Many ideas have been floated for the property, owned by the
Bremerton School District. I also do not want to undervalue the
amazing things that are already happening there, primarily a teen
center, soon-to-be renovated gymnasium and a number of sports
fields already teeming with practicing youth.
But first things first.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to get those buildings
down,” Aaron Leavell, Bremerton School District
superintendent, told me.
Leavell said a survey in 2013 found it would cost about $1.5
million to tear down the building. The district doesn’t have the
money to complete the job right now but would like to take care of
it “sooner rather than later,” Leavell
acknowledged at our Story Walk last week.
“As time goes on, things don’t get cheaper,” he said.
The hard part isn’t the demolition work itself. It’s the
abatement of asbestos, a once commonly used construction material
now known to be carcinogenic. And there’s a lot of it in the
building: in the ceiling tiles, the floor tiles, the downspouts on
the gutters and even in putty used in the window seals.
With those environmental concerns in mind, Leavell has been
meeting with Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent to find a solution. They’ve
even held a meeting with officials from the federal Environmental
Protection Agency in an effort to identify possible grants
available. While the property’s not a Superfund site, Leavell
believes applying for federal grant assistance is worth a shot.
They’ve completed the first phase of the grant process, he
“You never know until you try,” Leavell said.
The superintendent said he and the school board are open to
discussions for local funding, to include the possibility of a new
capital levy when the existing one expires. Notwithstanding
community support for myriad possibilities there, Leavell added
that nearby View Ridge and Armin Jahr elementary schools aren’t
getting any younger. Perhaps a new school could be built there,
“Everybody recognizes the potential for this property
to really be the eastside hub for great things,” he said. “But
we’ve got to get through the first hurdle first.”
Many of you have pointed out the Bremerton ferry has
been sailing slightly strangely lately. The vessels
running to Seattle are slowing down more than their usual
wake-restricted amounts through Rich Passage, and they’re hugging
the coastline toward Illahee as they come and go from Sinclair
So what gives?
My sources in the ferry system say that the Coast Guard has
asked the ferries slow down and steer clear of the Port of
Waterman dock along the shores of South Kitsap, until at least
mid-October. The dock, once used as a port of call for the Mosquito
Fleet of foot ferries, is being replaced, and the Coast Guard has
issued a “no wake” zone around it for ferries, according to ferry
spokeswoman Broch Bender.
She estimates the delay is adding between two and seven minutes
or so to each sailing.
The pier has been a part of the Port of Waterman since 1923.
Kitsap Sun Reporter Chris Henry wrote that it’s been “a
gathering place for fishermen and crabbers,” for years, and is now
a popular place to jig for squid.
Almost two years ago, Karesha Peters traded
her landlord’s grass for a vast city garden in Manette.
She did all the heavy lifting herself, tearing out the lawn and
replacing it with boxed beds now filled with butternut squash,
chard, tomatoes and more.
“He let me rip up his entire front yard,” she joked
of her landlord. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
The work, she says, was all worth it.
“I can’t imagine not growing my own food,” she
The child development specialist, who is originally
from South Africa, got into gardening eight years ago while living
in Seattle. Since moving to Kitsap County, she has grown a garden
on a family property in Seabeck until she started her own in
Manette in early 2014.
She’s honed her craft, as evidenced by her taste for
the boldest flavors around. I’d never had New Zealand Spinach
before, but its sweet flavor makes me struggle to eat anything but
in the Spinach department. Her carrots always go fast at the
market; even if you miss them, don’t worry, because she
overproduced green beans a bit this year following robust demand at
last year’s market for them.
In the spirit of city gardening, she also planted a
healthy amount of strawberries, which she allows the neighborhood
kids to take off the vine for a quick snack.
Almost anytime of year, her garden is in production.
She still loves that first sprout, whenever it may be. “That
initial pop out of the ground gets me every time,” she said.
Today marks my 10 year anniversary at the
Kitsap Sun. It’s a milestone that I’ve been thinking
about a lot lately. I’ve witnessed a dramatic transformation
in journalism this past decade. Not all has been positive: the
newsroom staff is half the size it was when I got here, reflecting
an era of massive media consolidation. (That’s
the nice way to put it). But I am also part of a new
era, where the most creative and industrious minds will prevail in
an age where anyone can publish a story.
I wanted to take you back through this decade, for a
trip through the stories that fascinated me most. Many of
these, you will notice, are from my first seven years on the job,
when I was the Sun’s crime and justice reporter. But Bremerton, as
home to the Sun and those I’ve covered, has always played an
1. After 62 years, death comes six hours
Amazing stories that are told on the obituary page
nearly everyday. So I was especially curious when my editor, Kim
Rubenstein, came to me with a rather unique one: A couple whose
obituary ran together, in the same article.
I phoned the family, wondering if they would be
interested in telling their parents’ story. It’s a phone call that
never gets easier, having to call someone coming to terms with
death, but it’s a call I feel is a newspaper’s obligation. In doing
so, I’ve always tried to explain I’d like to give the community a
chance to know the person they were in life, and if not, they were
free to hang up on me. Everyone grieves differently but some people
view the opportunity as cathartic.
In this case, the family was thrilled and invited me
to their home in Kingston.
I learned of a
very special love story — a couple through 62 years of marriage
did everything together. Everything. Even getting the mail.
It’s a story that not only touched me emotionally, but
apparently others as well. Few stories I’ve ever done attracted
broader attention. I got calls, emails and letters from all over
the country, and was even interviewed by the Seattle P-I about
2. The CIA is doing what in Washington
Undercover police officers have their identities
concealed for a reason: they are often conducting sensitive, and
sometimes high risk, investigations that warrant it.
But what about when police chiefs, who use their
government issued vehicles mainly for the purpose of driving to and
from work, start using those undercover license plates?
But nothing could prepare me, months after the
initial story, for a call from Austin Jenkins, NPR reporter in
Olympia, who’d been hearing testimony in the State Legislature
about these license plates and changes to the program.
Later, the DOL would backpedal and say that they had
no authority to release information about those “federal agencies”
that have the licenses. But it was a fascinating discovery, an
amazing story to work on and I am glad
we were able to help bring the program to transparency.
3. The Pentagon’s calling, and they’re not
Ever wonder what it’s like to have The Pentagon angry
with a story you did? Well, let me tell you.
Through a public records request, I got hold of a
Navy document that reported he’d received an honorable
discharge from the Navy — something a former Navy JAG told me was
unheard of following a sex crime conviction.
We ran the story.
The following Monday, The Pentagon called.
“Your story is wrong,” I was told repeatedly. “Are
you going to correct it?”
“How is it wrong?” I asked.
I couldn’t get an answer because those records were
private, I was told.
“So how can I correct it?” I wondered.
Round and round we went, for what felt like an
eternity. Newsroom meetings were held. I freely admit it does not
feel good when the Pentagon is not happy with you.
Eventually, others at The Pentagon and the local base
released information that showed the man had received an “other
than honorable” discharge. To this day, I am uncertain why I
saw reports that contradicted each other.
4. Burglary victim becomes the
Imagine coming home from a trip to find your home has
been burglarized, and yet
you’re the one getting hauled off to jail. That was the
situation Luke Groves faced in 2009. A felon, he’d broken into a
school in Shelton at 18, and now, at 37, police found his wife’s
guns in their Hewitt Avenue home.
Prosecutors, who charged him with felon in possession
of a firearm, had offered him no jail time in exchange for his
guilty plea. But Groves took the case to trial,
was convicted, and could’ve faced years in prison over it.
The case was one that former Kitsap County Prosecutor
Russ Hauge and I had butted heads about. He felt we’d cast the
prosecutor’s office as the bad guy in a case which they could not
just “look the other way” on a weapons charge.
I followed the trial from start to finish, including
Hauge himself handling the sentencing — something I can’t
recall on an other occasion in my seven years covering the court
system here. Hauge told the judge that Groves should ultimately get
credit for time served for the crime, and Groves was released.
The story started with a scanner call for a DOA (dead
on arrival) near the road in Olhava. I inquired with the police
sergeant, who told me that the death was actually a pretty
interesting story — certainly not something I expected to hear. I
headed north, parked, and followed a little trail into the woods
where I found “The Shiloh,” Christensen’s home among Western Red
It was a “meticulously organized world,” I wrote. “A
campsite with finely raked dirt, a sturdy green shed and a tent
filled with bins of scrupulously folded clean laundry and cases of
Steel Reserve beer.”
In the subsequent days, I learned all about his quiet
penned this story. Most satisfying to me was that Christensen’s
family had lost touch with him. Without the story, which thanks to
the Internet made its way across the country, his family would’ve
never found him. He got the dignified burial he deserved.
6. Heroin’s ugly grip on Kitsap, the
I’ve probably put more energy into covering the
opiate epidemic than any other single topic in my decade at the
I’ve received a lot of “jail mail” over the years,
and while there’s usually an interesting story, it is, shall we
say, not always one I would pursue in print.
When the letters started coming from Robert “Doug”
Pierce in 2010, I was skeptical. He was convinced that Kitsap
County had miscalculated his “good time” or time off for good
behavior, and that he was serving too long a sentence from his
current cell, at Coyote Ridge in Connell.
Now I will tell you I am a journalist and not a
mathematician. But the basic gist was that jail officials here were
calculating his good time by simply dividing his time served by
three, rather than tacking on an additional to his overall
sentence. The result was he would serve 35 extra days.
A criminal past can often haunts someone for the rest
of his or her life. That was certainly true for Ed Gonda, a man who
moved his family to Bainbridge Island and had heard it was a “laid
back, forgiving kind of place.”
His crime was a sexual relationship with a
15-year-old girl. He admitted to it, did time for it, paid more
than $10,000 in treatment for it — and had lived a clean life for
15 years, to include starting his own family.
But under Washington state law, he had to register as
a sex offender, though he was not a pedophile. And somehow, after
making friends at a local church and at his daughter’s school, word
“The news traveled fast, and people who they thought
they knew well acted swiftly,”
I wrote. “His daughter could no longer play with friends down
the street, he said. The church pews around them were vacant on
Sundays. They more or less stopped going out anywhere on the
“We’re treated like we’re diseased,” his wife told
It was the start of a
three part series I knew would be controversial, but I felt was
important. We want to protect all people in society, especially
children. But is there ever a point when we’ve gone too far and it
has infringed on the rights of those who have already done their
Let’s face it: Bremerton has a gotten a bad rap over
the years, following the demise in the 1980s of its retail downtown
core. An increasing violent crime rate followed, and in many ways
the reputation was earned.
When I was hired in 2005, the city had the highest
per capita violent crime rate. During my interview, which was just
weeks after two murders blocks from the Kitsap Sun’s office, I was
asked how I would take on the story. Aggressively, I said.
If you live in Bremerton, you know that each time we
do have a tragic, violent episode — even if far outside city limits
— it reinforces the stereotype.
But followers of this blog know better. There are
many positive signs of a community improving: Increasing ferry
traffic. Volunteers embracing parks. Home improvements being made.
We’ll see how long it takes for the rest of the world
10. Walking the story in
Any reporter will tell you that we spend a lot more
time with the story than what ends up in the paper. But what about
those people who want to know more, who
are curious for every last detail?
Michelle Baxter Patton’s decision to take her
popular flea market at Uptown Mercantile &
Marketplace on Pacific Avenue from Sundays to
Saturdays boils down to two simple reasons.
“God and the Seahawks,” she said. “I can’t compete
with them. Nor would I want to.”
As fall approached, she felt Saturdays made more
sense for “The
Merc” at 816 Pacific Avenue, noting there’s more happening in
Bremerton that day that might spur people to stop by the
There’s good reason: she’s got pre-loved vintage
items for sale from as many as 40 vendors between the store and its
flea market space, a gymnasium-sized showroom that once was a
Pontiac dealership (see photo).
Among the goodies for sale right now: a 19th century
bed frame that was reportedly where the sheriff who arrested Billy
the Kid laid his head, she said. The price: $350.
The flea market’s new day kicks off this Saturday,
Sept. 26, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with loads of festivities all day
long. A “vintage” car show will complement the market and Aaron
McFadden and the Whiskey Jackets will also be playing. Two food
carts — the Tiki Truck and Ray’s Dogs — will also be on hand.
It’s obvious Baxter Patton has a passion for her
business. The former hair dresser, raised in the family who started
and continues to run Bremerton Bottling Company, has
entrepreneurship in her blood. She
took over the Mercantile in February from Amber Breske. Since
then, she’s loved just about every minute.
While on a tour of businesses in eastern Washington in
early August, Dino
Davis spotted an opportunity. The Bremerton City
Councilman was listening to an executive producer of the SyFy show
“Z Nation,” who mentioned
that the show was in need of a Navy ship for filming.
“I raised my hand and I said I know a guy,” Davis
“In addition, the characters will be in full make-up and dressed
as Zombies,” it reads, adding that a Zodiac boat will be in the
water Friday as part of filming.
Davis said he’s pleased that the film crew has chosen Bremerton
as its backdrop. He was on a tour of Eastern Washington businesses
put on by the Puget Sound Regional
Council and the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, one that included
stops in Spokane, where The Asylum is based and is taking advantage
of the state’s
On Tuesday at 6 p.m., we will meet inside that gym (3102 Wheaton
Way) to discuss the campus’ past, present and future and we’ll tour
the area. Special guests for our latest Kitsap Sun Story Walk
Walker, East High School class of 1974 graduate and one of the
greatest basketball players to come out of Bremerton.
Another Castle Arcade Edition is coming to 305 Pacific Avenue,
former home of Alchemy Tattoo & Gallery.
The Edmonds-based adult “barcade,” which started as a video
store in 2006, expanded to serve drinks to its gaming customers.
They’ll soon open similar barcades in Bellingham and Bremerton,
according to Jason Alloway Greye, the company’s district manager.
The expansion speaks to the state of the industry, he
“Demand is growing exponentially,” he said.
Greye, who happens to be from Bremerton, pitched the idea to the
company to give downtown Bremerton a try. He sees a city that needs
more for younger people — those over 21 — to do. Plus, he figured
there’s plenty of Puget Sound Naval Shipyard workers nearby that
would want to give the place a try as well.
Like Quarters Arcade around the corner, there will be a mix of
old and new games. You’ll be able to play about a dozen
pinball machines and around 30 arcade games.
“We focus on classic and retro but not exclusively,”
Bremerton’s will be the only location with a full bar, he
You can feel fall coming. The weather’s
cooling, the colors are starting to change and summer will soon
end. But before it does, I wanted to reflect on three stories that
just flat made me feel good this summer in Bremerton. They’re the
kinds of stories that give you hope for humanity.
In the days after, the lone casualty appeared to be Tiffany, a
black lab and chow mix that could be seen in surveillance video
running from the Motel 6 as it exploded. But Tiffany’s owners,
who’d recently moved here, never gave up hope. Dozens of people
took on the task of posting flyers around town, creating a Facebook
page, and combing the area looking for her. Nine days after the
she was found drinking from the Port Washington Narrows.
What touched me the most about this story was after the fact,
when complete strangers came together on a Sunday at Lions Park.
Everyone got a chance to meet Tiffany (pictured). It was a
wonderful story of community coming together, and then celebrating
The mailman of Manette
I’d heard a lot about Norm the mailman before Monday, when I got
to tag along with him as he delivered on his 11-mile route. But I
was awestruck by just how beloved he is in the community he
On each block, a few homes, if not more, were in on “Norm
Day,” an impromptu celebration of his close to 30 years
delivering mail in Manette. From simple cards to bottles of wine,
he was showered in praise throughout the day. It was fascinating to
watch a neighborhood band together for someone like that.
Only here’s the thing: after walking with him much of the way, I
can say with confidence he completely deserved it. Norm is
more than a mailman. He helps people on his route each and every
I wrote about him in Tuesday’s paper.
Putting joy in Turner
Since becoming the executive director of the USS Turner Joy
Museum last year, Jack James
has been a man on a mission. The retired Navy Seal, who’s led
tasks like removing explosives from beaches in Iraq, is known for
thinking outside the box.
Earlier in the year, he came up with a crazy idea to swim from
the Turner Joy to the Boat Shed, crossing the Port Washington
Narrows — one of the swiftest currents in Puget Sound. It sounded
just crazy enough that I thought I’d like to join him. When else do
you get a chance to swim from west to East Bremerton?
We all know Jack’s a hard worker. But what was so inspirational
to me was his determination. Right before plunging into the water
Sept. 12, I complained about the currents and the possibility of
getting stung by a jelly fish.
“Look,” he told me. “All that other stuff, it’s just noise. See
the Boat Shed over there? That’s the goal — do not think about
“Focus on the mission.”
And I did.
I’m excited for Bremerton to see what James comes up with