolay Sandspit as deferred maintenance. Deferred maintenance occurs through either a lack of will to do the maintenance or a lack of resources (in money, staff time, supplies, materials, etc.) to get the maintenance done. Ask yourself what you think the cause is for the current condition of the Fox Island properties.
While the tax levies have increased dramatically since PenMet achieved what they call a levy lid lift (which allows a taxing entity, with voter approval, to increase tax levies beyond the limits imposed without that voter approval) a few years ago, we’ve seen no increase in expenditures on Fox Island in any material amount. The vast majority of what PenMet spends on Fox Island is for utilities such as electricity, water, and septic. The spending beyond those items is minimal as we will show in a later posting.
The levy lid lift is set to expire in 2023, but it is documented that PenMet is considering an extension of that levy lid beyond 2023. Who knows if they’ll attempt to go back to the voters for even more money? We also have a cash flow study (or least part of it) that shows PenMet will be in a strong cash flow position with or without an extension of the levy lid lift. If that’s the case, why would they need to extend it?
Question: Good luck. This will be a hard challenge to take Fox Island Resident funding away from PenMet. I hope you are successful. What about contacting the State Representative for this district and getting that person involved?
Response: We will certainly need some amount of luck. It appears to be unprecedented for a Boundary Review Board to remove property that is within a Metropolitan Park District from that District. Clearly, the Boundary Review Board has the legal authority to adjust park district boundaries, but whether they will do in this case or not is an open question. We have reached out to the State Attorney General, the State Auditor, and various Ethics Boards at the state and county levels. It became readily apparent that none of these departments have any authority over a Metropolitan Park District to accomplish what we are trying to accomplish. It’s either the Boundary Review Board or the filing of a lawsuit in court because of misfeasance or malfeasance in office. The courts are backed up for years due to COVID shutdown and increase criminal cases so no quick resolution would be found even if a case could be made. We have had some conversations with an elected official who provided some advice and we are following that advice.
Comment: You speak of providing total transparency. Why don’t you list your members name. Transparency begins now. Many of your suggestions are against the law. Ie removal of commissioners.
Response: We absolutely believe in total transparency. All of our names and many personal statements are listed right here on this website. You will also see that we have provided a bit of background on each of us. You can also look under “Communication” and “PetMet Correspondence” and see the letters between our group and PenMet’s responses. Those letters are signed by all of us.
As for the removal of commissioners, if we (meaning the majority of Fox Islanders—not just our group) to form a Fox Island Metropolitan Park District, we are suggesting that we also adopt some safeguards, to the extent possible under the law, to prevent similar issues arising in the future. It’s not a given that a new Metropolitan Park District will be formed—that’s not for us to decide. However, if that option is chosen, we will look hard at what restrictions and rules we can put in place as to how that new Metropolitan Park District would operate. If removing a Commissioner is not allowed, then it’s not allowed and we will seek other safeguards. None of us are offering legal opinions such as the one you’ve offered because none of us have the expertise to do so.
Comment: I think it’s vital to keep the pressure on penmet and Pierce county and I believe you are heading in the right direction. I have never heard one good thing about how penmet is operated and this info is no shock at all. These two resources are vital to our community and what is happening now is unacceptable. Thank you
Response: Thanks for this support. We agree that the PenMet Fox Island Parks are vital to our community and their care, maintenance, and management are all critical factors that need to be addressed. When you couple that with the Fox Island Bridge issues and the lack of emergency services located on Fox Island (and staffing the fire station is a budgetary issue), we feel we, as Fox Islanders, need more control over how our tax dollars are spent.
Comment: We are new to the neighborhood and had no idea of the park problems other than a few posts on the fox island news Facebook group. We are aware of the bridge problems and appreciate all the work people are doing to come up with an equitable solution. Which will be no easy task. We do appreciate for all neighbors concerned that the Sand spit and the fishing pier now has a security guard and that they apparently lock the gate at night. I do agree based on what we have seen so far that “our” community does a much better job at working together as a team than Penmet ever could. I am in Sand and soil and have enjoyed working side by side with neighbors to beautify the little chapel.
Response: First, welcome to the neighborhood. We are confident you’ll find Fox Island a truly great place to live. Many of us are also actively involved in the Fox Island Bridge issue which is another motivating factor for all of us on Fox Island to recapture some sense of control on where our tax dollars go and what we get in return. This is, as you say, no easy task, but the only guarantee we believe we have is that if we do nothing, things will only get worse.
The Chapel and the Nichols Center are two shining examples of what a love for Fox Island and a desire to contribute to our community in time and money can achieve. We agree with your assessment that PenMet can never match what we could do with the three properties PenMet owns. We would match up our two managed properties against any PenMet park. And thanks for your service to the Chapel. It is truly a jewel on Fox Island thanks in large part to the Sand & Soil club.
Comment: Yes, if this proceeds as envisioned, I also recommend that the Board that will be set up will have only Fox Island residents on it, similar to the FICRA and FICRA Trust organizations.
Response: We have several options open to us on how we proceed if we are successful in removing ourselves from PenMet. All of those options would meet your excellent criteria of having only Fox Island residents. Many of our group are active with both FICRA and the FICRA Trust Boards for the same reasons we’re supporting this effort. We appreciate your input and your suggestion!
Comment: I enjoy all the parks and would really like to see improvement in our FI parks. They have so much potential.
Response: We are in complete agreement! If you look at what volunteer time and donations have done with respect to the Chapel and with respect to the Nichols Community Center, you can readily see we clearly have both the spirit and the resources to make the three PenMet properties parks that we can be proud of. There is great potential in all three properties, and its our goal to achieve those potentials just like we’ve proven we can do with our other treasured historical buildings.
Question: PenMet parks also owns the Cedrona Bay boat launch on 13th ave. I hope that as part of these efforts there will be a plan to take over and maintain it as well.
Response: Absolutely! While PenMet doesn’t think the Cedrona Bay Boat Launch is important enough to even put on the official PenMet Park District map, it is a valuable property that might have significant potential. We definitely want to obtain title to this parcel along with the DeMolay Sandspit and the Fishing Pier. We want to begin investigating the possibilities of improving that property so it can get to its highest and best use. It’s a shame that this property has not been touched by PenMet since it took over ownership.
Question: Will the beach access on Kamus be included?
Response: We’re not sure exactly which access you are referring to, but to clarify things: PenMet owns three properties on Fox Island: (1) The DeMolay Sandspit, (2) the Fishing Pier, and (3) the boat launch on 13th. All three of those properties are within the scope of what we’re trying to do. If you are referring to another property, please clarify exactly which one you have in mind, and we can respond more directly.