COUNCIL SCORECARD: New conference center contract, a parks boost and more

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There was plenty to do at Wednesday night’s City Council meeting. The Council approved a new contract for the Kitsap Conference Center, a boost to the parks department’s maintenance staff and even accepted a $20,000 donation from the son of a fallen Council member. Here’s my full report:

Four more years for Columbia at Conference Center 

The City Council approved a nearly four-year agreement for Columbia Hospitality to continue operating the Kitsap Conference Center. Columbia has done so since the facility opened in 2004.

Columbia will be paid $7,500 monthly and receive 1.5 percent of gross revenues. That’s an increase of $500 per month.

Several Council members expressed displeasure that they didn’t have long enough to review the contract; Councilwoman Pat Sullivan mentioned that the city hasn’t competitively bid the contract for managing the conference center but said that at this point “I don’t believe we can afford to lose the momentum we have gained.”

The conference center has rarely been in the black financially (see chart). There was talk that the Great Recession and the government shutdowns of the past few years took a toll.

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Council Members Dino Davis and Leslie Daugs voted against the extension. Davis complained that the city hadn’t done its “due diligence” while Daugs wondered if the city was “subsidizing a business.”

Council President Eric Younger, in addressing that point, said few conference centers are profitable and that most are an “economic tool.” He asked Arne Bakker, the conference center’s general manager, if he was right about that.

“For a conference center this size, it’s very difficult to make money,” Bakker replied.

Columbia also manages the city’s golf course. And McCormick Woods.

Parks gets boost for boots on the ground

Readers of this blog and the Kitsap Sun know that Bremerton’s parks department has struggled to keep up with maintenance needs. The promotion of Jeff Elevado to parks director following Wyn Birkenthal’s retirement meant Elevado’s former position of recreation manager remained open.

Instead of filling it, Mayor Patty Lent’s administration chose to follow an analysis’ recent recommendations and beef up the front desk at the Sheridan Community Center — making part-time front desk staff member full time — and is adding a full time maintenance worker.

Not all Council members were happy with the move; Greg Wheeler and Leslie Daugs voted against it. Wheeler felt the position of recreation manager was important “long term,” and not filling it would be detrimental. Daugs said frankly, “I don’t like eliminating positions.”

Elevado had support from the other five members and reiterated why he’s supportive of adding staff at the maintenance level.

“Our maintenance staff is really beat up,” he said.

Arends Park?

Jack Arends, son of longtime Bremerton Councilwoman Carol Arends, gave a $20,000 check to the Bremerton Parks Foundation. His mother, who passed away earlier this year, was particularly fond of Forest Ridge Park, which she lived by for many years, he said.

Carol Arends.
Carol Arends.

He’s hopeful the Council would consider renaming Forest Ridge for his mother.

“I wanted to do what I could to honor my mother’s memory,” he said. “She loved that park.”

Jailing to continue in Forks

The Council approved unanimously continuing a contract with the Olympic Peninsula city of Forks for jail beds. Why? The city saves about 50 percent on the cost of sending someone sentenced in Bremerton Municipal Court to Forks instead of Kitsap County Jail. A bed night at Forks costs $41.45, for prisoners who have year-long sentences.

The city also contracts with Chelan for jail beds.

Car tab money gets dialed in 

Bremerton Public Works Director Chal Martin explained where all the money generated from $20 car tab fees will go this year. See below:

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Yes, Austin Drive is being repaved this year. Also, a new guardrail will go in where a young woman tragically died earlier this year. And finally, all those cut-up curbs on Warren Avenue and Wheaton Way were largely paid for by the state, but the city must provide some matching funds. The road, collectively known as Highway 303, will be repaved next year. The Council approved the plan unanimously.

Public path from Gorst to Kitsap Lake gets funding 

Last but not least, the Council passed unanimously, but did not discuss Wednesday, $30,000 in funding from the city forestries department to pitch in with Kitsap County for a design study of a trail spanning Otto Jarstad Park in Gorst to the south end of Kitsap Lake. It may be the start of efforts that have sputtered in the past.

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