Category Archives: KItsap County Government

That’s Senator Angel now

Jan Angel (center) with daughters Erin Brinkerhoff (left) and Kara Morkert (right).
Jan Angel (center) with daughters Erin Brinkerhoff (left) and Kara Morkert (right).
Jan Angel, former county commissioner and Republican state representative in the 26th Legislative District since 2009, took the oath of office to be the district’s state Senator on Tuesday.

Angel defeated Nathan Schlicher, who in January was appointed by Pierce and Kitsap county officials, in November to hold the Senate seat for one year. Angel will hold the seat the final year of the term Derek Kilmer was elected to in 2010. Kilmer, a Democrat, is now in Congress. Angel has already begun fundraising for the 2014 campaign when she plans to seek a full four-year term.

Republicans might not get a replacement for Angel before the Legislative session begins on Jan. 13, but that could depend on how quickly Kitsap County commissioners are willing to move. The GOP’s 26th Legislative District precinct committee officers chose Jesse Young as its top choice to replace Angel, followed by Adam Berman and Doug Cloud. All are from Gig Harbor.

The ultimate decision rests with commissioners from Kitsap County and Pierce County council members. As it stands now, it seems unlikely they would meet before Jan. 6. That’s the first date for a meeting of just Kitsap County commissioners and one of the first items of business for them will be selecting a replacement for Josh Brown, who is leaving the board for a position with the Puget Sound Regional Council. Assuming the commissioners would want a full board in making the 26th Legislative District selection, it seems unlikely they would schedule a meeting before Jan. 7.

A Jan. 7 selection meeting would be on time for the Legislature, but it would not give the new state representative any ability to officially craft legislation, choose staff and move into office space well before the session begins.

Pay increases planned for judges, county prosecutor

Brynn writes:

Kitsap County finances appear to be stabilizing. County commissioners are in the process of negotiating new contracts with all employees covered by a collective bargaining unit, and although the meetings are conducted behind closed doors, commissioners have said publicly they’re offering a 2 percent cost of living adjustment for this year and next.

Pay raises are also coming to Kitsap’s District and Superior Court judges, the respective courts’ commissioners and Prosecuting Attorney Russel Hauge. The raises are on the county commissioners’ consent agenda for approval at the board’s regular meeting Monday night. The increases — there’s two — take effect Sept. 1, 2013 and Sept. 1, 2014.

Part of the resolution also restores the formula for how the prosecutor’s salary is calculated. Pay for the elected position is tied to the pay scale set by the state for Superior Court judges. All of the county’s non-judicial elected positions were once tied to this pay scale but in 2008 commissioners froze the pay of the assessor, auditor, clerk, coroner, prosecutor, sheriff and treasurer.

Recognizing the tough financial situation facing the county, the elected officials requested the freeze. At the same time county commissioners (and other elected officials) opted to pay for their health care premium expenses to find additional savings. County commissioners can’t change their salaries while in office, so this how they were able to reduce their overall pay. This practice continued through 2011.

The resolution set for approval Monday will return the pay of the prosecutor to a rate that is equal to the pay of a Superior Court judge. The county pays half the prosecutor’s salary and the other half is reimbursed by the state. It’s the same for Superior Court judges — the county pays half of the salaries and the state reimburses the other half. The only salaries covered in full by the county are for the District Court judges and commissioner and the Superior Court Commissioner. The court commissioner positions are set at 90 percent of the Superior Court Judge’s salary.

Here’s the breakdown of what the judges and Hauge are paid annually and the proposed increases:

Current pay:
  • Superior Court judges: $148,844.80 (Kitsap County portion: $74,422.40)
  • Superior Court Commissioner: $133.947.90
  • District Court judges: $141,710.40
  • District Court Commissioner: $127,545.60
  • Prosecutor: $147,759.20 (State reimbursement: $74,422.40)

Proposed increases for 2013, 2014: (The first number is for 2013, the second for 2014)

  • Superior Court judges: : $151,809 (Kitsap County portion: $75,904.50); $156,363 (Kitsap county portion: $78,181.50)
  • Superior Court Commissioner: $136,628.10; $140,726.70
  • District Court judges: $144,544; $148,881
  • District Court Commissioner: $130,090; $133,993
  • Prosecutor: $151,809; $156,363

For comparison sake, the county commissioners — whose salaries are the same — make $112,049.60 a year as of Jan. 1, 2013. Under state law commissioners can’t change their salaries while in office, but they can change the salary for the next term. The salary for Brown’s position, along with the other county elected officials, are up for review either later this year or next year. The salaries must be set before the election.

It’s likely these positions will see a 2 percent cost of living increase similar to what is being negotiated with employees covered by a collective bargaining unit.

Commissioners took steps to curb own salary increases

On Monday county employees aired their complaints to the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners about proposed contract terms for 2013 and beyond. Some took issue with commissioner salaries. They asserted commissioners continued to take pay increases, even as their own wages have remained frozen since 2009 due to the county’s economic woes.

Under state laws, a sitting commissioner cannot reduce his or her own salary, but the board since 2009 has taken steps to offset automatic raises for their positions that were established by earlier resolutions. To clarify, the only time a commissioner can vote on adjustments to “his or her” own salary in the upcoming four-year term of office is when he or she is up for re-election.

All three sitting commissioners (and former commissioner Steve Bauer) have paid out-of-pocket toward medical benefits that the county otherwise would have covered. County records show commissioners have saved the county the following amounts from 2009 through 2011: Charlotte Garrido ($23,202), Josh Brown ($14,206), Rob Gelder (in 2011, $3,772); Bauer (2009 and 2010, $16,129).

In 2010, the board passed a resolution freezing the position 3 (Central Kitsap) salary in 2011 through 2014 at $112,053 (the 2010 rate). Brown’s first term as CK commissioner ended in 2010, and he was re-elected, starting a second term in 2011.

In 2011, the board passed two resolutions accepting donations to the county from District 1 and 2 commissioners (Garrido and Gelder) in amounts equivalent to the difference between their salaries and the frozen position 3 salary (Brown’s).

The 2011 resolution was intended to at least partially offset a resolution passed in 2007 that established the position 1 and 2 salaries from 2009 through 2012. The 2009 amount was $119,064, with 2 percent raises in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Voting for the resolution were Brown and Bauer. Jan Angel voted against it.

In a 2010 article, I erroneously reported that the district 1 and 2 commissioners would get a 9 percent raise in 2012. The 2012 salary, $126,353, was nearly 9 percent higher than the initial year’s salary. But to repeat, the 2012 increase was to have been 2 percent, not 9 percent. I have made a correction to the online version of the story, and I apologize for the error.

In April this year, with Garrido and Gelder up for re-election, the board reduced salaries for the district 1 and 2 positions in 2013 and 2014, to bring them in line with the position three salary of $112,053. The resolution calls for 2 percent increases to the district 1 and 2 salaries in 2015 and 2016.

The wages of other elected officials, including the assessor, auditor, clerk, coroner, sheriff, treasurer, prosecutor, have been frozen since 2009.

Perhaps you’re wondering how salaries for elected officials are established. Kitsap County in 2003 adopted a method to set their salaries as a percentage of superior court judges’ salaries, which are set by the Washington State Citizens Commission on Salaries. Each position is calculated as a percentage of the judges’ salaries, and resolutions dating from 2005 and 2007 established salaries under the new system. The commissioners’ percentage is 80 percent. In theory, having a set formulas takes the potential for politics out of the process.

County employees’ premiums to rise despite new health care initiative

See today’s story in the Kitsap Sun (paper version) for an explanation of Kitsap County’s move to a self-insured health care program. A number of counties and cities around the regional have already made the switch in an effort to curb rising health care costs.

The new program, combined with other cost-saving measures, is expected to reduce the amount the county spends on health care by $12.5. But the “savings” will not mean a decrease in employees’ share of insurance premiums.

Employers nearly everywhere have responded to escalating health care costs by asking employees to shoulder a greater share of the burden through higher premiums and deductibles. So Kitsap County employees were not alone when they saw their premiums jump from two percent of the total cost in 2009 to eight percent in 2010. In 2012, the county pays 86 percent of the tab for premiums; employees pay 14 percent. In 2013, that’s expected to go up to 17 percent, according to Bert Furuta, director of personnel and human services.

Bear in mind that the county isn’t simply shifting the burden, said John Wallen of DiMartino Associates, the county’s health care consultant. The county’s own costs continue to increase, even as it leans harder on employees to foot their portion of the bill.

Nationwide, the proportion of employees’ share of premiums varies widely depending on the industry and region of the county. A recent Mercer survey that divides the county into four regions, showed that, among combined private and public sectors for the “West,” the percentage was 21 percent for single employees, 30 percent for families. At that rate, Kitsap County employees are still ahead of the game.

You may wonder — and I asked — why the county needs a health care consultant, at a current cost of just more than $40,000 per year. According to Furuta, the field of health care is so complex that it requires specialized expertise to navigate. The county tried to go without some years back and found it was not cost-effective, Furuta said.

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.

Office hours with Josh Brown

Brynn writes:

I received information about an open house that will be held Tuesday in a newsletter released by Commissioner Josh Brown’s office. Those interested in meeting with Brown are welcome to attend his “Open Office Hours” Jan. 24 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Silverdale Library, 3450 NW Carlton Street in Old Town Silverdale.

According to a blurb from Brown’s office, he’ll make himself available to meet with citizens to hear their concerns and ideas and to talk with them about topics related to county government. He’ll be in the Hess meeting room of the library. People can just drop by, no appointment is necessary.

For more information, call 360-337-7080.

Last call (tonight) for comments on redistricting of commissioner boundaries

Tonight (10/24/11) at the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners’ meeting, the board will hold a public hearing on three proposed options for redistricting commissioner boundaries. The meeting is at 7 p.m. at the county administration building.

The county’s been working on this for some time. They held information workshops in late September and early October. County officials also met with both parties on the redistricting, which is intended to even out representation within North, South and Central Kitsap commissioner districts, based on 2010 Census data.

Eric Baker, the county’s special projects manager, and his staff have put forth three options, one of which is to do nothing, leave the boundaries as is. The other two options attempt to even out population discrepancies by shifting boundaries between Central (the smallest, population-wise) and North Kitsap (currently with the largest population). Option 3 also adjusts boundaries between Central Kitsap and South Kitsap in the Tiger/Panther/Mission Lake area.

According to Baker, comments on the three proposals have been pretty tame.

“Largely, there has not been a lot of public outcry about these alternatives,” Baker said Monday. “Our alternatives attempted to minimize change where possible, which was appreciated by people who made comments.”

Many people have asked if there will be changes to downtown Bremerton boundaries, which would affect residents of South Kitsap and Central Kitsap districts. The answer, said Baker, is “no.”

The commissioners may but, according to Baker, likely will not adopt one of the three options at tonight’s meeting. More likely, they will consider public input and make their decision by or before the Dec. 1 deadline.

Commissioner Garrido sponsors showing of film on global warming

The Sustainable Cinema series, sponsored by District 2 Commissioner Charlotte Garrido, continues 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Dragonfly Cinema in downtown Port Orchard, with a showing of “The Age of Stupid.”

According to a press release on the county’s website, the documentary film “takes a look back from the year 2055 and asks why we didn’t stop climate change when we had the chance.”

The Age of Stupid is directed by Frannie Armstrong and stars Pete Postlethwaite. The film runs 98 minutes.

There is no charge for admission, but the suggested donation is $5 per person.

A discussion will follow the film.

“The Sustainable Cinema Series was created to provide interactive and educational information to Kitsap County residents about sustainable living,” the press release says.

For more information, contact Aimee Gordon Warthen, District 2 Liaison, at 360.337.7097.

County budget review committee presentations on BKAT

The Kitsap County Board of Commissioners and the county’s Budget Review Committee will hear presentations for 2012 budget requests from department heads beginning Wednesday at the county administration building.
The presentations will be broadcast on Bremerton Kitsap Access Television beginning on Friday. The schedule is available on the county’s website.
Each department will outline their priorities and proposed expenses as part of the board’s budget process. The board will present its draft budget to the public in November, with a formal public hearing.
Until then, comments on the budget can be submitted through the county’s website. Email adamato@co.kitsap.wa.us.

More from ‘Sexpresso’ hearing

Brynn writes:

When writing a meeting on deadline for the next day’s paper you don’t always get the chance to include everything you want in a story because of time and space constraints.

That was the case last night as I tried to write a story on the Planning Commission public hearing regarding “sexpresso” coffee stands.

With roughly 30 people testifying, not every comment made it in the story. Many of the speakers repeated those that went before them, so I summarized the concerns.

I wanted to follow up today with more quotes from last night’s meeting so those who weren’t there could get a feel of what was said.

But first a little background on the “sexpresso” stands in Kitsap. In February 2010 I wrote about whether Kitsap County commissioners would follow the direction of city of Bremerton leaders and Mason and Snohomish county commissioners and implement a lewd-conduct ordinance.

In Snohomish after a handful of baristas faced prostitution charges, the commissioners voted to strengthen the county’s lewd-conduct ordinance. Their revised ordinance requires baristas to at least wear bikinis.

At the time Kitsap County commissioners stayed out of the debate on the grounds that no laws were being violated and there wasn’t much they could do.

“We have a lot of priorities right now and this isn’t one of them,” Commissioner Josh Brown said at the time. “Counties don’t have the regulatory authority that cities do. We can’t exactly restrict the businesses that are coming into our county like cities can.”

By April 2011 the board changed its position largely because the stands, previously clustered in the commercial area of Gorst, spread to more residential areas like East Bremerton. Causing a greater cause for concern, Brown said in April.

And while the earlier sexpresso stands only promised pasties a couple times a week, the trend was moving to wearing them every day. This change prompted commissioners to ask Department of Community Develop director Larry Keeton to look into the county’s options for regulating clothing inside the businesses.

It should be noted that one of the stands along Highway 303 does not have baristas in pasties but instead bikinis, according to the owner. It should also be noted the stand along 303 near its intersection with Riddell Road has been removed. That leaves Fantasy Espresso along Highway 303 and Espresso Gone Crazy and Espresso Gone Crazy II in Gorst as the stands promoting women in pasties.

In his presentation before the Planning Commission Tuesday, Keeton said his department didn’t have a recommendation for what planners felt was the best solution. Instead he wanted public comment to guide the commission.

All but six people that testified supported the county’s proposal to create a lewd conduct ordinance that would regulate clothing in public places. This includes places like public beaches, parks or lakes.

That means people wearing skimpy swimsuits could face a civil penalty if someone calls 911 to report what they think is a violation the lewd conduct ordinance.

Two people said they preferred an option that would designate the stands as adult entertainment and require someone to check identification to make sure customers are at least 18 years old. This option would also require businesses to clearly mark that they are adult entertainment, and require them to remove female silhouettes from signs.

Finally there were four people that opposed regulations altogether. That included two attorneys representing two espresso stand owners; one man who supports the stands and what they offer; and another man who said he didn’t necessarily support the stands, but felt the county was overstepping it’s role by regulating a moral issue.

After the hearing attorneys Kenneth Bagwell and Philip Havers said their clients continue to cooperate with the county and respond to requests to put up screening to prevent inadvertent viewing of women in the stands from the road.

Havers told planning commissioners his clients were willing to put up additional screening.

If the stands are blocked from the road, Havers didn’t think a lewd conduct ordinance could be enforced because people would have to go out of their way to see what happens inside the business, he said after the hearing.

That’s a question to be debated between attorneys, Keeton said.

As stated in today’s article, the majority of those testifying Tuesday were women. Of those, most were mothers. Many cited concerns about children being inadvertently exposed to the stands, and the impression the stands leave on young boys.

They also cited concerns that the stands would incite aggressive sexual tendencies in sex offenders and possibly cause some boys and men to become sexually aggressive. They are worried sexual violence toward women will escalate as a result of the stands because men will see women as sexual objects and not respect them.

I’ve included some of the comments from the hearing below. (Note: I wasn’t able to get everyone’s name spelled correctly, so I am not including names because I don’t want to get them wrong.)

One woman said:

“Men and boys are very visual. A little glimpse will be with them all day long,” she said. “It could start off with curiosity, then it could go from there when that’s not enough.”

Another woman said:

“There’s enough immorality, enough killings, enough rapes going on,” she said. “When women expose themselves like that, that opens the doors.”

Here’s comments from the man who questioned regulating a moral issue:

“I see people here telling other people how to live,” he said. “I’m 72 years old, I’ll save me. I’ll be responsible for my own actions.”

(It should be noted he said he has never visited one of the stands and has no financial interest in the stands).

Attorney Bagwell also questioned if the county was overstepping its bounds with the proposed regulations:

“Ultimately you can’t infringe upon the rights of others to conduct business because of the morality of some people,” he said.

Planning commissioners closed the public comment period Tuesday, but left the record open for written comments. Next county planners will compile the testimony while a county attorney will review a memorandum from the espresso stand attorneys sent last week. The document references case law that the attorneys say make the proposed options legally invalid.

Planning commissioners could deliberate and make a recommendation at their Aug. 16 meeting. The recommendation would go to county commissioners for review. Once the board of commissioners receives the proposed recommendation, another public hearing will be held before the board makes a decision.

Hearing on espresso stand regulation set for Aug. 2

Chris Henry writes:

The Kitsap County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. Aug 2 on regulations proposed for espresso stands whose employees wear provocative outfits. The location of the hearing is the county administration building, 619 Division Avenue in Port Orchard.

The county proposes three options to address the outfits, which some find offensive.

One option would add “lewd conduct” as a violation of civil code. In option two, stands would be regulated under the county’s code for adult entertainment. Owners would have to post clear signs advertising the nature of the business, and they would have to check customers’ IDs.

A third option would change the county’s code on adult entertainment to include a definition of indecent exposure that would prohibit some but not all of the outfits at coffee stands.

The county commissioners, who make the final decision, also will hold a public hearing.

Brown, Burlingame on veterans levy proposal

Following publication of a story July 5 on a proposed property tax levy to aid Kitsap’s veterans and non-veteran homeless, I heard from Abby Burlingame, who challenged Kitsap County’s actions related to its Veterans Assistance Fund over the past two years.

Burlingame, who ran against incumbent Commissioner Josh Brown in 2010, said, “During the campaign I raised concerns that the county was borrowing money from that fund to balance their budget. I would like to know if they paid it back. Was that question asked during your interview? If that question was not asked, I would like to know why not.”

I did not ask that question as I interviewed Brown for the recent article. But in response to Burlingame’s questions, I called Brown last week and a got a few answers to some questions she raised.

First, a little background. The county under state law collects and distributes money on behalf of indigent veterans. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not much, 1 and 1/8 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. But before 2006, the county didn’t have a systematic way of getting the money to veterans. That was done informally, through the local Veterans of Foreign Wars.

“By 2005, over $1 million had accrued in the fund because it had been spending less than what it had been taking in,” said Leif Bentsen, who works for the county part-time coordinating the Veterans Assistance Program.

The fund was then handled by the auditor’s office. In 2006 the board of county commissions assumed authority of the fund and turned the administration over to the department of personnel & human services. In December 2006, under the same state law, the Kitsap County Veterans Advisory Board was created.

“When my department took it over,” said Bentsen, “we realized that 1) having the money sitting in the bank wasn’t helping veterans; and 2) many vets-in-need were slipping through cracks under the previous system. Part of the problem was that the majority of veterans didn’t know that it even existed, including myself until I was given the responsibility of overseeing it and organizing the new board.”

By 2009, as the recession was raging full blast, the veteran’s fund still was underspent. It had a balance of $900,000 and the program that year had a projected budget of about half that amount. The county technically didn’t “borrow” money from the fund, but state law allows local governments to lower the amount collected when the balance in the fund exceeds the total amount that could be collected, in this case, $320,000 in 2009.

“It allows us to take that $320,000 and apply it to our general fund program, 70 percent of which is criminal justice,” Brown said at the time. “If we didn’t dip into these reserves this one time, we would need to cut another $320,000 from the general fund.”

That’s because the county is limited as to how much it can raise taxes in any given year to 1 percent over the previous year (not counting new construction). The net effect, as Burlingame points out, was $320,000 less for the veterans fund and $320,000 more for the general fund.

This February, Brown backed proposed legislation that would have separated the veterans fund levy from the general fund levy. The effect, said Brown and legislators who supported the bill, would be to eliminate competition between the two funds. With the veterans fund tax as a stand-alone, there would be no more of the push-me-pull-you syndrome. Money for veterans could be collected and the county could collect the equivalent $320,000, or whatever it would be in that year, for the general fund. And if you said that amounts to a tax increase, you are correct.

Burlingame wanted to know why, if the veterans fund was so flush that the county could tap it in 2009, there is now a proposal on the table to implement a separate levy specifically for homeless vets and other homeless people. Revenue from the levy would be split 50/50 between vets and non-vets. Advisory boards for each group would make recommendations about allocation of funds.

She also wanted to know, now that the veterans are apparently in such dire need, if the county intends to replenish the $320,000.

“The reason I mention this is not to have any kind of vindication on the issue, it is because our budget is in serious jeopardy,” Burlingame wrote to me in an email. “Our county commissioners continually make contradictory statements regarding the condition of our budget and The Sun allows them to gloss over the ramifications of those choices. While reporters may recognize these transfers of money when they happen, they never address how those previous decisions end up affecting people like the veterans in the future. They never attach responsibility to the politicians who made the decision and said everything would be fine.”

So here are the questions I asked Brown, with his responses.

- In 2009 the board eliminated collections to the Veterans Assistance Fund for one year. Do you feel any sense of responsibility for the fact that the county’s veterans assistance program expenses now exceed revenues?

“I guess I don’t look at it that way,” said Brown, who elaborated at length about the context in which that decision was made.

In the first place, said Brown, the Veterans Assistance Fund was being underutilized when he took office in 2007. Informal distribution through the VFW worked in previous years, but as new generations of soldiers returned home from service, they did not so much connect with that organization. The goal of county officials when Brown arrived was to get the funds out into circulation on behalf of vets. Brown didn’t claim credit for the effort, but he did support it. His own family has military ties, and he is a strong supporter of veterans, he said.

“It’s been just a phenomenal success,” Brown said. “And today, we are helping many more vets than we did in the past.

That’s one of the reasons the fund balance is down. County and local social service workers became better at identifying and connecting with veterans in need.

“In a way we’re a bit of victims of our own success,” Brown said.

The second point of context was the state of the economy during late 2009, when the county and other public agencies were facing unprecedented funding shortfalls. Brown described revenues at the time as “a falling knife.”

“Sale tax revenues were dropping precipitously. We were dealing with a major financial crisis, not just as a nation but locally,” Brown said.

The board weighed the fact that the veterans fund had nearly $1 million, for a budget of around $400,000, as compared to what had been whittled down to a $4 million reserve in the in the general fund balance. To put that in context, county general fund revenues in 2007, when Brown took office, were about $86 million, he said. They’re now down to $78 million, and the reserve fund has been built up to $7 million. In 2009, the board of commissioners was worried about exhausting its reserve fund. So they chose to use the veterans fund to help balance the budget.

“This was not a decision the commissioners made lightly,” Brown said.

- Now that the economy has more or less stabilized (if not recovered) why wouldn’t the board consider reimbursing the veterans fund, as Burlingame has suggested, for the amount it was unable to collect in 2009, about $320,000?

Brown says that would be a stopgap measure. At the current rate of consumption, $320,000 would last about 8 months.

“I concede there’d be 8 more months of funds,” Brown said, but he denies the action taken in 2009 caused the problems the fund is having today.

Were the board to consider making the transfer, Brown said, it would force a choice between shoring up the veterans fund and cutting essential services, like law enforcement. In the long run, it would not solve the issue of sustainable funding for vets, Brown said.

The vets levy, however, has been successful in King County and Brown thinks it could help address the sustainability problem here. Although not openly endorsing the proposal, Brown said, he’s open to discussing its merits, despite the fact it involves the dreaded “T” word.

- The bill separating the veterans fund from the general fund would have prevented the board from making the budget shift in 2009. Earlier this year, you seemed to favor what you described as elimination of competition between the funds, and yet the law as it is helped you balance the budget in 2009. Can you comment on this apparent conflict?

Brown reiterated his goal, and the goal of county veterans advocates, is to provide sustainable funding for veterans. The bill, which didn’t make it out of committee, would have helped do so by protecting the fund from fluctuations in the general fund.

The bill would have allowed for a small — Brown emphasizes — tax increase, because the money now going to veterans would have been taken out of the general fund maximum in any given year, essential creating more taxing capacity. The impact to individual taxpayers would have been minimal, Brown said. For the owner of a $250,000 home, the 1 and 1/8 cents per $1,000 vets fund levy amounts to about $2.80 per year.

Had the law passed, said Brown, he would have pushed — and still may — for a “council-matic” increase in the vets levy. Brown suggested a penny per $1,000 increase, or an additional $2.50 per year on the same $250,000 home. That would generate about $300,000, which would have a substantial impact on the fund, Brown said, adding it’s the least we can do for our vets.

State of the Vets Fund

Food, farms and public policy

KITSAP COUNTY — Kitsap County officials will seek input from residents on its draft strategic agricultural plan at two meetings coming up next week.

The county recently received a $25,000 Washington State Conservation Commission Farm Preservation Grant to develop the plan.

Kitsap County has a long history of farming, and there’s been a recent resurgence in growing and consuming local foods. Yet Kitsap food products still make up less than 1 percent of the $1 billion county residents spend each year on food.

Kitsap County code allows agricultural uses in rural and urban areas, but does not specify how to preserve and enhance agricultural land. The 37-page draft agricultural plan lists a current inventory of farmland as well as recommended strategies for preserving it and getting the most benefit from it.

The county’s recently established Food and Farm Policy Council helped develop the plan, along with the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance, the Kitsap Community Agricultural Alliance and other groups.

The county will hold public two forums on the draft plan. The first is 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Island Lake Community Center, 1087 NW Island Lake Road, Silverdale; the second is 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Kitsap County Administration Building, 619 Division St., Port Orchard.
For more information visit the board of commissioners special projects page on the county website, www.kitsapgov.com.

Pitch your road project ideas to Kitsap County public works

Have you got a pet peeve about potholes? Concerns about sharp curves? Anxiety over lack of signage?
The Kitsap County Public Works Department invites residents to pitch road project ideas for inclusion in the county’s 6-year Transportation Improvement Program.
As projects are completed, the department adds new projects annually to its to-do list. Projects selected this year will be added to the 2012-2017 TIP list.
The deadline for suggestions is April 30.
Projects are scored and ranked using objective criteria, according to Jim Rogers, transportation planner. Criteria include safety, capacity needs, structural condition, environmental retrofits and non-motorized needs. Projects are selected based on the availability and timing of funding, especially for state and federally funded projects.
If you want to see how your neighborhood fared in last year’s list-making process, check out the copy of the county’s roadwork plan for 2011 below.
Submit your road project ideas to the county’s website here. For information, call (360) 337-5777.
Kitsap County 2011 Transportation Project List

http://www.kitsapgov.com/pw/transplan.htm

Mayor Patty Lent called to jury duty

“I have been trying to get on jury duty every year since I was 18 years old. To get to go sit in an air conditioned room, downtown, judging people, while my lunch is paid for…that is the life.” — Stanley, The Office

The cranky take exception to the term “public service.” Sometimes I’m cranky. It’s not the “public” part, it’s the “service,” mostly when it’s a full-time job.

Jury duty, though, is something I think almost always merits the description, because even if we get paid the same as we would for doing our jobs, I don’t know many people who would want to do it for a living.

Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent didn’t. She was one of 49 who showed up out of the 55 who were summoned for jury duty last week. They filled out a questionnaire answering basic questions. About eight were dismissed for hardship reasons.

Lent herself tried to get out of it, saying her duties as mayor might prevent her from serving.

Judge Anna Laurie disagreed, however, telling Lent the summons she received was the same as everyone else’s. So Lent spent much of Monday, Wednesday and Thursday waiting. She said they advise jurors to bring a book.

On Thursday Lent’s number was called. The attorneys had the opportunity to dismiss some potential jurors. A defense attorney showed Lent the door.

By then Lent was glad Laurie had her stick around. “At first I was sorry they didn’t just let me go at the first,” she said. Now she’s planning to send thank-you letters.

“It was an amazing education,” she said.

That education included what responsibilities lie with attorneys from both sides. It also gave her a glimpse of reality that doesn’t show up on television when cases are concluded in an hour.

I was called to jury duty once when I lived in Poulsbo. I was instructed to call the courthouse every day for a week to see if I needed to go to Port Orchard and actually report. I did that until they told me to stop.

Heads Up on the Agenda

Monday

10 a.m.: The Kitsap County Board of Commissioners will meet at 619 Division St. and get a legislative update from lobbyist Tom McBride, and there will be “board information sharing.”

2 p.m.: The Kitsap County Board of Commissioners will meet at 619 Division St. and get a budget update and an energy program update. They will review a request from the public works department to get a fleet management software/hardware system, at a cost of $70,000, which will “provide the data and tools needed to properly and optimally manage a diverse fleet of vehicles” such as the county operates. The board also will review a proposal to loan the Village Green Metropolitan Park District $40,000. The VGMPD was formed by a vote of the public in 2010. The district’s commissioners have budgeted $40,000 in 2011 but will not be able to collect taxes until 2012. The county will loan the district the money as an advance on taxes. The district will repay half the principal plus interest on 4/30/2012 and the other half plus interest on 10/31/2012.
Fleet Management Software
Village Green Metro Park District

7:00 p.m.: The Kitsap County Board of Commissioners will meet at 619 Division St., and among other business, will:
— vote on a resolution supporting legislation to reform the Washington State Ferry system
— review a contract with the Homebuilders Association of Kitsap County for the Built Green Program, involving $127,504 of federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant funds
— vote on a resolution to release $300,000 in funds from the county’s parks department earmarked under a previous agreement for pre-development and planning of the Village Green Community Park and a future site of the Village Green Community Center in Kingston
— approve a resolution initiating the Kitsap County Road program for 2011
— hold a public hearing to consider a resolution providing the initial docket for 2011 potential amendments to the Kitsap County Comprehensive Plan, Land Use and Zoning Maps, and Corresponding Development Regulations
— hold a public hearing to consider an Emergency Ordinance 466-2010 regarding interim regulations on homelessness
— hold a public hearing to consider an Ordinance amending Kitsap County Code 46.02 “Adoption of State Traffic Ordinance” to add a regulation that makes “inattentive driving” unlawful and subject to an infraction penalty of $124.00.
BOCCagenda.pm022811

7:00 p.m.: The city of Port Orchard Planning Commission will meet at city hall, 216 Prospect St., to discuss downtown lighting, a 2011 parks plan update, and city’s Shoreline Master Plan.
POCCplan.agenda.2/28/11

Tuesday

1:00 p.m.: The Housing Kitsap Board of Commissioners will meet at the Norm Dicks Government Center in Bremerton, Suite 100, and review a work plan update and financials presented by Executive Director Tony Caldwell, among other business. The board will meet in executive session during the meeting to discuss personnel.

Wednesday

4:00 p.m.: The Bainbridge Island City Council will meet at city hall, 280 Madison Ave. N. Among other business, the council will discuss the Shoreline Master Program and Code Update.

5:00 p.m.: The Bremerton City Council will meet in the council conference chamber on the 6th floor and at 5:30 p.m. in the council chambers on the main floor of the Norm Dicks Government Center. Among other business, the council will consider an ordinance to repeal the city’s admissions tax and it will consider a purchase and sale agreement with Kitsap County for the purchase of former EMS property at 17th street and Warren Avenue.
Bremerton Agenda

7:00 p.m.: The Poulsbo City Council will meet at city hall, 200 NE Moe St. Among other business, the council will hold a public hearing on its proposed six-year transportation improvement plan.

About that Kitsap Sun public records request on KCCHA

Today the Kitsap Sun begins a four-part series on the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority (now Housing Kitsap), and how it nearly folded in 2008. That it nearly folded is not news. We reported on that as events unfolded. In the series, we attempt to give the back story, and to provide a comprehensive retrospective, now that the agency has moved on from its troubled past.

At the bottom of this post, you’ll find links to some of the key public records we accessed in the course of our research, including e-mails from elected officials and others, financial records and a meeting video.

The series, in the works for a year, tracks the housing authority’s financial woes related to its Harborside Condominium project and other factors, including the recession (days 1 and 2). The series moves on with a look at how the agency has gotten back on track and rededicated to its mission of affordable housing (day 3). Readers will also get a peek inside the lives of condo owners who reside in one of the most talked-about (and upscale) complexes in Kitsap County (day 4).

Delving into the cause of KCCHA’s financial meltdown, we found nothing illegal. We did find a culture of risk-taking within the agency that left it far more vulnerable than other Washington State housing authorities when the recession hit and the housing market imploded. The result is that public money will be paying off substantial debt on the private condo complex for what could be decades.

In the course of our research, we made public records requests for e-mails between and about housing authority board members and staff, financial records and a video of the 2005 meeting at which the county’s board of directors agreed to back a portion of financing on the condos.

State law provides for open access to public records. Three public records bills that would have made compliance with the law easier for local governments appear to be dead in the water in Olympia.

Without personally taking a position on the bills, I’d like to acknowledge the efforts of the public records officials who complied with our requests. The e-mail requests alone yielded well over 1,000 documents, each of which had to be reviewed for information to be redacted (as in attorney client privilege) before it was turned over to us.

The clerks and IT specialists who complied with our requests were just doing their jobs, as we were just doing ours in reporting the story. But it’s worth noting that the public’s access to records comes with a cost of time and energy within the agency asked to comply. That translates to public dollars. So the right to access public records is not one we at the Kitsap Sun take lightly.

Local governments and agencies complying with the Kitsap Sun’s public records request included: Housing Kitsap, the cities of Port Orchard, Bremerton, Poulsbo and Bainbridge Island, Kitsap County and Bremerton Kitsap Access Television.

In addition to our interviews conducted with elected officials, staff at Kitsap County and Housing Kitsap provided extensive information for the story.

Here are the public records:

KCCHA Condo Loan, Feb. 14, 2005
Condo Loan, Feb. 14, 2005
The Kitsap County Board of Commissioners on Feb. 14, 2005, entered into a contingent loan agreement with the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority (now Housing Kitsap) to back a $22 million bond on the Harborside Condominiums.

KCCHA Condo Loan, Minutes, Feb. 14, 2005
Minutes of the Feb. 14, 2005 meeting of the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners, at which the board approved a contingent loan agreement with the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority on the Harborside Condominium project. See item (8) a.

Video of Feb. 14, 2005 BOCC Meeting

KCCHA CondoConcerns, July 26, 2007
This is an e-mail from a couple who bought one of the Harborside Condominiums in Bremerton when the project was “just a dream.” Rick Shaver, the condo owner, writes to the contractor with multiple complaints about poor workmanship and delays. The e-mail is copied to Bremerton Mayor Cary Bozeman who forwards it to Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority Executive Director Norm McLoughlin. KCCHA was in charge of the projects. Bozeman writes, “You should be aware of this.”

KCCHA Operating Deficit, Jan., 2008
A financial summary for the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority showing an operating deficit of nearly $300,000 per month.

KCCHA Spreadsheets, Nov., 2007 to April, 2008
Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority documents give financial “snapshots” of the agency’s fiscal profile from Nov., 2007 to April, 2008.

KCCHA bauer.eml, Aug. 29, 2008
This is an Aug. 29, 2008, e-mail from Kitsap County Commissioner Steve Bauer to a North Kitsap Fire and Rescue Chief in which Bauer shares the financial woes of Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority. Bauer writes that “the Bremerton (Harborside) condos are eating them alive.”

KCCHA countertop.complaint, Aug. 8, 2008
In this e-mail letter to Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority Executive Director Norm McLoughlin, condo owner, Patrick M. Rodgers complains about the material used in the countertops of his condo and threatens legal action if the problem is not remedied. The correct material was used, but the contractor applied the wrong finish, causing defects. All the countertops using this type of stone had to be replaced. The e-mail is copied to the agency’s board of directors.

KCCHA bauer.eml.Sept. 12, 08
Kitsap County Commissioner writes in a Sept. 12, 2008, e-mail to a financial consultant, that Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority Executive Director Norm McLoughlin has been using one of the agency’s lines of credit as a “private venture capital fund to cover ‘exploration’ of new ventures without telling the (housing authority’s) Board.”

KCCHA change/leadership, Oct. 2, 2008
In this e-mail exchange from early October 2008, among North Kitsap Commissioner Steve Bauer and the mayors of the North Kitsap cities of Poulsbo and Bainbridge Island, Bauer informs Kathryn Quade and Darlene Kordonowy that the county’s board of commissions wanted a “change of leadership” in the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority.

KCCHA Next Steps, Oct. 9, 2008
In this e-mail exchange with members of the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority Board of Directors, finance director Debbie Broughton lays out a fiscal strategy for keeping the agency from failing, as well as terms for her acceptance of the position of interim director. Last e-mail was sent just days before Executive Director Norm McLoughlin abruptly retired.


KCCHA mcloughlin retirement Oct. 14, 2008

This is an e-mail exchange between Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola, of the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority Board of Directors, and attorney Will Patton of Foster Pepper law office, regarding the retirement agreement for Norm McLoughlin, the agency’s executive director. The agreement, copied to other members of the housing authority board, is in draft format and shows items under negotiation shortly before McLoughin announced his retirement. A draft of the press release that was to be sent upon announcement of his retirement is included in the e-mail.

KCCHA $40.5 million loan, May. 15, 2009
This is a copy of the loan agreement whereby Kitsap County bailed out Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority. Called the tri-party loan, it includes the Bank of America, lender, and provides for refinancing of debt, including more than $30 million related to the Harborside Condominiums.

KCCHA debt policy, May 18, 2009
This is a policy on debt approved by the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners days after they approved a $40.5 million bailout for the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority. The policy set more strict standards for the county on contingent loan agreements, such as the one it entered into with KCCHA in 2005 on the Harborside Condominium project.

Heads Up: On The Agenda

Brynn Grimley writes:

Here’s what we’re looking at for this week:

Kitsap County Commissioners (meet at 619 Division Street, Port Orchard)

Monday, Jan. 17: No meeting, County Offices are closed in observance of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.

Wednesday, Jan. 19, 8:30 a.m.: The board will review its agenda for the Jan. 24 meeting for 45 minutes then “share information” from 9:15 to 9:45 a.m. They’ll then here about “Inattentive Driving Code” for 15 minutes before spending the next hour and a half discussing the DCD work plan/docket. At 11:30 a.m. they’ll recess into a 30 minute executive session to discuss real estate.

City of Bremerton (meets at 345 Sixth Street, Bremerton)

Wednesday, Jan. 19, 5:30 p.m.: The council will hold a regular meeting. No business items are on the agenda, but there is one public hearing item listed. It’s the first of two hearings on leasing Smith Park children’s play area to Kitsap Community Resources. A decision will be made on the lease at the council’s Feb. 2 hearing.

City of Port Orchard (meets at 219 Prospect Street)

Tuesday, Jan. 18, 6 p.m.: The council will have a work study session, but the agenda is not listed online yet. See it here, if it’s posted.

City of Poulsbo (City Hall, 200 Moe Street)

Wednesday, Jan. 19, 7 p.m.: The council is meeting, but the agenda is not listed yet on the city’s website.

North Kitsap Legacy Partnership: A Year Later

Brynn Grimley writes:

One year ago Tuesday Olympic Property Group President Jon Rose and County Commissioner Steve Bauer met with me and environmental reporter Chris Dunagan to tell us about the North Kitsap Legacy Partnership.

Since then we’ve covered the different stages of the project, including initial reaction from economic development leaders and the environmental community. I think we’ve done a pretty good job of staying on top of the latest developments with the project, but because they’ve spanned the last year and been so varied in their makeup, I thought it might help people to see a chronological list of stories to help you remember what’s happened in the last year.

These are stories I used to refresh my memory while writing the Sunday story on the most recent development with the project. As that story states, the tribes are now willing to come to the table to talk with OPG and county officials — a significant turn in events.

One part of the equation I did not include in my story was the idea of creating a fully contained community land use designation that would allow OPG to develop  Port Gamble at a higher density than currently allowed. OPG has not said explicitly that it needs a FCC for the project to go forward, but leaders have said they’d like to see it as an option because there aren’t many “tools left in the toolbox.”

Dunagan recently wrote about FCCs and the countywide planning policies that will be up for discussion Jan. 27 during a hearing of the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council.

Here’s the list of stories I used to write my Sunday story, and additional stories I think are important to the larger NKLP project — including Dunagan’s most recent countywide planning policies story:

I realize there’s a lot here, but it might help give context heading into 2011 as the county and OPG look to work with the tribes to create a plan that tries to address everyone’s concerns.

Gun Club Attorney Received Documents

Regina Taylor, attorney for Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club, received topographical maps she requested from Kitsap County’s Geographic Information System the day after she made the request.

Taylor late last week said she believed her comments at a meeting of the county’s board of commissioners on Sept. 27 lit a fire under to county to comply with her request. But Neil Wachter of the prosecutor’s office, who is handing the county’s case against the gun club for alleged code violations and safety concerns, said information never was withheld from Taylor.

In her comments to the board Monday night, Taylor said she was told by a GIS analyst on Sept. 27 that she would have to go through the prosecutor’s office to get the maps. When I called Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge Tuesday morning for clarification, he said it appeared her request fell under “rules of discovery,” related to litigation. Any time one party in litigation requests information from the opposing party in the suit, the court requires a record of information traded, Hauge said.

Later in the week, Hauge stood by his initial analysis. Based on what I told him, the rules of discovery appeared to apply. But since Wachter is handling the case, Hauge had deferred to him to make the call.

Wachter said he told GIS to “respond to her (Taylor) as they would any other citizen of the county requesting a map.”

There was nothing subversive about how the county responded, he said. “To my knowledge, nothing she has requested has been delayed because of that temporary misunderstanding,” Wachter said.

Part of the confusion stems from the fact the GIS office serves all other county departments, as well as local cities … and the general public. Their job is to make maps, and the bulk of their body of work is available free online to anyone and everyone. Not even a public records request is required. GIS is independent of, yet inter-related to the prosecutor’s office and the department of community development, which is involved in the suit through its code enforcement staff.

Taylor had made an inquiry of GIS during the summer. According to Diane Mark, manger of GIS, Taylor, identifying herself as the the gun club’s attorney, called the office again on Sept. 27, saying she needed certain topographical maps in a hurry (in time for the meeting). The GIS analyst she spoke to contacted DCD to make sure they didn’t already have what she wanted (no point in duplicating efforts), said Mark. DCD, in turn, suggested GIS check with the prosecutor’s office to make sure Taylor’s order didn’t fall under the category of a public records request.

Mark said that also would have been her inclination. “In any situation where there’s any type of litigation, I make sure if any department in the county is involved.”

Wachter’s ruling was, no, not only was what Taylor was asking not subject to the rules of discovery, it did not require a formal public records request. But GIS staff was not so sure, Mark said. The reason was, Taylor asked for topographical maps for properties mentioned in the gun club suit. After some creative thinking, the GIS analyst suggested she simply make a map for Taylor showing land within a radius of the gun club that would encompass those addresses. That’s how Taylor made her request, which was accommodated Tuesday afternoon.

“My concern is that this is being misconstrued as withholding information,” said Mark. “In reality, we bent over backwards to meet her request on very, very short notice.”

Just to review the time frame, Taylor made her initial inquiry about topographical maps this summer. On Sept. 27 (last Monday) she called the GIS office urgently seeking the maps for the meeting that night. Sometime between her inquiry and Tuesday afternoon, GIS contacted DCD, then the prosecutor’s office. Wachter gave GIS the green light, and Taylor’s maps were produced by GIS staff.

So, was Hauge, as Taylor and others have suggested, overstepping his authority? Not in so many terms, according to legal experts from outside Kitsap County. If it’s one thing I’ve learned from interviewing attorneys it’s the meaning of the term equivocal. If I were interviewing doctors, the terminology might be “within normal limits.”

Could Taylor’s request fall under the category of rules of discovery? “It doesn’t sound out of line. It just sounds a little bureaucratic,” said Jan Ainsworth, who teaches criminal law at Seattle University School of Law.

In other words, an attorney would be within his or her rights, when informed of a request such as Taylor’s to say, “Time out, let’s make sure this doesn’t fall under the rules of discovery.”

Then there’s the issue of the interrelationship of county departments. “All of those departments are technically the prosecuting attorney’s clients. That’s why it becomes a little different if it’s litigation,” said Bob Siderius of the Washington Bar Association. “I can see why the prosecuting attorney would want to have records of request made for documents.”

That being said, Siderius added, a simple public records request would seem to suffice.

In any case, be it under rules of discovery, or a public records request or a simple request for data, county officials have consistently supported Taylor’s right to the information she requested. Small detail: rules of discovery allow 30 days for a response. A public records request may be responded to within 5 days, at least to inform the requesting party how long it will take to accommodate the request. The actual document(s) could be weeks out.

But remember, folks, the deputy prosecutor who is handling the case said the information Taylor requested was simple public information, available without a request. And the fact is, she received the maps on Tuesday, pretty quick turn-around for a custom job for a member of the public, Mark said.

“We’ve not done anything to obstruct her from getting the information,” said Hauge. “We’re bending over backwards to accommodate her request.”