Category Archives: City Council

COUNCIL SCORE CARD: Taxes, fees and some gavel banging


Taxes were defined, fees were raised and an argument between two City Council members drew the gavel from the president. The Bremerton City Council meeting Wednesday night went three-plus hours with lots of issues on the line. Here’s my synopsis:

Call it a tax: The Council voted to merge a fee and a tax it collects on its own utilities into a single tax. Of course, when it taxes its own utilities — those of the water, sewer and stormwater systems — it is effectively taxing the ratepayers of that system, as the cost is passed along.

The city’s fee known as PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) was created to charge the city-owned utilities because they are exempt from property taxes. Others have called it a “stealth tax.” In any event, now PILOT is dead, consolidated with the utility tax, thanks to the vote Wednesday.

What that means: your utility bill will now include a 15.5 percent tax on water and 20 percent tax on sewer and stormwater, respectively. Councilman Roy Runyon pointed out that it raises a little under $5 million for city coffers each year.

Both he and City Councilwoman Leslie Daugs asked if the utility tax could be placed, as a number, on residents’ utility bills. That question went unanswered. When Runyon pushed the issue, Council members Dino Davis and Greg Wheeler stopped him, saying the issue should be brought up before the city’s public works committee meeting as “housekeeping.” Davis and Runyon continued arguing until Wheeler, the Council’s president, was forced to go to the gavel to get them to stop.   

Result: 4-1 in favor (Runyon voted against)

General facilities fees (GFCs): The Council passed by one vote changes to the fees the city levies on builders to offset costs in developing additional water, sewer and stormwater infrastructure. Water fees for the smallest meter size will go to $5,880 from $2,511 by 2018; sewer fees will rise to $6,863 from $3,801; stormwater rates will go to $3,157 from $1,019. (See my Wednesday story for more background.)

Joe Keller, an engineer for the city (pictured at podium above) voiced opposition to the plan, saying it placed a larger, inequitable burden on builders of single-family homes. City officials disagreed, saying the fees were fair by charging developers by what their developments would use. Daugs was concerned it could affect rates of home ownership in the city.

Result: 3-2 in favor (Davis and Daugs voted against)

City fees: Some city fees are increasing under the 2016 budget. Red light tickets in 2016 will increase from $124 to $136. Parks fees are going up across the board. The fee for a grave site at Ivy Green Cemetery, for instance, will increase from $1,224 to $1,346. Wyn Birkenthal, the city’s parks director, said the increase was necessary to cover parks costs.

Result: 5-0 vote in favor.

Conference center debt extension: As revenues for the $1.1 million expansion of the Kitsap Conference Center have not materialized, the city asked the council to authorize extending out the debt on its $500,000 loan that helped pay for the project. The money was supposed to be paid back to the city’s $4.2  million vehicle fund in five years; now it will take until 2034.   

Result: 5-0 in favor.

Federal block grants: The Council is close to completing its pivot from using its yearly federal block grant money as an open process to one specifically targeted to downtown redevelopment. Because two Council members — Jerry McDonald and Eric Younger — were absent, Greg Wheeler said the Council will wait to vote on the five year plan at a special meeting next Monday. Wheeler added he had to recuse himself from the vote because he serves on the board of Kitsap Community Resources, which is a possible recipient of the funds.

The Council will also vote on the funding recommendations, which include $58,500 for Kitsap Community Resource’s BE$T program and its weatherization and home repair programs, as well as $235,000 to replace facades on two buildings and retrofit another on Fourth Street.

Larson on Fourth Street. MEEGAN M. REID / KITSAP SUN
Larson on Fourth Street. MEEGAN M. REID / KITSAP SUN

The Council also heard from Wes Larson and Mike Brown, leaders of Sound West Group, which is hoping to secure that $235,000 to do the Fourth Street work.

“We’re committed to downtown bremerton,” Larson told the Council. “That’s our heart and soul.”

Other items of note from the meeting:

The budget: The Council held the first of two hearings on the 2016 city budget. Mayor Patty Lent’s budget’s largely “status quo” with few changes. The city will also be raising property taxes in the city by one percent, as is the maximum allowed under state law. The budget will be voted on in December.

Washington Avenue: City Engineer Tom Knuckey announced some delays to the Washington Avenue project. The issue this time is that crews from Puget Sound Energy, which is putting much power on the street underground, got pulled away for Tuesday’s windstorm. They probably won’t be back on the project until after Thanksgiving. The project is still expected to wrap up by the end of the year, he told the Council.

Lions Park: Parks staff announced the city will receive $250,000 to design reconstructions of the boat ramp and dock on the northern edge of Lions Park off Lebo Boulevard. I’ll have a story on that later this week.


Manette Playfield: Tuesday’s public meeting to plan future developments at the park had about 40 people, parks staff said. (See photo.) A followup meeting has been scheduled for Dec. 15.

Crownhill sidewalks: In its consent agenda, the Council approved an $88,000 contract that will design the new sidewalks doing to Marine Drive and areas near Crownhill Elementary School. Also, the city approved another $139,000 contract to design safety improvements at seven intersections in Bremerton next year: 11th and Montgomery, 6th and Callow, Burwell and Callow, Burwell and Montgomery, Burwell and High, Burwell and Chester and Sheridan and Wheaton Way.

Street closure part of church’s growing campus plans

Rendering of the potential street closure on Veneta Avenue.
Rendering of the potential street closure on Veneta Avenue.

It’s not stopping at the pipe organ. Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, located at Sixth Street and Veneta Avenue, has big plans for the neighborhood it has inhabited since the 1950s.

“We want it to be a campus, and have a campus feel,” said Father Derek Lappe, the church’s leader.

Veneta trees
Those iconic Sequoias.

The first step toward that campus is coming up. City staff has OK’d a plan to close down Veneta Avenue between Sixth and Fifth streets. The church would like to use a stub of the street as a pickup and drop-off for the students that go to school there (see map above). Of the rest, it wants to make it “one, big flat piazza,” Lappe said.

The church has longterm plans to create a chapel where their school’s gymnasium is now. Lappe said it plans to build a new gym on property the church owns further west. In total, the church owns almost three blocks along Sixth Street, Lappe pointed out.

A street closure could also be considered further south on Veneta. Earlier this year, I wrote a story about those two magnificent Sequoia trees that are also on Veneta. That portion of the road won’t survive forever under those trees and Lappe would also like to see stretch where the church is, between Fourth and Fifth streets, closed permanently as well. That would make a two-block long pedestrian-only corridor.

“We think that would be a natural fit,” Lappe said.

The church has notified surrounding blocks of the closure, Lappe said, but the Bremerton City Council wants a public process to accompany it before any closure occurs, including a public meeting.

UPDATE: The city will host a public meeting at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 30 at the gym of Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic School, 1516 Fifth Street. For more information, call (360) 473-5280.

Bremerton Beat Blast: 5 things to know happening in Bremerton this week

Stories featured this week:

1. This Bremerton theater is under contract with a local developer
2. Detectives investigate a murder in East Bremerton
3. The 2-year election battle shaping up
4. Is the ferry terminal’s door broken again?
5. Which Bremerton landmark has a birthday today?

Please let me know what you think! Suggestions welcomed at

Roxy today, Roxy yesterday. Photo by Meegan M. Reid.
Roxy today, Roxy yesterday. Photo by Meegan M. Reid.

Has the next Bremerton mayor’s race already begun?

Too much to do: Mayor Patty Lent says her work will not be done at the end of her current term.
Too much to do: Mayor Patty Lent says her work will not be done at the end of her current term.

This year’s election may have wrapped up Tuesday night. But one race two years from now is already starting to brew.

Greg Wheeler is "definitely contemplating" a run for mayor.
Greg Wheeler is “definitely contemplating” a run for mayor.

That would be the one for Bremerton mayor.

Yes, in a cycle that may even rival the length of a U.S. presidential election, at least two candidates are already public about their ambitions to run the city.

The first would be the incumbent: current Mayor Patty Lent.

Lent, 71, had felt a few years ago that the 2013 election would be her last. But as she hits the midpoint of her term, she’s realized there’s just too many projects left to pursue. Several downtown development projects, the passenger-only ferry to Seattle, establishment of a Bus Rapid Transit system and bringing business to Puget Sound Industrial Center-Bremerton are a few of her top goals.

“I have a to-do list that will take me another term of office to complete,” said Lent, who was also a Kitsap County commissioner earlier in the 2000s.

Enter Council President Greg Wheeler, who thinks it might be time for some new blood in the office following Lent’s two terms.

Wheeler, who Tuesday secured a new four year term in district four while running unopposed, said he’s “definitely contemplating a run.”

The 56-year-old Navy veteran recently retired from the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard’s engineering department. He, like Lent, is heavily involved in the community.

“I’d love the chance to be mayor,” he told me.

Neither will formally declare their campaigns for some time but knowing the other is likely to run will no doubt shape these next two years politically in Bremerton. Already, the two publicly disagreed over whether Bremerton should exit the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council, a group of local governments that band together for planning and grant money. Wheeler was for it; Lent against it.

And who knows? Perhaps there are others who could join in the race eventually. Last time around, Todd Best filed to run against Lent on the last day before filing week closed. In 2017, it appears there’s already two candidates lined up.

Bremerton Council considers utility rate hike

Mike Volpe of the Bremerton parks department cleans up Kiwanis Park.
Mike Volpe of the Bremerton parks department cleans up Kiwanis Park.

Mayor Patty Lent unveiled a “status quo” budget last month that would keep service levels in city government at their same levels in 2016.

Some on the City Council, however, would like to see Bremerton’s government do more.

Council President Greg Wheeler is rolling out a proposal that would call for an increase on fees the city charges its own water, sewer and stormwater utilities. Basically, that means that we ratepayers in the city would see higher utility bills, as those utilities pass on the additional costs to us.

And what would we get for a rate hike?

A one percent increase in the fees would give the city the power to hire two additional police officers. A two percent increase would allow for the hiring of an additional permitting specialist in the Department of Community Development and for two more parks workers, Wheeler said. I should be able to get more exact numbers as to how much that means for ratepayers later today.

The Council President believes the time may be right to invest in those services. Cops are needed following an influx of vagrants downtown; a permitting specialist would expedite developers’ plans to push forward with new projects; and the parks workers would help a staff that is already “running ragged” to keep up on maintenance, Wheeler said.

“I feel it’s really really important that our council consider this,” Wheeler said. “You’ve got to believe that it will strengthen our city.”

The Council has the final say on the budget this year. On Monday, they will take up the utility fee discussion. If you’d like to see it for yourself, it’s at 4 p.m. on the sixth floor of the Norm Dicks Government Center, 345 Sixth Street.

Live blog: City Council debate Tuesday night

Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 3.01.56 PM
The area of Marine Drive, Anderson Cove and some of 11th Street are covered in Bremerton’s Sixth Council District.

Only one of three seats up for Bremerton City Council is contested this year. But that race promises to be intriguing. Councilman Roy Runyon, in his third term on the Council, is defending his seat from Richard Huddy and Kim Faulkner. Faulkner happens to be Runyon’s wife.

Tonight, the candidates will face off for the first time at a debate, held by the League of Women Voters, at the Norm Dicks Government Center.

The other two races are uncontested. Leslie Daugs in District 2 (East Bremerton) and Greg Wheeler in District 4 (Union Hill area) are running unopposed.

We’ll carry the debate for the District 6 seat live tonight on this blog, starting at 6:30 p.m.

Arts commission restarts Thursday

Cover me with art!
The traffic cabinet at 11th and High. 

For the first time in nearly four years, Bremerton’s seven-member arts commission will meet Thursday afternoon.  Mayor Patty Lent declared earlier this year that the commission, which seeks out and recommends public artwork for installation in the city, would reconvene following a hiatus due to lack of funds.

Their finances will be limited. The arts commission was supported by dedicating one percent of funding from capital projects in the city. There are no such projects on the table right now. Their budget has about $50,000 left but that’s likely to be left for ongoing maintenance of current pieces, according to Cynthia Engelgau, the arts commission’s staff member from the city’s parks department.

So what can they do? Plenty, Engelgau says.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 6.33.31 PM
An art-covered utility box I found in Vancouver, B.C.


For starters, Lent has directed the commission to help decorate the city’s traffic cabinets. You know, those rather rectangular metal cases you see at every intersection with a traffic light (pictured). They’re frequent targets of taggers. For $1,800, the city can have a cover for the cabinet custom made, with any artwork of its choosing.

And if a cabinet with an artsy cover is tagged? Public works crews can easily wash it off. The covers will be paid for out of the city’s street fund, Engelgau said.

One to two will be funded each year. The first two will be the cabinet at Sixth Street and Washington Avenue and the one at 11th Street and High Avenue. The latter of which will likely be designed by students at Bremerton High School. But the arts commission will get to have that discussion.

Engelgau said the commission is also hoping that “art advisory panels” from different arts disciplines (like, say poetry) will form in the city and can offer input to the commission.

She’s also created an ideas journal she’s calling the “Possibilities Book.” Any idea that comes into the city for art will be included. Know that old concrete wall where the Maple Leaf Tavern used to be on Lower Wheaton Way? Manette resident Robin Henderson may have the distinction of being the first in the “possibilities book” for his idea to decorate that wall.

Thursday’s meeting is open to the public. It starts at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Sheridan Community Center on Lebo Boulevard.

The members of the commission are: Emily Russell, Sheridan Mosher, Joanie Pearson, Angela Perryman, Blair Schuetz, Jacquelyn Speare and Deborah Woolston.

City losing senior lawyer, planner

Floyd and Koontz at city hall recently.

Two of of the city’s most prominent employees are departing for new jobs.

Nicole Floyd, a senior planner who has been with the city about a decade, is leaving to become the planner for the city of DuPont. Mark Koontz, the city legal department’s top litigator, recently accepted a position at Levandowski and Morgan, a Tacoma-based personal injury firm.

Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent praised both for their work in the city and wished them well, though she admitted she preferred they’d stay.

“They’re both success stories,” she said. “Both departures are bittersweet.”

Floyd has been the primary planner on the city’s most prominent projects — the new movie theater, downtown apartments, the Washington Youth Academy, to name a few. She also spearheaded the city’s version of the state’s Shoreline Master Plan, which increased but also “cleaned up” regulations for shoreline development here.

The North Thurston High School (Lacey) graduate of 1998 is moving closer to family in DuPont, where she’ll be the single planner for the small Pierce County city.

Floyd said she’s sad to leave town because of the relationships she’s developed here, but also because she believes the city is close to a “tipping point” where a surge of development occurs. During the Great Recession, she said permitting for big developments was pretty quiet. This year has been different, with lots of developers contacting the city for potential projects.

“I believe Bremerton is about to take off,” she said.

Koontz, meanwhile, has been the city’s chief courthouse litigator for the better part of a decade. The Seattle University law school graduate of 1996 worked for a prominent personal injury firm in Seattle before joining the city in 2006.

Koontz recalled his first case litigating on behalf of the city was when a woman arrested for DUI somehow wiggled her way out of a state trooper’s cruiser and ran off. The city police brought in a dog, which bit the woman. She sued, alleging civil rights violations. Koontz said the city successfully repelled the suit.

Koontz, whose wife, Claire Bradley, is a judge for Kitsap County District Court, said he was simply looking for a job where he could be in court more often.

“Frankly, I would’ve left a long time ago were it not for the people here,” he said. “I’ll miss working with them.”

No replacement has been announced for Floyd’s position; the city will cover Koontz’s position with a familiar face — attorney Dave Horton, who has worked for the city before. Retaining Horton is up for discussion by the City Council Wednesday.

Council’s approval for new printer gets jammed


The City Council conducted fairly brisk business at its meeting Wednesday. The seven members approved a proposal to allow beer and wine tasting at the farmers market; they created a new parallel parking zone on Washington Avenue and 11th Street; they even took time to congratulate student science fair winners.

You might say the printer discussion, however, got jammed.

The decision to lease a new printer for the city’s parks department, at a cost of $9,200 a year for half a decade, wasn’t actually due for much talk. The Council discussed it the week prior at its study session and had determined it to be appropriate to go in the consent agenda, a bundle of items it votes on all at once.

But during public comment, Robert Parker, a civic activist who lives in Port Orchard, took issue with the printer, saying the parks department would need nowhere near its 150,000-page printing capacity. Parker, who has spearheaded efforts in the city to include the battle against discarded needles and graffiti, knows a little something about printing: he’s run a print shop since 1997.

Councilman Roy Runyon agreed with Parker, saying some cost savings could be found by giving the department “something they need, not something they want.”

“This is way more machine than we need,” Runyon said.

His comments were too longwinded for Councilman Eric Younger, whose “point of order” brought about an up or down vote on whether to kill the discussion since it was a consent agenda item. He was joined by Council members Dino Davis, Leslie Daugs and Mike Sullivan in providing the four votes that would move the Council past the issue.

But Council President Greg Wheeler still allowed for further discussion despite the 4-3 vote. (Wheeler had joined Runyon and Councilman Jerry McDonald in voting to allow discussion to continue.)

Jeff Elevado, recreation manager for the park’s department, defended the leasing of the Ricoh MPC 6502 model copier and printer, saying it was necessary for the volume of brochures and program guides the department puts out each year.

“All our research is telling us that this is the right printer,” he said.

Just about everyone weighed in and ultimately, the Council voted 5-2 to pass the consent agenda, which included leasing the printer (Runyon and McDonald dissented).

“It was thoroughly vetted,” Davis said of the issue.

Quite an argument for one printer, albeit a pricey one.

But the discussion did make me wonder about how city government — or really, any organization — approaches such purchases. Elevado told me later that there’s a pool of government entities that bid together on these pieces of technology, helping to bring their costs down.

The city doesn’t just require a copy machine in the parks department — there’s at least one in every department. I wonder if there’d be a financial advantage if they were all leased together through one contract. And for that matter, what other pieces of equipment and technology could be bundled up and purchased or leased together, attaining the benefits of economies of scale?

Perhaps that’s the debate to come.

Bremerton councilman: location matters when it comes to homicide

Jerry McDonald.
Jerry McDonald.

Bremerton City Councilman Jerry McDonald didn’t like how most media reported on the killings of a woman and child early Saturday at Kariotis Mobile Home Park.

His issue: they were reported as occurring in Bremerton, when they are outside city limits.

“Poorly reported stories such as this do nothing for our reputation and property values,” said McDonald, who represents the district including downtown and Manette.

Here’s what he posted:

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 11.28.00 AM

After posting it to several community sites, the comments began to roll in. Many accused McDonald of being insensitive in a time of tragedy.

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 5.53.15 PM

Many of the postings were removed by Monday.

McDonald told me Monday that he in no way meant to downplay the horrific nature of the crime. But he wants media outlets, including the Kitsap Sun, to use different terms when describing areas beyond the city.

“It’s absolutely a tragic event,” he said. “But it’s not in Bremerton.”

This isn’t the first time someone’s raised the issue. It has been discussed at recent City Council meetings in regard to other crimes. McDonald said he wanted to tackle the issue quickly on Saturday in an effort to change the reporting from the get-go. He has talked with officials at several Seattle broadcast stations.

Bremerton’s city borders zigzag all over the place, ending at Riddell Road going north. But Bremerton is often regarded by media as including a much wider swath of territory. And, if you consider the postal codes, Bremerton goes all the way west to Seabeck, and north to the Kitsap County Fairgrounds.

I did a story last fall that showed how Bremerton’s rate of violent crime has indeed plummeted in the past 10 years. But when measured against that of unincorporated Kitsap County — which includes the area where this crime occurred — Bremerton’s is still higher in rate of violent crime (see below).

But does it even matter? McDonald thinks it does. He believes Bremerton is attempting to shed a reputation as having high crime.

“Those are the things people remember, the tragedies,” he said.

Do you agree?