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Archive for the ‘Port Orchard’ Category

Bainbridge records ruling a cautionary tale for Port Orchard

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

The city of Port Orchard took note of a November Kitsap County Superior Court ruling that the city of Bainbridge Island must turn over personal hard drives of three city council members in response to a public records request.

In light of the ruling, the Port Orchard City Council on Tuesday considered a draft policy to formalize the understanding that personal emails of elected officials related to city business are public records.

A staff report from City Clerk Brandy Rinearson to the council also cites as a cautionary tale a 2012 records request from former City Clerk Patti Kirkpatrick, who was let go in early February of 2012 by incoming Mayor Tim Matthes. Within two weeks of her sacking, Kirkpatrick submitted her request for “all emails” back through 2010 for former Mayor Lary Coppola, Matthes and certain department heads, including those to and from council members.

City staff partially filled Kirkpatrick’s request and on May 10, 2012, said the first installment was available for pickup, but she never showed and did not respond to a letter saying the request would be closed on June 11, 2012, if the city did not hear further from her. (Kirkpatrick did not respond to a request for comment emailed to her Tuesday by the Kitsap Sun.)

Had Kirkpatrick pursued the request, it would have generated an estimated 300,000 emails — enough to fill up approximately 15 CDs. A scouring of data systems for emails that met the criteria of the request would have included elected officials’ personal computers.

Rinearson said she had a good working relationship with her predecessor, but she never learned why Kirkpatrick made the request. No lawsuit against the city ever came from it. Kirkpatrick later in 2012 went to work for the city of Pacific and was fired in February 2013 by Cy Sun, embattled mayor of that troubled city. Kirkpatrick told KIRO radio “she had no idea what she was getting into.”

Rinearson does not dispute that Kirkpatrick had a right to the records, she just wants an official policy guaranteeing she can collect any emails that aren’t directly within her control and produce them in a timely way to protect the city from a suit such as Bainbridge faces. Rinearson, a member of the Washington Association of Public Records Officers, also is the city’s risk manager.

In the Bainbridge lawsuit, three council members — Steve Bonkowski, David Ward and former councilwoman Debbie Lester — are alleged by two community activists to have used their personal email accounts to conduct city business, in violation of a city policy. Althea Paulson, a political blogger, and Bob Fortner, a self-proclaimed community watchdog, earlier this year made records requests for correspondence between the city’s utility committee chairwoman and other city officials.

The two allege that the city and the three council members did not fully disclose personal emails in a timely way. Judge Jeanette Dalton dismissed the council members themselves from the lawsuit but held the city accountable to produce the records. Her ruling on whether public records laws were violated is to come on Friday.

Unlike Bainbridge, which prohibits use of council members’ personal email accounts, Port Orchard doesn’t have a formal policy on how to handle elected officials personal emails. Council members have been advised on a number of occasions that their personal emails related to city business can be considered public records.

“My concern is this year we’ve had an increase in citizens wanting personal emails,” said City Clerk Brandy Rinearson, who is in charge of wrangling records “responsive” to requests. That’s true whether they’re official city emails or emails sent to or from a personal account.

“So I’m at the mercy of someone providing that document to me in a reasonable amount of time,” Rinearson said.

State law requires agencies to respond within five days on the status of a request but the law is vague on time frames within which installations of large email requests should be delivered.

“Bainbridge Island had a policy that got them into trouble,” Rinearson said. “We need to have certain precautions in place. … At least if we go into litigation, then we can say we followed our policy.”


Charged with DUI and elected mayor by one vote

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

That could have happened here, I know, but it didn’t. This was Fife. And the one-vote difference isn’t that big a deal, because the Fife mayor is picked by the city council. Rob Cerqui won the seat with a 4-3 vote of the council, according to the (Tacoma) News Tribune.

The weekend after the Nov. 8 election I was a guest on the Outlaw Radio Network webcast, which is generated locally.

The hosts asked me about the Port Orchard mayoral election and asked if I thought Lary Coppola was running behind because of his DUI arrest. In a race decided by five votes there is a long list of items that contributed to the loss. Do I think three people voted for Tim Matthes instead of Coppola because of the DUI? Probably. (I use “three,” because if three people had switched their votes Coppola would have won re-election.) Was it the biggest factor? I don’t think so, I said. I think the biggest issue was some people, and I said this in the kindest way possible, don’t like Coppola personally. I’m sure the ads played a factor, too.

But still, I think it was mostly a personality thing. Our editorial board, in endorsing Coppola, wrote about him, “Along the way, Coppola has stepped on a few toes — and on occasion his direct manner has rankled some people.” From this (as in me) outsider’s perspective, Matthes’ slogan for the campaign could have been “I’m not Lary.”

I would have brought this up before, but Chris Henry covered it beautifully in her story “A (too?) strong voice for Port Orchard?

Today’s headline from Fife reminded me to weigh in, not that you asked. Cerqui’s DUI came on Nov. 20, less than two weeks after he was re-elected to the council. His opponent in the race for mayor said the DUI was a personal issue and that Cerqui would do a good job as mayor.


Footnote on Coppola planning commission appointment

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

The issue of residency was raised Tuesday, as the Port Orchard City Council (minus Rob Puttaansuu and Fred Chang, who were working) discussed outgoing Mayor Lary Coppola’s appointment of his wife Dee Coppola to the city planning commission.

It was up to the council to confirm (or not) the appointment. The planning commission is an advisory board, like the several other boards and committees that weigh in on topics such as parks and development design standards. The planning commission advises on land use, and so could be seen as a relatively powerful body of citizen advisers.

Typically, the council accepts the mayor’s recommendations for all boards and committees without much to-do. But during discussion of Dee Coppola’s appointment, there was a focus on the residency rule that only one of the eight planning commission members can be a nonresident. The council on Dec. 13, already had appointed Robert Baglio, who lives outside city limits.

The Coppolas live in The Rockwell Apartments in downtown Port Orchard, and they own a home in Manchester. At Tuesday’s meeting I, too, was wondering about the residency issue, since Mayor Coppola, in an interview Monday, told me he and Dee plan to move back to Manchester.

The whole thing was also a bit reminiscent of rumors that swirled around Lary Coppola’s official residence during his 2007 bid for mayor.

On Tuesday, Councilman Fred Olin asked, “If someone on the planning commission moves out of the city, and Mr. Baglio is appointed as the non-resident, would that person have to withdraw from the planning commission?”

City attorney Greg Jacoby said city code does not address the issue, which has not come up before. He said there were a couple of possible interpretations. On the one hand, the council could ask to have the appointee removed from the commission. On the other, the appointee could be considered grandfathered in. “I’m not saying that’s the best interpretation,” Jacoby said.

At the request of the council, Jacoby said he would do further research to try to clarify how the code should be interpreted in the event Dee Coppola does move out of the city during her term on the planning commission.

Dee Coppola herself was clear on what would happen. “I’d have to resign,” she said, while allowing for the possibility of being grandfathered in. It would be up to the council to make that call, she implied.

Dee added that she and Lary have no immediate plans to move into the Manchester house, in which the Coppolas have undertaken an extensive remodel. There’s still a lot of work to be done, Dee said. So as for moving, “It’s going to be a while.”


Port Orchard local a Wall Street occupant

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Shane Stoops, 23, is among those involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City. He was profiled in an MSN photoblog and describes himself as a “nomad” and “renaissance man” from Port Orchard, Wash. He is also handing out resumes while in New York.

The movement is in broad terms a criticism of corporate America and its power. Jon Stewart compares the group with the Tea Party, and some of that comparison is apt. Those joined in the effort clearly have an ideological slant, but they are reluctant to be identified with one of the major parties.


What’s the big deal on code cities?

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

I’ve been following Port Orchard’s efforts to become a non-charter code city since late March, when it was brought up as an aside to a city council conversation about the relative merits of a city manager versus strong mayor model. The code city classification has nothing to do with strong mayors or city managers, so maybe people got confused.

I followed the code city issue through the presentation stage and the hearing stage and finally the stage at which the council actually decided to start the process to become a code city. At each stage, I’d explain the story to co-workers and watch their eyes glaze over, as yours may be doing right now.

What at first blush seemed like a relatively simple story became complicated for a cluster — and I use this term in only the most polite context — of reasons. What should have been a “glance” became a short story, what should have been a short story became a long story, and what should have been a wrap-up became a long, tortuous and emotional story.

And yet “code city” doesn’t exactly say “read this” like bikini baristas or reports of a giant candy bar on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

These days, when I walk over to my editors with another code city story on my list, I may as well have a stinking albatross around my neck.

So, what’s the big deal on code cities? Here it is: They can do anything not prohibited by state law, unlike second class cities that can only do what is allowed by law.

Huh? Yeah, I get that a lot.

“It sounds like a nuanced difference, but it’s not,” said Poulsbo Councilman Ed Stern.

Poulsbo has been a code city as far back as anyone can remember, according to Stern, now in his fourth term.

Port Orchard right now is a second class city, no disrespect meant. It’s just a way the state has of defining a city based on its population and types of government. Other cities Port Orchard’s size can and have become code cities. Of the roughly 200 eligible Washington code city cities, 189, including Poulsbo, have made the switch.

Stern said being a code city has worked well for his town. For example, Poulsbo wants to create a broadband utility. Back in the mid-20th Century, when code cities became allowed under Washington State law, there was no such thing as broadband. But look at Poulsbo go. It doesn’t mean they’re ramming it down residents’ throats, Stern said. The public process still applies — meetings, hearings, public votes … elections if you don’t like what goes on at meetings.

Being a code city makes Poulsbo just a little more nimble, puts “another tool in the toolbox,” said Stern. Rather than playing mother-may-I with the state, code city officials simply need to make sure whatever they do isn’t against the law.

But what if you believe your city government is inclined to backroom deals? That’s another kettle o’ fish, Stern said.

“If you have problems trusting your council or mayor that’s an altogether different question than your city having available to it the widest array of tools to represent the public interest,” Stern said. “Do you trust these bastards or not? I understand. That’s a different issue from retaining freedoms.”

Stern presumably was speaking in hypothetical terms and not dissing himself or his fellow Kitsap officials.

In Port Orchard, those who signed a petition to put the code city question on the ballot (a moot point since the city scrapped the idea … for now) may mistrust their government. Some at Tuesday’s meeting said they just want more information.

Petition organizers Gil and Kathy Michael said the nearly 500 people who signed the petition had not a clue that the city was marching toward reclassification. Even Tim Matthes, running for mayor, and Ben Pinneo running for council, who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, seemed to be newcomers to the whole discussion.

This despite discussion of the issue at a minimum of three meetings or work study sessions, two public hearings and a public vote of the council in late May to set the reclassification process in motion (subject to challenge by petition). This despite the issue being listed on agendas available on the city’s website and notices of the hearings in local media, plus articles in local newspapers and online.

People felt left out of the loop, petition organizer Gil Michael said, “In the past 3-and-a-half years, I think there’s been an active effort to decrease citizen awareness.”

Michael, a member of the city’s planning commission and a fairly regular council meeting attendee, cited, for example, the switch from BKAT coverage of city council meetings to video coverage, with videos posted on the city’s website.

Port Orchard residents may well have felt out-of-the-loop. To stay on top of the code city issue, one would have needed to actually read agendas (available online or by request at 360-876-4407), read public notices in local newspapers and attended meetings (preferably paying attention at least most of the time).

I know, I know. You’re busy. You’ve got places to go, things to do. But you’re in luck. That’s what the E.W. Scripps Company hires me to do. Your other best bet is Port Orchard resident and city council groupie Gerry Harmon, who shows up faithfully in her tan van parked in front of city hall and walks to the microphone to have her say. I’m pretty sure Harmon could slam dunk most members of the press as far as council meeting attendance goes. But E. W. Scripps doesn’t hire Gerry to write articles, so you’re stuck with me … and other local publications.

This would mean, of course, that you’d have to place a certain amount of trust in … the media. That may be a scary thought. But, hey, I advocate a healthy skepticism on everyone’s part, and thoughtful comments are welcome on all of the Kitsap Sun’s stories. Many heads are better than one, as the saying goes.

Bryan Petro, a Port Orchard real estate agent, at Tuesday’s meeting suggested the timing and execution of the Michaels’ petition was politically motivated. I’ll let you readers be the judge of that.

I will share one headline for today’s story that was floated, but, alas, rejected, “Thanks to couple Port Orchard, remains a second class city.”

Chris Henry, local government/South Kitsap reporter


Attention Port Orchard utility customers

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Just a reminder that the Port Orchard City Council will hold a public hearing on a proposed water rate increase at 7 p.m. Tuesday at city hall. A second hearing will be held at 7 p.m. Aug. 9, when the council may vote on the increase.

If approved as recommended by the city’s utility committee, the rate hike could more than double the amount customers pay on a bi-monthly basis. The city, however, is considering a discount for low water users to assist seniors on fixed incomes and families struggling to pay their water bills. The discount would also be an incentive for conservation, committee members have said.

The water rate increase will be the city’s fourth utility rate increase since 2009.

In 2009, the city implemented a $7 per month stormwater fee, as required under state and federal guidelines. Also in 2009, city residents saw a $5.50 monthly increase in sewer rates to make up for a loss of surcharge revenue paid by McCormick Woods residents. When McCormick Woods was annexed into the city, the surcharge went away.

In 2010, there was another $9 per month sewer rate increase to cover a revenue shortfall, capital projects and debt service on the city’s portion of the Port Orchard Joint Wastewater Treatment Facility.

Members of the utility committee say that, before 2009, sewer and water rates had not been raised in years, so collections have not kept up with inflation.

The city’s capital plan for its water system — which is part of what triggered the increase — originally was for a 10-year period, but the committee recommends extending projects over 20 years to soften the blow to rate payers, said Councilman John Clauson, a member of the utility committee.

Once all utility rates have been reset, Clauson said, the council hopefully won’t have to adjust them again for some time. He couldn’t make any guarantees about whether rates would remain adequate over the 20 years of the capital plan.

Here’s the story I wrote a couple of weeks ago.

By Chris Henry
chenry@kitsapsun.com
360-792-9219
PORT ORCHARD — The city of Port Orchard is preparing for a water rate increase that could more than double rates to address an operating shortfall, repairs and upgrades.
City residents will get their say on the rate hike at a city council meeting, 7 p.m. July 26 at city hall.
The city’s public works department was short by more than $200,000 in 2010 just to provide the service. The city made up the difference, as it has since 2008, by dipping into the utility’s reserve fund. Closing the operating revenue gap would require adding $2.97 per month to the city’s base rate, city officials estimate.
The city also plans repairs and renovations to the system that will cost $18 million over 20 years. City crews have identified pump stations that need repairs and water pipes that need replacement, among other projects. Public works officials have prioritized projects and made recommendations about those that require immediate attention and those that can wait.
Public works sets money aside for maintenance of equipment over time, which will cover about $6 million of the $18 million capital cost, leaving a gap of about $12 million. That works out to $8.77 per customer per month to cover capital costs.
The utility committee is recommending a total increase of $11.74 per month or $23.48 bimonthly, added to the current bimonthly base rate of $18.50, for a total bimonthly rate of $41.98. The base rate allows for up to 3,000 gallons of water per month, and the city has two additional tiers for higher levels of consumption.
The committee has considered a 50 percent discount on the increase for low water usage customers, who would pay $30.24 bimonthly if the recommended rate increase is approved. But any decrease in revenue would have to be made up elsewhere, said Councilman John Clauson, utility committee member.
City residents have already been hit with three utility rate increases over the past two years.
In 2009, the city implemented a $7 per month stormwater fee, as required under state and federal guidelines. Also in 2009, city residents saw a $5.50 monthly increase in sewer rates to make up for a loss of surcharge revenue paid by McCormick Woods residents. When McCormick Woods was annexed into the city, the surcharge went away.
In 2010, there was another $9 per month sewer rate increase to cover a revenue shortfall, capital projects and debt service on the city’s portion of the Port Orchard Joint Wastewater Treatment Facility.
Members of the utility committee say that, before 2009, sewer and water rates had not been raised in years, so collections have not kept up with inflation.
According to Clauson, the capital plan originally was for a 10-year period, but the committee recommends extending projects over 20 years to soften the blow to rate payers.
“It’s not like the system is falling apart and we have to replace it tomorrow,” Clauson said. “If we tried to get all that done in 10 years, the rate would be astronomical. We’re trying to get this down to an affordable increase.”
Conversely, if the city did nothing in the way of repairs and upgrades, the system would become harder and more costly to maintain, Clauson said.
Utility committee meetings are open to the public. The August meeting has not yet been set. For more information, call (360) 876-4991.


Angel’s cruise was news, not just here.

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

My colleague Ed Friedrich is being criticized today because of the story he wrote reporting that state Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, was on a cruise during part of the special session. “Nice hit piece,” was one of the more succinct complaints. Others came to the defense of Friedrich and the newspaper generally. I take exception to the idea that this was a hit piece. Friedrich stated the facts. She was gone because she was on a cruise, and one day because she was sick.

From my experience, a legislator missing consecutive days of voting because of a vacation is rare. In the years I have covered government I’ve heard of elected officials serving in year-round positions, such as the city council or county commission, taking off for vacation and missing legislation.

Not so for legislators in a session that has a designated beginning and end. I’ve spoken to several who missed votes because they were sick. Bill Eickmeyer, a Democrat who represented the 35th District as a legislator, missed a lot of votes in 2007 because of back pain. He said, and the record showed, he would make it to the chamber if he was needed on a close vote.

Friedrich also gave Angel ample opportunity to explain the circumstances of the cruise, how she won it and that she told House party leadership of her possible absence beforehand.

The idea that this is not news is wrong, though I am certain no one would be surprised that I would make that case. In the Eickmeyer example we reported the legislator’s absence, despite his excuse that I think most would agree carries more absolution than a cruise. We essentially did the same thing then as Friedrich did today. We allowed the legislator to explain and we provided context.

The same argument, “This is not news,” was made earlier this year when state Rep. Jim Jacks, D-Vancouver, resigned abruptly from his elected position, was out of touch for about a month, then re-emerged to reveal that he quit because he had an alcohol problem. Lou Brancaccio, Columbian editor (and my former jefe), was blistered by some commenters who said that because Jacks was now a private citizen his alcoholism was now his private business. Never mind the fact that his alcoholism affected his public role, I guess.

The Jacks incident is substantially more newsworthy than Jan Angel’s cruise, but I might point out that the Associated Press version of the Angel cruise story appeared online in just about every Washington news outlet today, including the Columbian.

In those publications are commenter arguments that also appear on our site, questioning whether Angel should have accepted the cruise at all. I agree that it would be tough to turn it down. Nonetheless, there is a solid argument to made that Angel should never have put herself in position win that thing. Or at least once she did perhaps she could have chosen to decline or offer it to someone else.

No question that legislators and politicians are different than journalists and have different responsibilities. There is also no question that there are reporters out there who would not toe the same line I do on this. I would not put myself in a position to win this trip. The trip was a prize in a raffle. People bought $25 tickets. The organization that runs Fathoms O’ Fun netted about $3,000 from the venture, thanks to Holland America selling a cruise package worth up to $10,000 at a substantially reduced price.

According to Jessie Turner, who ran the raffle, there were no set times on the cruise. The prize was as stated above, up to $10,000 in credit toward a Holland America cruise. As reporters we would not buy a ticket to that raffle. Our biggest fear, I believe, is that we would win. Granted, it could all be luck of the draw, but someone could see it as the Fathoms O’ Fun organization now being in a position to seek favors from us. I admit we’re not perfect at this. Over the years I’ve had a cookie or two provided by organizations I cover, but not many.

On the other hand a politician is different. Politicians are supposed to blatantly support organizations like Fathoms O’ Fun. Angel bought a raffle ticket. I don’t think anyone would criticize her for that. Where they can, though, is in her acceptance of the prize. A legislator has some influence over what a local organization can do, and a local organization can seek to sway good legislation from an elected representative.

There is no reason I see to suggest there is any quid pro quo going on here. No bad intentions are apparent. And this doesn’t seem to be anywhere near as questionable as members of Congress getting paid trips to exotic locations for seminars or golfing, junkets paid for by big-money lobbying firms. This is not that. There is an appearance that it could be, though, and for that I think those who believe Angel should have directed the prize elsewhere are not necessarily misguided. That’s especially true if they’re willing to hold legislators in their own party to the same standard.

If you want to address whether a Republican legislator in a Democratically-controlled chamber can have any influence anyway, I suppose that’s a debate worth having, too. The last session I covered Republicans were able to stop a major policy shift in education funding exactly because they had enough members speaking who could press the session up against a deadline it was not going to meet. Angel was part of that group. So it isn’t as if the minority has no sway. They don’t go away just because they lose most of the controversial arguments.


What the heck is a code city? And why should Port Orchard care?

Monday, May 9th, 2011

The Port Orchard City Council will hold a public forum Tuesday on a proposal to change the way it conducts business.

Becoming a “code city” would give the council more local control and flexibility in running the city’s business, said Pat Mason, legal consultant for the Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington, a nonprofit providing research and information to local governments. Residents probably would not notice the change, Mason added.

The handful of people who were at the last month’s meeting at which the topic was reviewed, however, expressed apprehension that the change could give the council too much unchecked power. The council, in the interest of transparency, decided to hold the forum before taking any action.

After the forum Tuesday, the council will consider a resolution initiating the switch to a code code. Residents would have 90 days to submit a petition against making the change.

The proposal has nothing to do with an idea Mayor Lary Coppola floated in March to change from a mayor-council form of government to a council-city manager model.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 216 Prospect St., Port Orchard.


Hearing set for Tuesday on Port Orchard’s medical marijuana moratorium

Monday, March 21st, 2011

The city of Port Orchard on Tuesday will hold a public hearing on a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries approved by the city council Feb. 22.

The city was allowed to impose the “emergency” moratorium without formal public input, but it is required to follow up with a hearing on the matter.

The owner of Greenthumb Medical referral service and Tacoma Greenthumb, a medical marijuana dispensary, was thwarted by the moratorium in his efforts to establish a medical marijuana facility at 944 Bay Street in Port Orchard. His attorney will be at the hearing tomorrow.

“My position is that I think it’s kind of ridiculous,” said the man, who does not want to be publicly identified due what he describes as recent changes in the industry.

He somewhat understands the moratorium on dispensaries where marijuana is sold, but believes it should not apply to referral centers, where patients obtain medical certification to receive marijuana for treatment of a wide range of ailments. He is not a doctor, but contracts with a doctor to provide referrals.

“A doctor should be able to write a recommendation anywhere in Washington,” he said.

Greenthumb Medical Inc. is registered with Washington State’s Department of Licensing. The owner, who operates in Tacoma, has been denied business licenses in Port Orchard, Bremerton and Gig Harbor.

Meanwhile, he and others with dispensaries in Tacoma are doing so in a state of limbo. Tacoma has temporarily allowed medical marijuana dispensaries, pending the outcome of proposed legislation. A bill to clarify the rules on medical marijuana has passed the state Senate and is under consideration in the House.

Greenthumb was among 19 new dispensaries to receive letters from the city of Tacoma ordering them to stop selling to patients by March 28 or face losing their licenses and possible criminal charges. The Tacoma News Tribune reported Saturday on the latest development in that city’s approach to the budding industry.

Tacoma in October sent similar cease-and-desist letters to eight dispensaries, which caused an immediate uproar. City officials decided to allow the dispensaries to operate, at least until the outcome of the bill became clear, but they were required to file appeals.

The purpose of the latest round of letters, according to the article, was to put all dispensaries on the same legal footing in anticipation of whatever action the city will take when the bill either passes or dies.

According to this business owner, however, the cumulative effect has been chilling, hence his desire to remain anonymous.

The city of Poulsbo also has instituted a moratorium on medical marijuana, although no inquires had been made about such a business when it went into effect.

A poll on the Kitsap Caucus homepage asking, “Do you favor or oppose passage of SB 5073, ‘concerning the medical use of cannabis?’” shows 31 votes for and 12 against the bill, or 72 percent to 28 percent.


For annexation geeks only or … read the fine print

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

This post follows on my story about the Bethel Corridor annexation that ran Saturday.

Just kidding about the “geek” thing. Annexation is something everyone should be interested in because it can affect the services you receive and how much you pay for them, which was the point of the story. In fact, one of the reasons I wrote it at this time is that the father of one of my fellow reporters lives within the proposed annexation area, and he was wondering about the ramifications.

I wanted to add to this post some information from Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola that I wasn’t able to squeeze into the story.

But first, a correction. This comes as a result of the inquiring mind of Bob Meadows, who is a geek in the best sense of the word. Bob pointed out that the comparison of the city and county stormwater fees didn’t make sense, based on the rates charged under each jurisdiction’s code. The city’s first analysis compared county rates for a building with “multiple units” to city rates for a “single family residence,” which resulted in the confusion.

The correct information is: property owners’ net payments would increase with annexation by just less than $220 per year per $100,000 of assessed value if the annexation were in effect today. (I erroneously reported $150.)

Here is the city’s analysis of the comparative cost of living in the city and the county, with the correct figures.
Bethel Corridor Property Franchise Tax comparison-2010.
And here are the respective tax codes for the city of Port Orchard and Kitsap County:
taxcode- City of Port Orchard
taxcode8040

There also are some differences in development codes between the city and the county, illustrated by the city-generated document below (the home is a real residence, used by permission of the owner). As you can see it’s a residential property, not commercial. Given that the Bethel Corridor is commercial and going to become more-so, residential property owners, considering the effects of annexation, may be thinking about selling and moving, or moving and developing properties to the allowed density. I’d be interested to hear from anyone in that boat; e-mail me at chenry@kitsapsun.com. Here’s the code comparison, which has links to both the county’s and city’s codes.
Bethel Corridor 1880 Salmonberry

And here’s the city’s proposed zoning for areas to be annexed:

Mayor Coppola, in his statement for the story Friday, made some noteworthy points. (The mayor outlines the potential advantages of annexation. There is no organized opposition to the annexation. If I hear of any I’ll give them equal air time.)

The mayor goes into greater detail than I did in the story on what would happen to the county’s Bethel Corridor Plan if annexation occurs. The city would use about half of the increased sales and property tax revenue from the annexation (expected to be about $1.4 million per year initially) for help fund the major road improvement. The city would also seek grants, and federal and state transportation funding (all of which I reported). Although the city may modify the plan somewhat, they would adhere to an aesthetically pleasing design since the corridor would be another “gateway” into the city,” Coppola said (which I didn’t report).

The mayor expects the revenue to increase with the eventual competion of two major retail projects, yet to break ground: the Walmart expansion to a Supercenter, and the construction of a Home Depot nearby. Coppola points out that these two projects could, to a certain extent, “cannibalize” some sales tax revenue from other stores in the city. This trend could be partly offset if the Bethel Corridor can attract shoppers from Gig Harbor, he said.

The story summarizes advantages listed by Coppola, including public safety, prompt permitting and improved road maintenance. He goes into some detail about the staffing and equipment needed to maintain the city’s current level of service.

As I said, I’d be happy to post other arguments for or against annexation (or you can simply comment on this post). Here’s the complete text of the mayor’s e-mail (note he mentions an estimated cost of $30 million for the Bethel Corridor under the county’s plan. The county’s website, however, still lists it at $43 million.)

Here’s the mayor:
The City Treasurer and the Finance Committee have vetted the Bethel Corridor annexation, after input from the Police Department, Planning, Public Works, Clerk, HR, and the Court.

The annexation will generate approximately $1.4 million in annual revenue, split between property and sales taxes. The Finance Committee has tentatively committed to put away half of that annual revenue for debt service on the widening project – which will end up being the largest public works project in the history of the City. We are already searching for grant opportunities and federal and state transportation dollars that could be available to also help defray the costs.

The County has done the engineering on this, and the last estimate I heard was about $30 million. However, that was in 2006 (I think) dollars. Considering the current state of the economy, I believe we could shave 15 to 20 percent off of that. Also, we haven’t seen the actual drawings, so we’re not sure what was included in the way of lanes, medians, landscaping, etc., so we don’t know for sure what opportunities there are for additional savings – if any.

Right of way acquisition is also an issue. We’re not sure if the cost estimates included that or not, but they should have. Also, any future commercial development will have to deed the necessary right-of-way to the City as a condition for permitting any development, which should help decrease the overall cost of the project. There will also need to be some re-engineering done, as the County has allowed some construction to encroach upon what should have preserved as right-of-way, so we’ll have to cross that bridge when we get to it.

With all this in mind, we have a budget of about $700,000 to support the annexation. We expect this to increase as development occurs. For example, the two big projects already in the works are Walmart and Home Depot. It appears the County will collect the permitting fees on these, but we will generate inspection fees, sales tax on the construction, and additional sales tax revenue once they open. Since we did our usual conservative budgeting, none of those gains are figured in our projections.

We also expect those developments will cannibalize some of the existing sales tax revenue we already collect. For example, Walmart will take sales away from some of the existing grocery stores, and Home Depot will impact Lowe’s and Scott McClendon’s Ace Hardware. However, we also anticipate a sales tax jump from all the local folks who currently patronize the Gig Harbor and Silverdale Home Depot’s, and think a grocery department at Walmart will attract some additional shoppers from Gig Harbor since they don’t have a Walmart.

As far as personnel goes, in consulting with all the departments, we have identified and prioritized our additional needs, and created a tentative hiring order.

In looking at the costs associated with this annexation, we will have to hire an additional two police officers, and equip them – cars, guns, radios, computers, etc., as well as train them. Since it takes on average about six months to get a cop from new hire to patrol-ready, we are already engaged in this process, and have identified the top candidates, and made an offer of employment to one of them. Currently, police response time is two minutes or less anywhere in the City, and we are committed to not to diminish that standard in any way.

The next immediate need will be for public works personnel. We are ramping up for that, as well as looking into purchasing the additional equipment we’ll need. One thing this does, is justify the cost of another snow plow, but there’s other equipment we’ll need as well.

It’s imperative to note here that water and sewer services for this area are not supplied by the City, but by West Sound Utility District. You may want to chat with Larry Curles and John Poppe about their plans.

The City Development Department will need at least one more person at some point, and we’re planning on that, as well as additional people in the Clerk’s office and the Court. As we learned with the Fred Meyer annexation, calls for police service will increase primarily due to shoplifters, so with the amount of retail involved in this annexation, we’re planning on the need for more time for the judge, an additional court clerk, and more time for the police officer who staffs the courtroom.

As far as taxes go, I believe Allan sent you a comparison sheet. However, since there is very little residential included in this, I’m not certain how valid such a comparison is in reality. I’ve also attached a comparison for the property on Salmonberry Rd. you asked about.

Finally, what’s in it for the property owner? The biggest positive is the police protection and Public Safety. There’s no way the Sheriff’s Department can match our response time given the County’s budget situation. Sheriff Boyer does a great job, but his people are stretched to the limit right now, so public safety is a big plus. As you recall, when the Walmart shooting happened, the Port Orchard Police were first on the scene when the call from the deputies went out. There’s a reason our crime rate is down over 60 percent since I’ve been Mayor – it’s a major priority. Port Orchard is a safer place to live, raise your family, and own a business than at any time in the past quarter of a century.

Another benefit is our permitting time and customer service. We have the shortest permitting time in the county – and unlike the County and some other Cities, we’re still open for business five days a week. Our people understand that they work for the taxpayers and customer service is their highest priority.

The Bethel Road widening will actually get done. It’s been on the County’s work plan since 1999, and I believe is listed as the 13th priority for the county – behind some trails and other things the County has deemed a higher priority – for 2011.

The roads will be maintained better – and snow plowing will happen sooner.

I hope this is what you wanted. Call me if you have questions.

LFC

Lary Coppola, Mayor
City of Port Orchard
216 Prospect Street
Port Orchard, WA 98366
(360) 876-7025 – Direct Line
themayor@cityofportorchard.us
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Should Port Orchard Relinquish its Role in Hearing Land Use Appeals?

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

The Port Orchard City Council last week heard testimony on a contentious land use issue — should a Gig Harbor advertising company be allowed to put eight billboards within city limits?

The issue grew thorny after the city initially turned down the applications, submitted in batches last spring. James Weaver, director of development, took the most “stringent” interpretation of the city’s code, which is allowed and called for in another part of the code, he said. The billboard company owner appealed to the hearing examiner, and now the case has come before the council.

Like most cases that reach the appeal stage, there are a number of questions in play:
Did Weaver correctly interpret the code? (The city’s hearing examiner says so.)
Should the billboard company’s application be vested under old rules, even though the city has since passed an ordinance banning billboards? (The hearing examiner agrees with the owner here.)
And was the city’s ban on billboards a violation of constitutional rights? (The hearing examiner declined to rule on this question.)

During the hearing, the attorney representing the billboard owner questioned the council’s ability to rule on the case since none of them are attorneys. He railed against the process by which the city countered his appeal, bringing the matter to the council. He called the actions of City Attorney Greg Jacoby and attorney Jennifer Forbes, representing the city, “frivolous” and “in bad faith.” He said the process had gotten unnecessarily drawn out and was wasting taxpayers’ money.

“I see a lot of blank faces here,” William J. Crittenden told the council. “Do you think your money is being well spent?”

Before 2008, the council used to be the first stop (not the second) in hearings on land use issues. The change was made, in part, because of the tremendous amount of council time involved in preparing for and conducting the hearings. The city now uses a hearing examiner for preliminary review of land-use applications. Where open-record public hearings on such issues were formerly held before the city council, the open-record hearing is now held before the hearing examiner. If the hearing examiner’s ruling is challenged, the appeal moves to the city council.

In a work study meeting, Feb. 15, before the billboards hearing, Councilman Rob Putaansuu questioned whether the council should be involved at all, or whether the city should switch to a model as such the one adopted in 2010 by Kitsap County. Appeals that formerly came before the county’s board of commissioners now go directly to Superior Court.

Kitsap County Commissioner Steve Bauer proposed the change, because he said having the board hear appeals created confusion among the public. The board can only rule on whether the hearing examiner has erred. Their ruling does not necessarily reflect the position the board would have taken on a proposed project, Bauer said.

Hearing examiners generally are attorneys, and they are required to have extensive knowledge of land use codes. A city council or board of commissioners, on the other hand, oversees matters on a wide range of topics, meaning they are arguably less well-equipped to navigate the labyrinth of motions, counter-motions, arguments and counter-arguments that make up the appeal process.

Putaansuu suggested as much, and he reminded the council that, although they’ve only heard one other matter since going to the new system, it, too, turned nasty. A proposed birthing center was turned down by the hearing examiner over neighbors’ concerns about traffic (a needed re-zone was denied). The council initially backed the hearing examiner’s decision. They agreed to revisit the proposal, however, as part of a legal settlement with the owners of the center, who took their case to Superior Court and threatened to challenge the city’s comprehensive plan before the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board. The city ultimately approved the center.

Jacoby told the council that cities vary in their methods for hearing appeals. Appeals in Gig Harbor and Fife go straight to Superior Court. The Poulsbo City Council, like Port Orchard, hears appeals.

“It’s sort of an issue of how much control the council wants to have over the process,” Jacoby said. “There’s no right answer, but we can certainly change it.”

The council could appeal any ruling of the superior court with which they disagree, Jacoby said.

Most of the council said they would support a resolution switching the process up. Councilman John Clauson said he could go either way.

As for Crittenden’s criticism of the process, the council sat in shock as he bad-mouthed the city up one side and down the other, particularly Jacoby.

“I’ve been treated like crap by your city attorney for six months,” Crittenden said.

Mayor Lary Coppola challenged Crittenden’s “rudeness.” “He’s acting like a spoiled child,” said the mayor.

Shortly afterward, Coppola banged his gavel and cut short Crittenden’s testimony. “That’s over. We’re done,” Coppola said angrily.

When Crittenden continued his tirade, Coppola got up and walked out of the hearing. (The mayor does not rule on an appeal, only the council, so his absence did not delay proceedings.) He later said he felt he had to excuse himself in order not to say something inappropriate to Crittenden.

Councilwoman Carolyn Powers, later in the hearing, advised Crittenden that he would present a more convincing argument “if you would spend your time talking about the particular questions that are pertinent to this whole case as opposed to talking about our counselors spending a lot of money and time … Can you do that?”

“If my anger has spilled over on you, I apologize,” said Crittenden, who remained angry with Jacoby, Forbes and the process in general.

If nothing else, I guess, the change in procedure would spare the council similar tongue-lashings in the future.


Heads Up on the Agenda

Monday, February 28th, 2011

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

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

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

Monday, January 17th, 2011

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.


2007 Campaign Promise on Taxes Has Port Orchard Councilman in “Bind”

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

What passes in most governments as a matter of housekeeping became the topic of prolonged discussion Tuesday, as the Port Orchard City Council voted 5 to 2 to take the annual 1 percent property tax increase to which it is entitled by law. The vote put Councilman Jim Colebank, who ran in 2007 on a platform of “no new taxes without a vote of the people,” in a tight spot.

To put the vote in perspective, the increase will cost the owner of a $240,000 home about $5 a year.

The city’s 2011 levy, with the 1 percent increase plus revenue from recent annexations and new construction, is $2,626,207. The 1 percent increase over last year’s levy represents $23,044 of that amount.

Last year, the council, after much debate, refrained from taking the 1 percent increase. They elected to make do with 2009 revenue levels out of consideration for residents struggling with the economy. The budget was balanced through cuts and use of reserve funds.

Recent history seemed to play into this year’s levy setting discussion, as the council again spent considerable time dissecting the effects of taking or not taking the 1 percent.

The pre-vote discussion kicked off with Councilman Fred Chang asking what the additional $23,044 would be used for. Chang questioned whether the increase was truly needed and said he’d be voting against the ordinance.

The city has deferred many projects and drawn down its reserve accounts to maintain a balanced budget, said Treasurer Allan Martin. Although the ordinance does not designate the 1 percent increase to any specific purpose, one of the expenses it might be used for is to replace one of the Port Orchard Police Department’s aging patrol cars, Martin said. (The city hopes to replace three patrol cars in the upcoming year.) Martin added that not taking the increase over a period of years would surely lead to layoffs, which the city has avoided so far.

One of the city’s known expenses for 2011 is a 2 percent cost of living increase for staff members. The increase is overdue and well deserved, said Mayor Lary Coppola, who noted Port Orchard operates with a staff of 68, much smaller than most cities its size. “Everyone works their butt off,” Coppola said. “If you had any clue what they do, you’d be shaking your head and, saying, God they need some help.”

Carolyn Powers added that one of the reason Port Orchard is in better shape financially that other local governments is the efficiency of its staff. “We’ve been very proud to say we’ve been holding our own. A big majority is because our staff has been doing a lot more more work and not getting more money,” she said.

Several council members commented on the prolonged effects of deferring projects and putting off replacement of aging equipment. Since inflation typically runs higher than 1 percent, the city’s cost to do business has been rising faster than its increase in revenue. Councilman Jerry Childs likened it to a slow leak in the budget. Although the 1 percent increase would not address all the city’s needs, it would help slow the leak, he said.

Childs too ran on a platform of no new taxes. But, he said, he also made a commitment to “protect and improve” city residents’ quality of life. Failing to properly maintain the city’s infrastructure and facilities would be irresponsible, he said. Child’s comments were echoed by other council members, including Powers, Rob Putaansuu and John Clauson, who speculated, “Most people would be willing to give $5 (the annual increase on a home of $240,000). I don’t think it’s exorbitant by any means.”

Colebank acknowledged the amount individual homeowners will pay as a result of the increase may not seem like much, but he is sensitive to seniors on fixed incomes and other citizens who might still be feeling the effects of the recession. Colebank said his campaign promise presented a “dilemma.” “It puts me in a real bind, because I really care about the people who are having a hard time. I can see this is going to pass anyway, so I might vote ‘no.’”

“I don’t think there is anyone at this table who wants to raise taxes, but we do have an obligation to provide the best service we can” said Powers. “I appreciate what you’re saying, Jim, but sometimes that’s a danger we’re taking when we say were never going to raise taxes.”

The Port Orchard City Council will hold a work study meeting on 2011 budget expenditures at 7 p.m. Tuesday at city hall, 216 Prospect St.


Heads Up on the Agenda

Monday, September 27th, 2010

MONDAY
Port Orchard
7 p.m.: The Kitsap County Board of Commissioners will meet at the county administration building. Notable on the agenda: The board will honor local civil rights pioneer Lillian Walker, whose memories are featured as part of The Legacy Project, an oral history program established by the Office of Secretary of State in 2008. Also on the agenda, the board will consider resolutions:
* establishing an Energy Conservation Committee to develop and implement a comprehensive energy efficiency and conservation plan for Kitsap County.
* approving the purchase and sale agreement for the Harborside Condominium Unit T-102.
* freezing salary rates of elected officials and providing for self-pay of health care premiums.
* designating Kitsap County as a recovery zone for purposes of issuing recovery zone economic development bonds under the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

TUESDAY
Port Orchard
7 p.m.: The city council will consider Ordinance No. 019-10, Approving the Annexation Request for Sidney Glen, File No. A-24-10.

WEDNESDAY
Bremerton
5 p.m.: The Bremerton City Council will hold a study session and discuss a request from the city engineer to apply for an Economic Development District.


Heads Up on the Agenda

Monday, September 20th, 2010

The Kitsap County Board of Commissioners will meet at the county administration building at 10 a.m. Monday for review of calendar and agendas, and board information sharing.
The board will be in budget preparation meetings from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday.

City of Port Orchard: The city council will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday for a work study session. Topics include homelessness, liquor initiatives, facilities upgrades, McCormick Woods Division three, Veteran’s Memorial and Goals & Objectives, among other topics.

City of Bremerton: The city council will hold a public hearing at 5 p.m. Wednesday regarding a concession agreement with the Pierce-Kitsap YMCA among other business.

City of Poulsbo: The city council will meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The agenda was not available.


Mayors’ Forum: “No 800-Pound Gorilla in Here”

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

At a mayor’s forum today, featuring Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent and Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola, Bremerton resident Klaus Golombek asked, “Where are the 800-pound gorillas?”

The event, at Port Orchard City Hall, was hosted by the Bremerton and Port Orchard chambers of commerce.

Before the Q&A, both mayors highlighted the positive side of their respective cities. Lent touted public and private development projects completed and in the pipeline. Coppola, whose city is still trying to get multiple major projects shovel-ready, noted that his city is financially “in much better shape than most other cities” due to conservative budgeting.

The tone of their comments was not derogatory, and neither mayor appeared to be trying to one-up the other.

Lent, in response to Golombek’s question, talked about fiscal challenges the city faces and will continue to face under the “new normal.” The city in 2010 eliminated 34 positions through layoffs, buyouts, early retirement and unfilled vacancies. A total of 17 individuals left the city. City workers in Bremerton, as elsewhere, will continue to have to do more with less for the foreseeable future, Lent said.

Councilman Jerry Childs brought up what has been an 800-pound gorilla, Bremerton’s annexation of the South Kitsap Industrial Area and Gorst sewer project, which cast uncertainty on Port Orchard’s plans to provide SKIA with sewer. But as you’ll read in the story, both mayors said they could sit down and come up with a resolution to this and other areas of conflict.

Lent, a former county commissioner who was sworn in as mayor in November, 2009, said she was against the SKIA annexation. “I never wanted that airport to be annexed by any cities,” she said. “I thought it should be a regional airport, but I was out of office.”

Lent continued, saying Bremerton has a “great relationship” with the Port of Bremerton, SKIA’s major property owner. So, basically, she’s willing to work with what she “inherited” from former Mayor Cary Bozeman, now CEO of the Port of Bremerton.

Another thing she inherited but didn’t seem too keen on was the Bremerton ferry tunnel. Phone calls to her office criticizing the tunnel have subsided, Lent said, in response to a question. The tunnel is doing its job, which is diverting traffic to make downtown more pedestrian friendly. “People seem to be used to it now,” she said.

Golombek thought the mayors, particularly Lent, side-stepped the gorilla question. He’s still smarting about the Port of Bremerton’s marina expansion. He thinks increased revenue from the marina should go toward paring down the bond. Less should go to the city’s general fund, he said. Looking ahead, Golombek’s got concerns about Bremerton’s planned Youth Wellness Center, which he thinks could become a financial burden on residents.

As for the rapport between Bremerton and Port Orchard, however, there doesn’t appear to be any gorilla in here. At least as far as the two mayors are concerned. Port Orchard Councilman Jerry Childs said the two councils may be a different matter. The only interaction they’ve had was over SKIA, and it wasn’t pretty. Competition for state and federal funds is another potential area of conflict for both cities.

“It makes it difficult for our cities to get along, because we’re both fighting for a piece of the pie,” Childs said.

The Port of Bremerton, too, should be included in talks on potential areas of collaboration and conflict, Childs said.


Heads Up: On The Agenda

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Brynn Grimley writes:

Well this week is easy, the only government jurisdiction with its agendas available is the county. Bremerton and Poulsbo haven’t posted them as of Sunday evening, and the city of Port Orchard isn’t meeting Tuesday. Check later in the day to see if Bremerton or Poulsbo posted agendas for the week. Both councils meet Wednesday — Bremerton at 5 p.m. for a briefing before heading into a regular meeting 30 minutes later. Poulsbo meets at 7 p.m. for a regular meeting.

Here’s the Kitsap County Commissioner meeting schedule for the week:

Monday, Aug. 30, 10 a.m.: Board information sharing until 11:30 a.m., then review of calendar and agendas until noon.

2 p.m.: Legislative update from Tom McBride until 3 p.m.; 30 min resource conservation update; sewer financing plan follow up for 45 minutes until 4:15 p.m.; community planning project and year of the rural updates until 5 p.m. Adjournment to follow.

Wednesday, Sept. 1, 8:30 a.m.: Voluntary separation program discussion; the rest of the meeting becomes DCD Director Larry Keeton’s meeting. He’ll give a 45 minute presentation on Limited Areas of More Intense Rural Development and site specifics; after a 10 minute break, he’ll start the board on the revision of Chapter 3 of the Comprehensive Plan for 45 minutes, next he’ll tackle the rural commercial/industrial code development until 11:30 a.m. The board will recess into executive session following this for 15 minutes to discuss real estate issues before adjourning.


Bremerton’s Priorities

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Bremerton reporter Steve Gardner’s back in the saddle after a two-week vacation, so I guess I’d better get off his beat.

While Gardner was gone, I reported on the Bremerton city council’s selection of a contractor to build a parking garage at Park Avenue and Burwell Street, and their approval of a property transfer from parks that will allow a proposed improvement of the oft-snarled intersection of Warren Avenue and 11th St.

Port Orchard probably has a bad case of Bremerton envy, not only for having to share its intrepid reporter with its rival big brother across Sinclair Inlet, but for the fact that it, too, aspires to such great things.

Bremerton’s “garage” promises much more. The garage is part of a planned 50,000-square-foot development at the corner of Park Avenue and Burwell Street. The mostly underground garage will provide a “pad” for privately-funded retail space, affordable apartments and a multiplex movie theater that is predicted to boost the city’s economy and funnel new springs of retail sales tax into the state’s coffers. The selection of a contractor for the project represents a milestone in the nine years of planning it’s taken to get to this point.

Meanwhile. back in Port Orchard city officials are also aggressively hatching plans for a garage that’s so much more. The city plans a Town Center Revitalization Project that includes a parking garage, a new library, retail space and a public plaza. The parking garage, phase one of the project, is seen as the cornerstone of the campus. Preliminary cost estimates for the garage range from $19 to $24 million. In March, city officials were elated when Congressman Norm Dick Included $1 million in federal housing and urban development funds in his proposed 2012 allocations for the project. But allocations are a far cry from choosing a contractor. If memory serves me, the Town Center project developed out of city council plans for improved parking off the waterfront that started around 2005.

Likewise Bremerton’s transfer of property from parks to the public right-of-way paves the way, so to speak, for another project long on the city’s to-do list.

Port Orchard, too, has been working on its traffic bottleneck. The Tremont Street Corridor project is creeping forward like an SUV at rush hour. OK, that was literary hyperbole. City planners are moving the project through the pipeline to the best of their ability given the constraints of funding, permitting, right-of-way acquisition etc. Suffice it to say, it’s been a long time coming, and no doubt city officials will be elated when the first backhoe full of dirt is moved.

Take heart Port Orchard. Bremerton’s been at this urban redevelopment for some years now. Presumably, your turn will come.

The Bremerton City Council, at a meeting I attended recently, handed out a list of the council’s priorities, based on a survey of council members. Not surprisingly, public safety and fiscal stability rank high on the council’s list of concerns. The dead, alas, come in last place, with the city’s cemetary ranking at the bottom of the priority list.

Here’s the list of BremertonPriorities


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