Monthly Archives: January 2009

Bainbridge isn’t the only city to suffer a budget shocker

The year started with a gut-turning plummet for the city budget, as you may have read here.

But Bainbridge’s surprise $1.2 budget shortfall seems like a ground-floor hop when compared to Bremerton’s $4.4 million freefall.

Poulsbo, which has a smaller budget than Bainbridge, took a $1 million dive, nearly equaling Bainbridge’s.

Tons of creosote logs slated for removal on BI

The state Department of Natural resources will begin an ambitious plan to remove a large number of creosote logs and pilings from Bainbridge beaches this week.

DNR plans to pull out 111 creosote-covered pilings at the Strawberry Plant property on Eagle Harbor, possibly on late Thursday or Friday. An additional 60 pilings are planned for removal on private tidelands in other parts of Eagle Harbor and Port Madison.

Other locations slated for creosote log removal in the coming weeks include: Hawley Cove (12.8 tons), Wing Point (17.6 tons), Tolo Lagoon (10 tons), Battle Point (18.2 tons), Murden Cove (46.8 tons) and Fay Bainbridge State Park (7.4 tons).

Here’s what DNR has to say about creosote-treated wood:

There are hundreds of thousands of derelict creosote pilings throughout Puget Sound, many of which have broken off and distributed tons of debris onto beaches. Creosote is a toxic chemical and a known carcinogen. Recent studies have shown that chemicals in treated wood materials can be harmful, and even lethal to many marine species. Herring eggs exposed to creosote have a high mortality rate, and English sole develop liver lesions when exposed to the chemicals. Impacts on salmon health also have been observed in recent studies. These and other negatively affected species are an important part of the food chain for salmon, orca whales, and birds such as the western grebe. The health of Puget Sound is also intimately connected with the health of our economy.

The above photo was taken during a DNR-led removal of creosote logs at Fay Bainbridge park last March.

Sun environmental reporter Chris Dunagan will have an expanded story about the removal project on Bainbridge and other parts of Kitsap County soon.

UPDATED: Bainbridge police chief resigns

Bainbridge Island Police Chief Matt Haney is leaving his post to take a job with an Eastern Washington tribe next month.

Haney, 55, gave official notice of his resignation today.

He’ll continue as chief until mid-February. Deputy Chief Jon Fehlman, who was hired in November, will take over the department until a replacement is selected, Mayor Darlene Kordonowy said.

Haney will retire from the state retirement system before assuming his new duties as the Confederated Tribes of the Colville’s chief of police.

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Groundwater supply declining, study says

Islanders may want to keep a closer tab on their taps.

A city-commissioned study indicates that the island’s finite water supply is declining in some areas.

The island’s deepest groundwater supplier, the Fletcher Bay aquifer, showed some of study’s steepest declines, especially in the Eagledale and Sands Road areas. Linked in recent years to high-capacity wells, the aquifer meets about 30 percent of the growing population’s water needs. Another large portion of the island’s water supply is generated by several small wells linked to a sea level aquifer, which in recent years has had instances of saltwater intrusion due to over-pumping.

Bainbridge’s water supply has become a top concern for residents, dominating community priority surveys and City Council campaigns.  Despite widespread public interest, the island has lacked a comprehensive analysis of whether it can satisfy its increasing thirst.

“There’s a lot of concern on the part of Bainbridge citizens about the state of their aquifers and what they can do about it,” said Joseph Lubischer, an engineer who helped lead the study for Bainbridge-based Aspect Consulting.

While the study’s limited scope prevents it from offering definitive answers, it does indicate that the concerns were well-founded.

“The last 20 years have seen some big, deep wells go in,” Lubischer said. “So, we’ve seen some changes recently, and we have a limited amount (of water).”

Of particular interest is Island Utilities Well 1, which supplies much of the Eagledale neighborhood on Eagle Harbor’s south shore. The high-capacity well registered the study’s steepest drop, declining from about 40 feet in 1988 to 25 feet last year.

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BI Public Works reducing customer service hours

The city’s public works is now operating with four fewer customer service hours each week.

Starting today, the department’s counter will close at noon on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

The department had been open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

City Hall will remain after noon on Wednesdays and Thursdays, but engineering staff availability to the public will be limited to previously-arranged appointments with patrons who have permits in
process.

The new hours will match the planning department’s recently reduced counter hours.

Public works’ reduced customer service hours staff more uninterrupted time
to focus on improving the department’s efficiency and responsiveness, according to City Engineer Bob Earl.

Planned improvements include updating permit application forms, revising and improving design and construction standards, capital bid documents, bidding processes and capital cost estimating.

City’s unexpected budget drop will lead to “dramatic cuts”

UPDATED: The city is starting the year with about a third less money than it expected, spurring talk of substantial cuts to nearly every part of city government.

“There’s going to be dramatic cuts,” city Finance Director Elray Konkel said. “Nothing’s sacred. Not staff. Not community services.”

The city had predicted late last year that the city would start 2009 with $3.3 million. But the downward spiral of city revenues has only quickened, leaving the city with just $2.1 million to work with at the start of January.

In response, the administration is planning to slash about 15 percent of the operations budget, which funds staff and most city services.

“We’re looking at everything, and changing the way we do business,” Konkel said.

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Does the city administration deserve bonus pay?

Some members of the City Council are questioning a bonus pay program that dolled out over $25,000 to the city’s top managers in 2008, a year of sharply declining revenues and substantial budget cuts.

“When you consider the economic distress in the city, and how it’s affecting the levels of service to the community, I’m disappointed that this bonus is being given,” said council chair Bill Knobloch on Tuesday.

The bonus pay program was established nine years ago to reward the performances of the city’s seven department heads. They can earn a bonus of up to 5 percent of their salary based on a year-end performance evaluation.
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Freedom is a burning tree

The story last week about a lawsuit to prevent a property owner from chopping down three historic trees really touched a nerve with some readers. Among the more colorful comments on the story’s online version was this one from “hs191962”:

I for one am sick of people telling me what I should or can and cannot do with my land. I am going to go cut down a 150 year old tree tommorow because I own the dam thing so kiss my behind tree huggers. If you want to find me follow the smoke from burnig limbs by the Southworth ferry.

The post ends with one word. All caps.

FREEDOM

So, if you south-end islanders happen see a toppled old tree in flames down around Southworth, you’ll know what freedom really looks like.

Rolfes wants to allow out-of-state bids for ferry projects

Rep. Christine Rolfes wants to remove a state rule that limits ferry construction bids to Washington shipbuilders.

The Bainbridge Democrat believes allowing greater competition will lower the cost for the state ferry system and make ferry projects eligible for federal dollars.

Seattle’s Todd Shipyards was the only shipbuilder to bid on the ferry system’s last two projects. Both jobs came in over-budget.

Rolfes’ proposal is one of her bolder and potentially divisive moves since first taking office in 2007.

Read more in Ed Friedrich’s story, here.

TV in the newspaper

The Kitsap Sun is arming its photographers and reporters with cameras these days. That’s old news for folks that live on the mighty mainland, where everything from windy weather to school board meetings have been captured by Sun videographers. Lately, though, Sun photographer Carolyn Yaschur has made treks across Agate Pass with her camcorder in hand.

Here’s Carolyn’s video tour of Bainbridge High School’s new earth-friendly 200 Building:

And here’s a nice little piece on Sunday’s mochi festival:

You can read my stories about the 200 Building here, and my coverage of the mochi festival here.