Category Archives: central kitsap

Open office hours with Commissioner Josh Brown

Brynn writes:

Commissioner Josh Brown will be at the Silverdale Library tomorrow from 3 to 5 p.m. to meet with constituents and talk with them about whatever they want to talk about.

This is something he’s been doing for more than a year, but it sounds like not too many people know about it, so the library is trying to raise awareness in hopes that more people will show up to talk with the commissioner. Here’s the details from the library’s event calendar:

Central Kitsap County Commissioner Josh Brown will be at the Silverdale Library every fourth Tuesday of the month for “Open Office Hours,” to meet with citizens to listen to their ideas and concerns. “Open Office Hours” are open to all residents and will run from 3:00-5:00pm in the Hess Room of the Silverdale Library located at 3450 NW Carlton St in Old Town Silverdale. No appointment is necessary. Visitors will be welcomed on a first-come basis and will have up to 10 minutes each to talk to Commissioner Brown about any topic related to county government.

Since he just returned from the Paris Airshow, if you go ask Josh how the City of Light was in the spring.

Following SB 5454, requiring HIV-testing in infants

Brynn writes:

In January I wrote about Mary Jones, the Central Kitsap woman who has cared for some of the state’s most medically fragile babies while they were placed in state custody. (Read that story here).

Jones started fostering 31 years ago, but in December she terminated her foster care license with the state because she’d finally had enough with the state’s Department of Social and Health Services.

It takes a lot to get Jones that upset — this is a woman who has the patience of a saint — but after an infant in her care was not tested for HIV, even though the child’s mother gave permission, Jones had had enough. She was told by DSHS officials that a court order was needed to test the child, but it took close to six months for that order to be issued. Testing the infant as soon as possible would have been in the baby’s best interest, because if the infant tested positive it would have been given necessary antiviral medication to potentially keep the disease away.

It wasn’t until Jones terminated her license and the baby was moved to a different foster family that Jones received a call from the baby’s caseworker saying the court order had been issued. But even then if the infant tested positive for HIV, the state wouldn’t tell Jones the results because she longer was caring for the child — even though she’d cared for the baby for three months, potentially exposing herself to the disease.

This isn’t the first time Jones has run up against DSHS about its lack of policy on whether to test infants at birth for HIV. She has tried since 2004 to get legislation passed that would test infants for HIV if the status of the mother is unknown, and if the mother is at high risk for the disease (i.e. an intravenous drug user). Many pregnant women whose children enter state custody after birth receive prenatal care, so the percentage of women whose HIV status is unknown at the time of delivery is low. But it’s the babies born to women who are intravenous drug users, or who don’t receive any medical attention during pregnancy, and who don’t know if they’re HIV positive, that the bill aims to reach.

Working with Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, Jones hopes to see legislation passed this year that would update state law to require the test in infants whose status is unknown.

The bill, SB 5454, made it out of the Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee and after a detour through the Senate Ways and Means committee (an inaccurate fiscal note was attached to the bill, which is how it ended up there) the bill is now waiting on the rules committee to be brought to the floor for a vote.

This is the first time this legislation has made it out of committee. Rolfes is optimistic the bill will pass once on the floor, but she’s also pragmatic and knows it faces an uphill battle.

“The challenge is right now we have hundreds of bills waiting to get to the floor for a vote,” Rolfes said Wednesday. “We have another week or so to get the bills out and the Senate moves very slowly. Whether I can get it to the floor is the big ‘if.’”

Jones has been holding her breath, waiting to see if the bill finally passes. Seeing this legislation approved might help heal Jones’ wounds — the 63-year-old planned to retire this spring when her license ran out; terminating her license early was an act of desperation. While she knows she did the right thing, there’s still a part of her that is upset she didn’t get to retire the way she wanted.

Even though she’s no longer caring for the medically fragile babies, she’s still fighting for them in Olympia.

“When I go down there to testify I am always just focused on who I am there for, which is always my babies,” she said earlier this month.

If the bill doesn’t make it to the floor this session, Rolfes isn’t discouraged, in fact she’s optimistic that it will be even easier to get it passed during the next session.

“A lot times when the bills get this far you can get them out the next year,” she said. “Where we are right now is strategically a good spot. We’ll know in another couple of weeks if it’s still alive. It’s certainly my priority.”

Here’s some excerpts from SB 5454, which updates RCW 13.34.315:

When an infant under one year of age is placed in out-of-home care under this chapter, the department or other supervising agency shall request that the infant’s treating physician test the infant for human immunodeficiency virus, if the human immunodeficiency virus status of the mother of the infant:

(i) Is known to be positive; or

(ii) Is unknown and the department has specific information indicating that the mother is at increased risk of human immunodeficiency virus infection, including, but not limited to, a history of drug abuse.

The bill goes on to indicate the supervising agency must then follow a treating physician’s recommendation for follow-up testing and care for infants that test positive. It also says the child’s parent must be asked for consent. If they object for any reason, including conflicts with religious beliefs, a court order is required to perform the test.

Click here to see the TVW footage of the Feb. 12 Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee hearing on SB 5454.

Click here for a history of SB 5454, which includes links to a pdf of the original bill.

A commissioner apologizes

Brynn writes:

Last night at the Kitsap County Commissioners regular meeting board chairman Robert Gelder apologized for how things went down at the board’s April 9 meeting.

I wasn’t at the meeting, but a review of the tape shows that a number of supporters of the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club attended the meeting to speak out during the board’s allotted public comment period. People were upset with the county for not inviting the KRRC to a meeting at the end of March that dealt with a proposed update to a shooting range ordinance. The ordinance would impact the county’s existing ranges by requiring them to apply for an operational permit and dictating their hours of operation, among other regulations.

Apparently as people continued to line up to speak, Gelder announced no more public comment would be taken on the rifle range. He then adjourned the meeting. The scene was tense and it appears one woman was in the process of testifying when the meeting ended.

On Monday Gelder apologized for how he handled the situation.

“I want to extend to Mrs. Cooper, who was making comments at the time, an apology for potentially cutting you off and handling that poorly,” Gelder said.

The board wants to provide a forum for the public to talk to commissioners and that didn’t happen April 9, Gelder said. While the public comment period is not a time for commissioners to interact with the audience, it is still a time when the public can be heard.

Gelder wants the communication to remain respectful — from both directions, he said.

“I am sorry that I did not show you that respect at that time,” Gelder said to Mrs. Cooper. (I don’t know whether she was in the audience of roughly 80 people at Monday’s meeting).

Contrary to some opinions, commissioners are committed to seeing KRRC reopen and come into compliance under the county’s land-use code, the board said Monday. Gelder tried to convey that message following Monday’s public comment, where people blamed the commissioners for the lawsuit against the club saying it appeared the county had a vendetta against the facility and wouldn’t be happy until it was closed for good.

“Overall it’s really about moving forward and that’s what I would like to emphasize,” Gelder said. “I look forward to us being able to move forward in a constructive manner so KRRC can open and be available to the public.”

Commissioner Josh Brown also commented about his reaction at the April 9 meeting, saying he was upset with a comment suggesting the commissioners only sold the club its land in 2009 so it could shut it down. He called the allegation ludicrous.

“I know a lot of you are frustrated. I appreciate that, I am frustrated too,” Brown said. “I really believe in my heart that we need to have shooting ranges that are safe and open for people to use in our community.”

Brown said the shooting range ordinance update the county is working on will allow the county’s existing gun ranges to continue operation in the future, while taking into account the concerns of the surrounding neighborhoods that have built up around the ranges.

“I really believe we’re going to have a good document that the community can be proud of that’s going to balance these competing interests,” he said.

Expanding on Port of Tracyton expansion

Brynn writes:

After stirring up some people with the recent story I wrote about the Port of Tracyton’s annexation request that will be on the Nov. 8 ballot, I thought it only fair that I attend the port commissioner meeting last week to see how many people showed up.

Based on the series of comments below my story, I went to the meeting expecting a large crowd, and possibly some pitchforks. I was surprised when instead only four people were waiting to enter the small Tracyton Community Library for the meeting. Everyone was in good spirits and it appeared they were there to learn more about the plans for the waterfront and not to attack the three port commissioners.

Commission chairman William Mooney explained to the group the port’s plans, saying instead of raising taxes commissioners chose to expand the port district’s reach. He said my article was vague in its description of what the commissioners would like to see done along the waterfront, and went into explaining what they have in mind.

“We’d like to make some improvements,” Mooney said. “A little pier, little dock. Nothing huge, nothing big.”

The commissioners would like to add a pier and dock that could be accessed by motorized and non-motorized use, but have their sights set on appealing to kayaks, canoes and rowing-type vessels that could tie up during high and low tide. Motorized boats would probably be able to launch from the site during high tide, Mooney said.

Because there’s launches nearby in Silverdale and Bremerton, the Port of Tracyton doesn’t see a need to add that type of use, he said. Commissioners just want to create a “nice, little, non-big thing for (people) to use for their boats,” he said.

The reason the commissioners are looking to increase their revenues is because they don’t have enough money to build and maintain the facilities they would like to see in the long term. In addition to the dock/pier, they’ve talked about adding a 50- to 80-foot boardwalk and eventually bathrooms for people so they don’t have to run up to the businesses and use their facilities.

Commissioners hope to apply for grants to help fund construction and project costs, but before they do that they want to ensure they’ll have enough money to maintain the facilities once their built. If approved, the annexation would almost double the port’s annual collections.

The last time the port annexed was in 2008 when it added 1,500 homes near Tracyton’s border with Silverdale. At the time commissioners said they needed the annexation to generate the revenues to begin the work along the waterfront. But that expansion didn’t generate enough revenue and with budget cuts hitting the state’s funding for its grant programs, commissioners haven’t been able to get started on any of the projects.

Port attorney Phil Best also took time at the meeting to clarify a question posed by a man who read my story and had some concerns. Here’s an excerpt from an email he sent to Best:

“I am concerned that if the annex is passed and now Port of Tracyton borders the Port of Bremerton, RCW 53.04.120 could be used to transfer the Port of Tracyton to the Port of Bremerton without any vote and suddenly the tax rate would go from 4 cents to whatever the Port of Bremerton is currently collecting.”

Best looked into this RCW and whether one port could ever transfer its district to another district without a vote of the public. Here is his legal opinion:

… RCW 53.04.120 only applies to land actually owned by one port district and located within another port district. Where such land is adjacent to or within one-quarter mile of the port district that owns this land, this statute allows such land to become part of the port district that owns the land with consent of both port districts and the boundaries between the port district to be readjusted accordingly.

I discussed this with the Washington Public Port Association, and believe that the law was passed in 1977 to address a special need to allow two ports to agreeably adjust their boundaries in this limited circumstance. In the situation raised (in the above email inquiry), this statute would only apply to land actually owned by the Port of Bremerton and lying within the Port of Tracyton and within one-quarter mile of the Port of Bremerton boundary, and would not apply to other land within the Port of Tracyton not actually owned by the Port of Bremerton (that is, it would not apply to land owned by individuals…)

Bremerton City Councilman Jim McDonald was at the meeting and told the commissioners the area they hope to annex is his district. He said he was considering holding a public meeting to answer any questions his constituents might have about the annexation. He asked if one of the commissioners might make themselves available for the meeting. Mooney said he’d be glad to attend.

If I hear more about this meeting I’ll post it here.

Planning For Future Park Use

Brynn Grimley writes:

Monday night the board of county commissioners were set to approve the Newberry Hill Heritage Park master plan. I wrote about the plan back in April when the committee finished its work on the document. The committee (made up of anyone who wanted to be involved and have a say) met five times and created a plan for how it would like to see the park developed in the future. An appointed steering committee then reviewed the committee’s suggestions to make sure they were in line with the larger guiding principles established by the group.

Initially there was a lot of interest in the park — both during the county’s swap with the Department of Natural Resources to get the land and at the first public master plan meeting. But by the end, while a number of people stayed involved in the planning process, the overall public interest in the project seemed to have subsided.

One reason could be because once people realized the idea was to keep the uses of the park “passive” (i.e. walking, biking, horse trails, no ball fields, no motorized vehicles, etc.), they didn’t feel the need to voice concerns.

I didn’t attend Monday’s commissioner meeting, so I’m not sure what if any testimony will be given regarding the park plan. I’m assuming the plan will pass, but I’ve learned in this business it’s never safe to assume. So I’ll update this Tuesday after I come into work if anything changes.

While there isn’t much to update on the park planning front, I did learn that the county is close to acquiring the remaining 315 acres it needs to complete the park and make it 1,082 acres. The county acquired 247 acres in the north end of the park in 2004. It then got the 520 acres to the south from DNR in 2009, but still needed the land in the middle of those to parcels to complete its park.

The state said it’d gladly convey the land to the county, but asked the county to foot the bill of that process because it didn’t foresee having the financing needed to pay for its staff time to complete the work. The county set aside $15,000 to help pay for that process. It sounds like the county spent closer to $10,000, and the land conveyance has been approved by the county and state.

Now it’s slowly making its way through the process of getting the various signatures it needs to be final, according to county Parks and Recreation Director Jim Dunwiddie. Originally the county hoped to have the acquisition done by June, but as we head closer to July, it’s now sounding like it will be finalized closer to September.