County Commissioners Put Proverbial Foot Down

Brynn Grimley writes:

I spent a lot of time last week calling Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority commissioners and speaking with executive director Tony Caldwell and finance director Judy Henry for the story I wrote on the housing authority’s budget that ran in Sunday’s paper. (It can be read here).

While I was asking questions about the budget, most of the people I talked to weighed in on the on-going debate about where KCCHA should be located. Of course these comments came after my story ran in Wednesday’s paper explaining the move was still postponed and all discussions were had in a closed meeting, making it hard to know what exactly is going on. (That story can be read here).

There wasn’t a lot of new information that was shared with me in those “after the article” conversations, just everyone making a case for why they felt the way they do about the move. As I continued to ask: “At what point do you say ‘enough is enough?'” — it became clear I wasn’t the only one wondering when patience would run out.

At an afternoon meeting Monday, the Kitsap County Commissioners put their feet down. They passed a resolution stating they want KCCHA out of the Bayshore Drive building within 60 days. They feel they’ll have better luck selling the building, and a second property near by, if KCCHA is gone.

Commissioners also cited the goals of a work plan created last year between the county and KCCHA staff and the agency’s board that details ways in which KCCHA would strive to consolidate its services and reduce its overhead costs. The county commissioners believe paying $19,000 a month (and now another roughly $2,000 a month to the Port of Bremerton) for unused office space in Bremerton is not a good use of the agency’s resources.

But from where they stand on the KCCHA board, the three county commissioners are in the minority. The four other KCCHA commissioners — board chairman Lary Coppola (Port Orchard mayor), Becky Erickson (Poulsbo mayor), Debbi Lester (Bainbridge Island councilwoman), and Troy Erickson (resident representative) — so far appear to support finding an alternative location for KCCHA to reside.

I can’t tell you why they support it, because I haven’t heard them publicly discuss their reasons. But I am sure they in part want to support KCCHA executive director Tony Caldwell and KCCHA staff, who maintain that moving to the Norm Dicks Government Center does not make smart fiscal sense for the agency.

KCCHA is now left with a divided board. Three commissioners (who have now decided to look at this from the county’s financial perspective) believe the move will help the agency shore up its financials; four commissioners (not tied to county finances) appear to believe it doesn’t make financial sense to move the agency to Bremerton. But at this point this can only be assumed by their lack of action, because they aren’t publicly talking about the move in their meetings.

County commissioners, who until they have the majority can only express frustration at the KCCHA board meetings, have now decided to flex a different muscle. It’s called the: “We took on $40.5 million in debt to bail you out” muscle.

It will be interesting to see if the county can legally “evict” KCCHA from the Silverdale building, even though KCCHA still technically owns it (it was one of the buildings pledged to the county to help repay the debt).

It should also be noted that the KCCHA commissioners agreed in May that if an alternative had not surfaced by the board’s July 6 meeting, everyone would support the move to Bremerton.

Well July 6 has come and gone and KCCHA hasn’t started to pack any boxes to my knowledge. If an alternative was found, no one seems to have told the county commissioners, because they made it clear on Monday they’re tired of waiting.

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