All posts by josh farley

SOLVED: The mystery of the missing fire hydrant

Photo by Kim Demko.

If you’ve spent time at Pendergast’s “Bark Park,” you know about the charming fire hydrant to which countless visiting dogs have, shall we say, laid territorial claims. 

That is, until early last week, when the hydrant mysteriously disappeared.

The old hydrant.

Kim Demko, a frequent visitor to the park with her dog, was saddened to find it gone. The hydrant was the only permanent “ornament” at the park, one she was told might be one day incorporated into a water system should one be installed there.

“It was also a friendly confirmation that you had actually arrived at the location of the dog park,” she told me. 

I had to wonder: who steals a fire hydrant? The thing weighs about 500 pounds, so whoever did it came prepared. Demko circulated word on Facebook about the theft. I inquired with the police department.

As it turns out, it was no thief at all — just its original owner bringing it out of retirement. Bremerton Public Works crews snagged it to take some parts and repair a hydrant damaged in a crash Sept. 2 at Almira Drive and Sylvan Way on the east side.

“It was the only one left that we had,” said Bremerton Public Works Administration Manager Milenka Hawkins-Bates.

And there’s good news for dog park users: the city was able to place another hydrant out at the park Wednesday. Its artful design (above, at the top of the page) was painted by Darrell Clauson, a lead in public works’ wastewater and stormwater division.

Oh, and lest I forget, some improvements are coming to the bark park. I’ll have more on that in an upcoming story in the Kitsap Sun.

COUNCIL SCORECARD: Police promotions and LED lights


The street lights will stay on in Bremerton, and, city officials hope, they’ll save some money too. At a brisk meeting Wednesday night, the Bremerton City Council approved the retrofit of 531 street lights with LED technology, meaning they’ll last longer and require less maintenance.

The cost: $268,000. A state grant and a rebate from Puget Sound Energy drops the cost to the city to $140,000, which officials say will pay for itself in six years. The $194,000 installation cost will be paid to the Consolidated Electrical Distribution company, which has a Bremerton location.

You might remember the demonstration project on Dr. ML King Way that spurred the latest purchase, one spearheaded by Public Works Director Chal Martin. There are a total of 1,619 street lamps in the city, so many will still be of the traditional variety.

Also at Wednesday’s City Council meeting:

Lt. Mike Davis is sworn in by Bremerton Judge James Docter.
Lt. Mike Davis is sworn in by Bremerton Judge James Docter.

Sworn officers: Bremerton’s newest lieutenant, Mike Davis, was sworn into office Wednesday night. Davis, who grew up in Kitsap County, became a Bremerton officer in 1998; he’s trained fellow officers, instructed on defensive tactics, been a detective and K-9 officer and, more recently, was promoted to sergeant.

Put simply, Davis has been an integral part of criminal cases that jolted the community conscience — murders, assaults, the Arnold’s Fire and the killing of Buddy the police dog. Police Chief Steve Strachan read an email from retired Bremerton Police Sgt. Bill Endicott at the meeting, who said Davis would provide the “professional, ethical, and moral” tutelage for a new generation of officers.

Three sergeants — Tim Garrity, Aaron Elton and Keith Sargent — were promoted Wednesday. (And, as Strachan pointed out, that means the city now has a Sergeant Sargent.)

From left to right: new sergeants Aaron Elton, Keith Sargent and Tim Garrity are sworn in.

Also on Wednesday, Officer Jeff Schaefer was promoted to corporal (for background on the position, click here). Former Poulsbo Officer Jennifer Corn and former Bainbridge Island Officer Mike Tovar were sworn-in as new officers in Bremerton as well.

Chromium-6: Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent addressed new fears that the chemical has been found in unsafe levels in most every state in the country. She claimed Bremerton’s drinking water is well under federal limits. “We have a much lower (level) than current standards,” she said. To see the city’s water quality, click here.

Public Works Turmoil: Councilman Greg Wheeler talked about the investigations that led to discipline among personnel in the Public Works Department during his report. He said the Council learned of the investigations because the Kitsap Sun was set to publish a story, and that, though he’s the chairman of the City Council’s Public Works Committee, the situation was appropriately handled by Lent and the city’s administration.

He did add he was “very concerned about the morale of the city staff and our employees” and that he hoped to see more “communication and trust” being built. “This change starts at the top,” he said.

Beautify Bremerton: The annual city “Beautify Bremerton” day is from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Residents here, as well as landlords, can take all yard waste free of charge to a disposal site near Legion Field off Sheridan Road. There’s also an army of volunteers and workers that will clean up parks and plazas around the city, including the Pat Carey Vista, Madrona Trails and medians near the Navy’s Farragut gate off Charleston Boulevard.

To see the full minutes and agenda of the City Council meeting, click here.

An infuriating night for Bremerton’s ferry commuters

A Washington State trooper had to hold back passengers upset they could not get home from Seattle Tuesday night.

Commuters to Bremerton at the ferry terminal in Seattle faced a infuriating evening Tuesday night. The Kaleetan ferry broke down due to steering issues the same afternoon, triggering the Coast Guard-mandated 600 passenger cap on vessels capable of holding double that.

With the 5:35 p.m. sailing canceled, the numbers waiting stacked up. The Hyak’s 6:45 p.m. could only go with 600, and troopers with the Washington State Patrol had to hold people back.

“It was mayhem,” said Dr. Robert Bullock, a commuter to Seattle, who added some people were screaming.

“We are second class citizens in Bremerton,” added Art Conrad, another commuter.

It took most commuters many hours to make it home, on a night it usually takes about one.

Because the vessels on the Bremerton run don’t have enough life rafts, the Coast Guard has capped runs when only one boat is present at 600. On Tuesday, that left lines of passengers waiting in Seattle to catch what looks like a ferry with ample space. And this is certainly not the first time this has happened.

The state ferries and Kitsap Transit worked out an emergency deal Tuesday that allowed commuters to take the Seattle-Bainbridge ferry — and their larger capacities — to Winslow. From there, a Kitsap Transit bus would haul them the 45 minutes to Bremerton. But commuters told me they also had to transfer buses in Silverdale, making the trek even longer.

A lunch date for Emily and her baby, Cecilia turned into a late ferry and bus ride home to Bremerton. Photo by Susan Digby.
A lunch date for Emily Berta and her baby, Cecilia, turned into a late ferry and bus ride home to Bremerton. Photo by Susan Digby.

Elissa Torgeson, another commuter, said she rushed to wait in the area past the turnstiles so she could guarantee herself a spot on the soonest boat to Bremerton. And then, ferry officials announced they could take the Bainbridge and board a bus.

She said some ferry employees did not empathize with the situation and did not keep commuters waiting informed of what was going on.

Buses were “standing room only,” at the Bainbridge terminal, according to local resident Susan Digby.

Ian Sterling, a spokesman for the state ferry system, said the Kaleetan would not likely be fixed Tuesday night. It’s unclear what will happen Wednesday morning at this point.

“We sympathize with those commuters who have endured a long night,” he said. “That’s the reality of an aging fleet.”

Sterling added that the addition to the Bremerton run of a new ferry, the Chimacum, in 2017, will allow 1,500 people to board the boat at all sailings, due to its safety enhancements.

But it was a long night Tuesday. And with a game at Safeco Field and only one vessel working the route, it became a Wednesday morning for some.

Here’s what the ferry system sent out at 8:30 p.m.

Due to mechanical issues, the Kaleetan is temporarily out of service. This cancels the 9:05pm sailing from Bremerton. There will be three sailings departing Seattle: 9:05pm, the 10:30pm will depart late and the sailing at 12:50am will also depart late. The next sailing from Bremerton will depart with a late 11:40pm. Until two boat service is restored on the Seattle/Bremerton route the Hyak will only board a maximum of 600 total passengers, this includes vehicles. The vessel is unable to board additional passengers for safety reasons. We apologize for any inconvenience. Updates will be provided as conditions change.

Below is a video showing the chaos (OK fine, chaos isn’t quite accurate) people  in the terminal as the night began.

UPDATE: Repairs were made to the Kaleetan and it was set to sail again on the 6:20 am ferry to Seattle.

Beat Blast: Crossing guards, ferry receipts and a Big Bird-like bike

Students walking to Naval Avenue Early Learning Center Tuesday morning got special escorts to cross the street. The Bremerton Citizens Advisory Patrol, a volunteer group that helps provide additional eyes and ears to the city’s police department, brought hot chocolate and a helping hand to crossing guards. (You too can sign up here to volunteer, if you so choose.)


Check out our best impression of The Beatles’ Abbey Road. I hope you’ll be impressed.

Elsewhere on the Beat Blast this week, you’ll find out about:

The $10.2 million Fred Meyers’ remodel in East Bremerton;

Gov. Jay Inslee’s promise to keep the new $123 million Chimacum ferry on the Bremerton run;

That your ferry receipt may still say Bainbridge even if you’re traveling to Bremerton. I last wrote about this issue in 2013 but in the video, you’ll see it’s still happening.

And how a bike with Big Bird-like accouterments ended up at the Goodwill on Wheaton Way.

Also, there’s been turmoil in the public works department, which we chronicled in a story last week.

And, if you don’t have any plans Saturday, come take a Story Walk with us at Olympic College’s Secret Garden.

Questions? Comments? Send them to me at


First look: East Bremerton grocer wraps $10.2 million renovation


Those passing by Fred Meyer on Highway 303 might not notice that a $10.2 million overhaul is wrapping up. The store’s exterior hides a transformation on the inside that includes new departments and products, has made the 204,000 square-foot location much greener and gives the grocer a contemporary look.

Sushi now has its place in the East Bremerton store.

Since March, construction crews have been gutting the store section by section. Aside from some finishing touches to the jewelry department and children’s play area, the work is done. Kroger, which owns the store, wanted a renovation that revolved around the customer experience, and store manager Axel Strakeljahn is confident they succeeded.

“We believe that this community is committed to growing,” he said. “And we’re committed to being part of that.”

One need only look up or down upon entering to find the most obvious changes. The store now has 63 skylights and new lighting, to go with brighter color schemes. On the ground, all the original tiles were stripped off, exposing a concrete floor. It was ground down, sealed and polished, giving the floor a darker, more contemporary look.

The goal was sustainability, Strakeljahn said. Natural light will lower the building’s carbon footprint and its new floor needs none of the chemicals — just water — that the old one required.

Here’s a brief look at many of the changes:


  • A new Starbucks cafe now greets visitors near the store’s northern entrance, replacing what was a (Starbucks-owned) Seattle’s Best Coffee location.
  • Also near the northern entrance is a floral department and, for the first time, the store has hired a full-time florist.
  • Near that is a brand new sushi bar. (Your Bremerton Beat correspondent, who is quite fond of sushi, sampled a California roll and found it delectable.)
  • The wine section doubled in size, and is now more than 100 feet longer than it was before (And the store already has a full-time wine steward). For local beer connoisseurs, there’s also more room for microbrews, too.
  • New product lines have been introduced, to include Seattle’s Top Pot doughnuts (which are delivered daily), Boar’s Head Premium Deli meats and cheeses and a create-your-own pizza section in the deli.
  • For the first time, there’s a dedicated section for Washington sports teams.
  • A new, larger pharmacy replaces the electronics department, which moved east to the back of the store and is also larger.
  • The nutritional food section, which includes organics and bulk foods, is also about twice the size it used to be.

The store is celebrating its “Grand Re-opening” starting at 7 a.m. Friday. Doughnuts and coffee will be served, specials will run through the end of the month and the first 2,000 customers will get Fred Meyer reusable grocery bags.

Check back to the Bremerton Beat Tuesday for a video of the remodeled store and an interview with Strakeljahn.

Strakeljahn (right) at the store Monday, as more Top Pot doughnuts are loaded onto the shelves.

Come tour Olympic College’s rare ‘Secret Garden’

Retired Olympic College Professor Susan Digby checks out a Linden Tree at the college’s ‘secret garden.’ Meegan M. Reid photo.

Down a lonely, one-way road off the Olympic College campus is an historic home teeming with eclectic plant life. In recent years, the treasured estate long owned by Dr. Henry and Elizabeth “Billie” Barner has largely gone unnoticed. But place now known as Olympic College’s “Secret Garden,” whose potential is being tapped by a few professors there, is enjoying new life as an outdoor classroom.

And, on Sept. 24, you’ll have a chance to see it for yourself.

Nestled on the shores of the Port Washington Narrows, the property is home to plant life the Barners imported from around the world. Their beautiful residence, admittedly, has seen better days, but is still a piece of history — its design was the first completed by Elizabeth Ayer, the first woman to graduate from the University of Washington’s school of architecture.

As part of the Kitsap Sun’s latest Story Walk, we will tour the property with special guests including Olympic College President David Mitchell, Kitsap Historical Society Director Dean Tingey, and the professors who are utilizing this now Olympic College-owned resource as a learning environment.

RSVP here. The tour is free.


Photos by Meegan M. Reid.

Seriously, Bremerton’s getting the nice ferry

I had time to ask Gov. Jay Inslee only one question at the christening of Bremerton’s new ferry today. But I knew what it was going to be.

It’s no secret Bremerton has often been left with the oldest and creakiest vessels in the fleet, especially when ferries break down. Meanwhile, Bainbridge Island, where Inslee happens to call home, generally maintains the largest and nicest of boats through it all. Ferries officials make a logical argument that Bainbridge’s ferry ridership is roughly three times that of Bremerton’s, though Bremerton’s is growing.

In my brief time with Inslee, as you can watch above, I asked him how he’ll feel about Bremerton getting the newest boat and freshest paint job. The governor didn’t miss a beat.

“I think I’m gonna come to Bremerton just so I can ride the Chimacum,” he said. “This is a beautiful boat.”

He added that he has a piece of the Kalakala on his desk, and that the iconic vessel once served Bremerton as its ferry.

I will add this: there’s no promise that the ferry system will always run the Chimacum to Bremerton — these are boats after all. Yet there’s good reason to think she’ll stick around for awhile. For one, the vessel will be adorned with works of Bremerton art and history.

Here’s some more background about the ferry:

When the Chimacum became “whole.”

Why the 1,500 passenger vessel is being named after Chimacum.

When the vessel’s keel was laid.

See you in 2017, Chimacum. Here’s some more photos from the day.

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Beat blast: Chimacum, an ‘allery’ and a whole lotta paint

Grass roots public art has enjoyed a surge this summer in Bremerton. Many back alleys, vacant walls and utility boxes have gotten the color treatment, as a community of artists has emerged to take part.

In this, the visual arts edition of the Bremerton Beat Blast, you’ll learn:

That 16 local artists will have their works immortalized on the near Chimacum ferry, which will start running in Bremerton next spring. Submit your artwork here and make sure to do it by Nov. 1.

How the West Sound Arts Council transformed a back alley downtown in the city’s first 24-7 art gallery;

On a serious note, we’ll recap some terrifying recent incidents involving local residents “huffing” to get high — and with serious, sometimes fatal consequences;

Why Manette’s business association purchased a “wayfinding” sign program;

And finally, an update on the “Free-for-Wall” at the site of the old Maple Leaf Tavern, which has artists adding new creations to it on a daily basis. Watch Filmmaker Wes Weaver’s whole documentary here.

Questions? Comments? Don’t be a stranger now. Send them to


Who let the dogs out? Street fair to take over Fourth Street

In this April 23, 2013 photo, Dusty is the Bremerton, Wash. Police Department's new drug sniffing dog. The Bremerton Police Department, following in the footsteps of many law enforcement agencies around the state, is not training its newest officer how to sniff out marijuana. Months after voters approved an initiative legalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, Dusty is the first narcotics dog in Kitsap with the distinction. (AP Photo/Kitsap Sun, Meegan M. Reid)
K9 Dusty will be downtown Saturday, along with many of his colleagues. Photo by Meegan M. Reid.

Dog lovers are in for a treat downtown on Saturday. A veritable who’s who of Kitsap’s police K9s will trot onto Fourth Street and put on a show. The road will be shut down and merchants up and down the block will be joining in the celebration, from 12-5 p.m.

The all-ages street fair is a joint effort of the Horse & Cow Pub & Grill and a California organization called the Gavin Buchanan Memorial Foundation. As a 5-year-old, young Gavin donated his piggy bank to help police dogs be better protected with vests and equipment. But sadly, the boy was killed in a terrible case of domestic violence in Benicia, California only eight days after his eighth birthday in 2015.

As you might know, the Horse & Cow once had a location in Vallejo, close to the site of an old Navy base. The Buchanan family goes way back with the Horse & Cow and owner Mike Looby, and Gavin’s uncle Brett Miller lives in Port Orchard.

The event will help raise money for K9s right here in Kitsap, with demonstrations by dogs and their handlers from the Bremerton Police Department, Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office and Washington State Patrol.

It’s gearing up to be quite a weekend in Bremerton, with Manette Fest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. the same day.



Bremerton man injured in ‘freak accident’ on the job

screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-5-05-09-pmA man with deep roots in the Bremerton community was severely injured last week in an industrial accident. John North, who grew up in Bremerton and Belfair and only recently had moved to Puyallup, was crushed under a lift bucket while at work Friday.

Many here are rallying to help with his recovery. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help with medical expenses. He remains in St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma in the ICU, according to his mother, Mary Hoffman.

Hoffman said he was making a delivery as part of his job and was removing a bucket life off of a flat bed. As he was backing it off, it “flipped sideways” and the bucket fell on him, his mother said. The left side of his body was crushed.

“It was just a freak accident,” she said.

North was working for Pacific-based Noffke’s Towing Service. The state’s Department of Labor & Industries is investigating the accident, according to Tim Church, a spokesman.

He has a young family — seven-month-old baby and another on the way, with his fiancee, Ashlee — and he’s in for a long recovery. So far, Hoffman said she’s been amazed at how giving his friends and family have been in lending a helping hand.

“The generosity has been incredible,” she said.

I will post updates on North’s status as he recovers.

To see the fundraising page, click here.