The Bremerton Beat

If it's about Bremerton and happening now, it's on the Beat. Written by the Sun's Josh Farley.
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The raccoon crackdown in Bremerton begins now

April 17th, 2014 by josh farley

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 Problematic raccoons, and those who feed them, take note: Bremerton’s crackdown has begun

The city’s new ordinance, which stiffens fines for those who feed the animals and creates a contract with the federal government to neutralize the most dubious critters, takes effect today.

The City Council passed the new ordinance 7-0 at its April 2 meeting. For the Council, putting more weight into the fines and hiring a United States Department of Agriculture wildlife specialist for up to 80 hours a year (at a cost of $3,500) was a slam dunk.

The thornier issue between Mayor Patty Lent and the Council was deciding who the point of contact for raccoon complaints would be. The Council had been pretty adamant at a meeting the prior week that City Code Enforcement Officer Janet Lunceford should be involved, and that, in a worst-case scenario, raccoon feeders could be hauled before the city’s hearing examiner.

Lent asked that the raccoon point person be City Clerk Shannon Corin. She was backed by her Department of Community Development Director Andrea Spencer, who pointed out to the Council that Lunceford has no experience in the animal control field — and has plenty to do already.

But Younger said at the City Council’s March 26 meeting that he “would not budge on this.”

In the end, the Council did, in fact, budge.

Lent would’ve vetoed the ordinance had it crossed her desk with code enforcement involved. That puts the Council in a tough spot — they’d need five of seven members to override the mayor. Plus, the task of implementing the ordinance falls to the city administration.

Younger, in a meeting just before the vote April 2 with the mayor, decided the ordinance sans code enforcement was better than no ordinance at all.

“I felt the buy-in by the mayor was more important than the additional language concerning the hearing examiner,” he told me. “In reality, I can pass all the ordinances in the world. But the administration is the one that carries them out.”

For now, the City Clerk will be that point of contact. Corin will respond to complaints and refer them to different sources: Kitsap County Animal Rescue, Kitsap Public Health District and the wildlife specialist with the United States Department of Agriculture.


Downtown Bremerton: the dreams that have yet to come to the old JC Penny’s

April 9th, 2014 by josh farley

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The removal of 30 concrete tiles this month from the Harborside Parking Garage downtown got me thinking about the gritty building itself. Most of you will recall Ron Sher, the prominent Puget Sound developer who’s turned aging malls into vibrant shopping centers, bought the garage in 2007. He’d planned to build apartments, a workout facility, bookstore, commons area and other amenities at the spot that may always be known as the Old JC Penny’s building.

So far, those plans haven’t materialized.

They were certainly ambitious. Artist renderings (pictured) show lots of gathering places, apartments reaching into the sky, and a central market.

While those renderings exist only on paper, Sher and an architect will tour the garage next week, designing a new facade for it to replace the tiles. I’m told it will look much better and the removal of the 32,000 lbs. tiles would make it easier to construct apartments on the roof.

Though a bigger project remains elusive, Sher hasn’t held back on other parts of downtown. He bought the former Westsound Bank building from the city for $910,000 and ultimately turned it into the Bremerton Bar & Grill. Chuck Henderson, his local property manager, is still in talks with developers and grocers about prospects for the old Penny’s building, as well as other spots Sher’s purchased downtown. I’d say stay tuned.

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A sign of the times in Bremerton?

March 27th, 2014 by josh farley

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There are signs of change in Bremerton. Or, more literally, there are changing signs.

I’ve noticed several local businesses have recently upgraded their storefront signage. Some, like Uptown Mercantile and Marketplace (above), recently opened. Others, like the Bremerton Ice Arena (below), have been there for a long while.

Perhaps the signage is just a little image upgrading in time for spring. Have you seen any sign upgrades lately? Drop me a picture and a line at jfarley@kitsapsun.com and I’ll post them here.

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You might have noticed that Rimnam Thai Cuisine, formerly of E. 11th in Manette, is getting pretty close to opening in the defunct Bay Bowl near Harrison Medical Center. Sign’s up!

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Raccoons to take center stage at Bremerton City Hall

March 26th, 2014 by josh farley

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It’s finally on the agenda. On Wednesday night, the Bremerton City Council will tackle an issue long discussed, but never dealt with — not recently anyway.

Yep, we are talking about raccoons.

Councilman Eric Younger told me he’s lived in different homes in Bremerton and has seen problems with raccoons in each one. He is most concerned with neighbors who feed them, thus creating a reliant critter population that can create problems in neighborhoods.

“I’m trying to come up with a solution,” Younger said. “To the best of my knowledge, no one has addressed this.”

Here’s what’s on the table.  The city administration has responded with a potential change to city code that would include making it unlawful to feed raccoons outdoors at anytime. Violators would be subject to a $125 fine for a first offense; $250 for a second offense in the same year and $500 for a third and each subsequent offense in the same year. 

Failing to respond to an infraction would become a criminal misdemeanor offense as well, and could be subject to civil action from the city.

Here’s the other part of the plan: the city would hire a United States Department of Agriculture wildlife specialist for up to 80 hours a year, at a cost of $3,500. They will assist the city “in the form of educational information, non-lethal techniques or direct control.”

“If direct control is necessary, the most effective and safe tools and techniques available will be utilized,” the program plan says.

I think that means the wildlife specialist will have the ability to use traps and to shoot raccoons in the city.

I’d like to hear from my fellow Bremertonians about this issue. Do you have a raccoon problem? Do you love them and keep one as a pet? (Not recommended.) Drop me a note below or email me at jfarley@kitsapsun.com. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this issue.


Exploring the story: Fourth Street edition

March 19th, 2014 by josh farley
Photo of tour by Tad Sooter.

Photo of tour by Tad Sooter.

There was just something about Fourth Street’s economic divide that cried out for more than a story. And so, on Tuesday night — following Sunday’s publication of “In Bremerton, a tale of two Fourth streets,” I hosted a talk and tour of the downtown Bremerton thoroughfare.

We had a nice turnout, with 15 people coming along to learn about the successes of the western half of the street, and failures of the eastern half. Some participants knew a lot — I’d even quoted them in the story — while others came along to expand their knowledge.

In any event, I really enjoyed going beyond the story to help others experience Fourth Street for themselves. Response thus far has been good from the tour, and I am planning to do one similar event each month for the rest of the year.

Won’t you come along next time?

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Photo by Tad Sooter.


Mural comes home to Manette Saloon

March 12th, 2014 by josh farley

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If you’ve been in the Manette Saloon on East 11th lately, you know that one of its walls has recently been adorned with a fantastical mural, complete with soaring bald eagle, moss-covered tree and a Rainier-esque mountain. 

But those who’ve lived in the area awhile know the artifact is not new to the bar.

Rebecca Dove Taylor, the saloon’s owner, said the mural has come home, having been gone for more than a decade. Painted inside the bar sometime in the early ’90s, a former business partner took it with him when he left saloon management.

How it was painted — and who created it — is a great story in and of itself. His name is Jason Najarak, an artist and art conservator who once came to Bremerton to visit his brother.

Najarak, who has become renown for his “primal realism” style, is based in Minnesota. I tracked him down for a phone call a few weeks back.

A frequenter of the bar while here, Najarak, who tells stories of meeting Picasso on his web site, asked to paint the ambitious mural and created it right in the bar itself.

He used oil and egg tempura paint, a tradition that dates back to the middle ages, and took a few months to put it all together.

“Sometimes I’d go in there before they opened,” to work, he told me. “Sometimes, I would paint right there while they were partying behind me.”

He didn’t have a plan at first. In fact, that’s part of his signature style — he likes to work the canvas with some basic ideas, then go from there once he sees what he’s got. Often, he’ll paint over things he’s worked on for hours, even days, if he’s not feeling it.

“I like to paint my way out,” he said.

The best way to see this method is to watch him construct a similar mural over several weeks, thanks to the beauty of time-lapse photography.

Najarak said he’d love to return to Bremerton sometime, and get another look at the mural he created more than twenty years ago.

The old management partner that took the mural recently brought it back, Manette owner Dove Taylor told me.

She said the mural is now there to stay.


Bremerton drivers beware: Cops keep an eye on those carpool lanes

March 5th, 2014 by josh farley
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Bremerton police nabbed 24 drivers in just over an hour for driving solo in the HOV lane. Photo by Bremerton police.

Bremerton police officers made a curious discovery last Thursday while patrolling the carpool lanes on Navy Yard Highway. As they peered into one of the cars they stopped, they noticed the driver, alone, had a carseat riding shotgun, with a blanket over it.    

And they found this not once, but twice, after only an hour and 15 minutes of patrolling.

In total, five officers trolled the carpool, or High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane, on Highway 304 between 3:45-5 p.m. The officers sat in traffic and watched for cars to go by in the carpool lane that looked like they had only one occupant. The HOV violations added up quickly, and by the time it was over, 24 tickets had been written.

“There are few traffic violations that make peoples’ blood boil more than High Occupancy Vehicle lane violations,” Bremerton Police Chief Steve Strachan wrote in his weekly update. “While traffic is backed up and stop-and-go for people following the law, drivers by themselves in the HOV lane go flying by, effectively saying to everyone else that their time is simply more important than yours.”

Strachan also noted that by their presence, traffic actually moved more smoothly as less cars moved along the HOV lane.

And it won’t be the last time police will be out there.

“We will be doing this again,” Strachan wrote. “The word will start to get around.”


‘I just want to kill weeds’ director tells environmentally-conscious Council

March 4th, 2014 by josh farley

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He just wanted to kill some weeds. But an environmentally conscious Bremerton City Council told Public Works Director Chal Martin last Wednesday they wanted to make certain that green practices were followed as part of an upcoming maintenance project.

At issue was a $44,000 contract with Superior Maintenance Solutions to apply herbicide and eliminate weeds that are growing out of city sidewalks. The work is a pilot project for the city.

The project includes the weeding and cleaning of sidewalks around the city, as well as tree and shrub trimming around the sidewalks.

But most members of the Council were concerned what herbicide would be used.  Glyphosate, used in products like Roundup, is called for the in the contract.

That got the Council inquiring. Were there alternatives? Why not just use vinegar and water to get rid of the weeds? Could we run a test to see if said vinegar would be as effective?

Martin said he’d look into it. His reaction was, as best I can put it, one of slight exasperation.

“I just want to kill weeds,” Martin said to conclude the discussion.

The contract with  Superior Maintenance Solutions, which still calls for Glyphosate, or some alternative of it, will likely be passed Wednesday at the Council’s regular meeting at the Norm Dicks Government Center. Meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. The full meeting agenda for Wednesday can be found here.


Could Bremerton host the 2022 Winter Olympics?

February 26th, 2014 by josh farley
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Could the Olympics come to Bremerton? Well, no. STEVE JOHNSON / KITSAP SUN RENDERING

With the conclusion of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, I am feeling energized. But I never imagined how jazzed I’d get when Elliot Smith, a dear Twitter friend from Bellingham, noted that Pyeongchang — site of the 2018 Winter Olympics — has around 44,000 people in it.

That, he said, would be like Bremerton — population 39,000 — hosting the Winter Olympics.

To which I replied: Why not Bremerton?

Like any sane person, I took the ball and ran with it. On Twitter, at any rate. “Let’s go for it!” I wrote, using what will become one of the great hashtags of our time: #BremertonOlympics2022

I even asked Bremerton native Bree Schaaf, bobsledder who competed in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, what she thought of the idea.

I like it!” Schaaf said to the idea on Twitter. “Gonna take some serious bake sales and spaghetti feeds to match Putin’s billiondy dollar games…” she added. 

Former Kitsap Sun Sports Editor Chuck Stark has already begun planning venues for the games. He suggested bobsled races down Burwell Street, curling aboard the Bremerton-Seattle ferry route and building an Olympic-sized hockey rink at the old East High School site.

Others weren’t so supportive of the idea. Shaun Guerrero told me via Twitter, “Bro just cause it’s legal doesn’t mean you should start so early,” referring to my early morning tweet — and an apparent drug problem he thinks I have. Rod, a.k.a. Torpedoman69, tried to divert the Bremerton 2022 campaign to Seabeck.

“I think Seabeck would be great for the Olympics,” Rod said, adding the Seabeck Conference Center would do well as the Olympic village.

None were so hurtful, however, as Kitsap Sun Sports Writer Annette Griffus, who tweeted simply: “No. Just no.”

When I responded to her that the Olympic fire had already been lit, she even threatened to play saboteur.

“I can douse it,” she tweeted.

But many were supportive, and I’m thankful for that.

“Can’t be worse than Sochi right?” Cooper tweeted.

Truth be told, I know Bremerton hasn’t a snowball’s chance. But just for fun, I asked Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent, at the conclusion of a recent phone call, if the city could play host.

“I don’t think so,” she said.

But we discussed the very real possibility of Seattle hosting big sporting events like the Olympics. Bremerton would benefit economically, with its ferry link, she said. She also mentioned that the town ballooned during the 1962 World’s Fair.

“We would be well positioned,” for such an event, she added.

Not gonna happen, I’m afraid. STEVE JOHNSON / KITSAP SUN RENDERING


Bremerton comes in at No. 8 in healthiest small cities list

February 26th, 2014 by josh farley

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Believe it or not, Bremerton is a pretty healthy place. In fact, Gallup has named our home to be the eighth healthiest small city in the nation, according to a story in Daily Finance from earlier this month.

So here’s the deal. Gallup, in producing its Healthways Well-Being Index, looked at local obesity and diabetes rates, as well as the percentages of people who frequently exercise and eat produce, and who are optimistic about their city. They also looked at what percentage of the population is uninsured. Put all those indicators together and voila! Bremerton’s No. 8.

Gallup grouped the Bremerton and Silverdale areas, so the population totaled 60,000 (Bremerton proper weighs in at close to 40,000). Below are the indicators they examined.  The number on the left is Bremerton’s; the number on the right denotes the national average for communities under 300,000.

Diabetes rate: 11.5% / 10.5%

Obesity rate: 24.5% / 25.4%

Frequent exercise: 58.2% / 54.3%

Eat produce frequently: 60.2% / 58.2%

City optimism: 62% / 58.8%

Uninsured 11.5% / 14.8%

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Here are some observations from the data from someone who is an expert a know-it-all reporter. Our diabetes and and obesity rates pretty much mirror the national averages. But Gallup thinks we exercise and eat produce more frequently than the rest of the country. We are also more optimistic about our area than most.

With our Navy presence here, I speculate that many who live in Bremerton and Silverdale have to keep in pretty good shape, and that means regular exercise and a healthy diet.

Also, we have fewer uninsured residents here. Perhaps that’s due to a robust portion of our local workforce clocking in at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility — one of the state’s largest daytime workforces — where health insurance is the standard.

Lastly, I would ask you to just take a look around. Hard to dispute that where we live — surrounded by the blue waters of the Puget Sound, white capped Olympic Mountains and thick forests of towering conifers — isn’t beautiful.

As for being optimistic about their city? I don’t know. You tell me, Bremerton.


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