Category Archives: City of Port Orchard

PO: City needs help designing a logo for 125th

The city of Port Orchard celebrates its 125th anniversary this year, with a Sept. 5 shindig in the works.

The city has issued a call-out to local artists and graphic designers — and anyone else who wants to have a go at it — to create a logo for the event. The logo will be used for banners, posters, souvenirs and the like. Unlike with the city’s wayfinding signs, no monetary award is involved, but, said Sharron King, who chairs the 125th planning committee, “The designer will be part of the continuing history of Port Orchard and celebrated along with the city at the closing ceremony.”

Entries (digital or hard copy) are due to city hall by 4 p.m. March 2. The committee will review them and pick a winner that week.

The committee is also looking for photos of the city from the last 125 years and for bits and pieces you might have about the city’s history. Photos and other submissions may be used on the city’s website, Facebook page or in advertising of the event. Submit anything you have to cityclerk@cityofportorchard.us.

Matthes considering another run for mayor

Port Orchard Mayor Tim Matthes is considering running again for the office in this year’s election.

Matthes, elected in 2011, will complete his first four-year term at the end of 2015.

“Right now my health is fine,” said Matthes, 68. “If it stays that way, I’ll be making a decision early in the year.”

Matthes said he doesn’t want there to be a lot of “drama” over speculation about whether he will or won’t run. His comments came up during an interview for our story about Gil Michael, longtime planning commissioner, who died Dec. 27. Matthes served with Michael on the commission before he (Matthes) won the election over then-incumbent Lary Coppola in a razor thin race.

Matthes, during our recent talk, said he initially was motivated to run for the office because of concerns over the potential cost of the Tremont widening project.

As interested as Michael was in city government, I think it’s fair to say many wonder why he never ran for mayor. Matthes on Monday said he asked Michael in 2011 to put himself up as a candidate, before he (Matthes) made the decision to throw his own hat into the ring.

“He absolutely said ‘no way,'” Matthes said. “Gil didn’t really like the limelight.”
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Matthes said his decision this time around on whether to run for mayor will be partly based on who else is interested. Right now he’s being careful to say he’s only “considering” running again, because a formal declaration of candidacy will require filing with the Public Disclosure Commission, a step he’s not quite ready to take yet.

NYT article focuses on Port Orchard man

Several people on Facebook have mentioned a New York Times article about Doug Whitney, a Port Orchard man who has a gene mutation that (in most people) causes early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Whitney, 65, has yet to show symptoms, and researchers are trying to figure out why.

Whitney’s mother and nine of her siblings, as well as Whitney’s older brother died of the disease. All began showing symptoms in their 40s.

“So Mr. Whitney has become Exhibit A in a new direction in genetics research. After years of looking for mutations that cause diseases, investigators are now searching for those that prevent them,” the article states.

The idea of beneficial gene mutations is getting plenty of attention from the scientific community.

Two Seattle researchers have started “The Resilience Project,” drawing on large databases to find people, like Whitney, who seem to have protective genes. They found Whitney after contacting Washington University (in St. Louis), where a study is under way of families with a gene, presenilin, that causes early Alzheimer’s. Whitney joined the study in 2011.

Whitney deferred getting tested for the Alzheimer’s causing gene until he turned 62. Other researchers have contacted him, as well, and Whitney, for his part, is happy to contribute to advancing knowledge of Alzheimer’s, the article states.

So, question for readers: If, based on the medical history of family members, you knew you might have a disease-causing genetic mutation, would you get tested and when?

More on Port Orchard’s public records

With Christmas coming up in two days, how many folks are thinking about sewers? Or tap water?

If you have guests coming for the holiday, perhaps you’re hoping your pipes will handle the pressure — those extra showers and dishwasher cycles, those extra loads of laundry and loads of other sorts.

But most of the time, be honest, who really thinks about sewer and water, at least until you get your bill.

Speaking of sewer and water bills, Port Orchard’s rates for these utilities could double over the next five years, if the City Council takes the recommendation of a utilities finance expert, as we reported in Monday’s Kitsap Sun.

The city’s utility committee has been working since May with consultant Katy Isaksen to calculate what it would take to bridge the “gap” between revenue from ratepayers and the actual cost to provide sewer and water services. The city also needs to do some major upgrades to both systems, according to the public works department. Those costs are built into Isaksen’s recommended scenario under which the average sewer-water customer would see their bill rise from about $100 in 2015 to more than $230 in 2020.

Notice how the formal presentation on Isaksen’s recommendation came after months of looking at the details and revising estimates in committee meetings. It’s no stretch to say committee meetings are where the heavy lifting of city government gets done. And the public is always welcome to attend.

One city resident who does pay close attention to utilities is Elissa Whittleton. She tries to attend most utility committee meetings and, in a Facebook post a couple of weeks ago she complained about a new (as of October) disclaimer at the bottom of the agenda stating,

“PLEASE NOTE: UTILITY COMMITTEE PACKET MATERIALS PROVIDED TO COMMITTEE MEMBERS AND CITY STAFF ONLY. NOT TO BE DISTRIBUTED TO GENERAL PUBLIC UNLESS OBTAINED THROUGH PUBLIC RECORDS REQUEST PROCEDURE.”

I, like Elissa, did a “Say what?” about this, since materials for city council meetings are readily provided through links on the online agenda and by request as hard copy.

City Clerk Brandy Rinearson had an explanation. The bottom line is, you can get the materials (with a formal request), but some materials (of the kind most likely to be distributed at committee meetings) are exempted from disclosure, and like all public records, committee materials are subject to redaction.

What does all this mean?

First of all, Rinearson said, committee meetings are different from regular council meetings in that they don’t constitute a quorum of council members. Under the state’s Open Public Meetings Act, any meeting of elected officials where there is a quorum (down to your tiniest water district) must be publicly noticed and materials cited at the meeting must be readily available to the public.

Why does this matter?

While committee members can hammer out policy and develop recommendations on actions the council might take at one of its meetings, they can’t take formal action. The council, on the other hand, can act on the basis of information in reports and other documents complied into a “council packet” that is often more than 100 pages long.

Don’t be daunted by that. If you are interested in a particular agenda item — as I was by the consultant’s report on the sewer and water “gap” — you can simply download it from the city’s website or ask for that part of the packet.

I had always assumed one could just as easily get materials from committee meeting packets and until recently they could.

What changed all that?

Starting around late summer, early fall, the utility committee was knee deep in discussion of stormwater rates. The owners of a B&B, who had concerns about how the proposed rate assessment would affect them, made a request for committee materials. Rinearson, as city clerk, was pulled in on the request, which included the couple’s earlier stormwater utility bills.

Under state public records law, private information like addresses, phone numbers, account numbers, social security numbers and the like must be redacted (whited out so no one can read them). Another type of information requiring redaction would be an attorney’s advice to the city, protected under client-attorney privilege.

So Rinearson realized that, even though the couple was requesting their own utility bill as part of the committee packet, technically, their privacy rights would be violated under public records laws. Rinearson told public works and other staff answering to the committee to direct any requests for packets through her as formal public records requests.

Public records is hot topic in the city of Port Orchard, what with the city of Bainbridge Island’s recent $500,00 settlement of a public records lawsuit.

Let’s now clarify that a formal records request to the city of Port Orchard can come in pretty much any form: via email, in writing and via a phone call to the city clerk’s office.

But wait, there’s more.

Some “preliminary materials” (discussed at any kind of meeting) are exempt from disclosure under the OPM, Brandy said, citing RCW 42.56.280. After reading the law and talking with Brandy, I’d describe these as documents descriptive of works in progress. But note the exemption for any that are directly linked to a formal action.

Exempt documents include, “Preliminary drafts, notes, recommendations, and intra-agency memorandums in which opinions are expressed or policies formulated or recommended are exempt under this chapter, except that a specific record is not exempt when publicly cited by an agency in connection with any agency action.”

As an example of preliminary documents, note that the estimated increase in sewer rates was much higher at first, when Isaksen included all capital projects on the city’s list. Committee members asked her to revise the estimates factoring in just the most pressing sewer and water projects.

I asked Rinearson if the RCW isn’t subject to interpretation. It is, she said. In her training as the public records official for the city, Rinearson learned about a four-part test — based on a case reviewed by the Washington State Court of Appeals — which she and other city officials now use to weigh whether a record is subject to disclosure.

Records that meet the four-part test could be withheld, according to Rinearson. The test points are:
One — The records contain pre-decision opinions or recommendations expressed as part of the deliberative process.
Two — Disclosure would be harmful to the deliberative process or consultative function of the process.
Three — Disclosure would interfere with the flow of recommendations, observations, and opinions.
Four — The records reflect policy recommendations and opinions and are not simply the raw factual data underlying a decision.

Two and three seem subjective to me, which I pointed out to Rinearson. She affirmed that her department’s decision to withhold documents is always open to a legal challenge.

According to Rinearson, more than 95 percent of records requested are readily available without redaction.

Now once more with feeling, Port Orchard’s committee materials are available are available with a records request to the city clerk, cityclerk@cityofportorchard.us, or by calling (360) 876-4407.

If you actually made it all the way through this post, congratulations; email me, chenry@kitsapsun.com, and I will add you to my unofficial list of local government nerds.

PO council reappoints Putaansuu to transit board

Port Orchard City Councilman Rob Putaansuu, who was replaced on the Kitsap Transit board Tuesday morning, was reappointed to the board Tuesday night by the council as the city’s representative to the board. Putansuu will replace Mayor Tim Matthes on the board.

Putaansuu has served in the at-large position on the Kitsap Transit board since the position was created four years ago. Yesterday, in a shuffle of board members, Putaansuu was replaced by a member of the Bainbridge Island City Council.

The at-large position is meant to give representation on the board to Kitsap County’s smaller cities. Putaansuu said that two years ago when the position was open, no one else stepped up. This year Bainbridge expressed an interest in taking a turn at that role.

Other positions on the board are reserved for the three county commissioners, the mayor of Bremerton, and representatives from each of the three smaller cities. Traditionally the small city representative has been the mayor. But Putaansuu at Tuesday’s Port Orchard City Council meeting said the representative could alternately be a member of the city council chosen by the rest of the council, according to transit board bylaws.

The Kitsap Transit board discussion item came up late in the meeting. Councilman John Clauson, who is Kitsap Transit’s executive director, recused himself. Councilman Jeff Cartwright also works for KT, as human resources director, but he said he would not be stepping down.

“Although I work at Kitsap Transit, I don’t believe there’s a conflict because I report to John and John reports to the board. If there are no objections, I do plan on staying for this conversation.”

“I actually do object,” Matthes said. “I would like that you also recuse yourself and Mr. Putaansuu should recuse himself.”

Putaansuu said he didn’t see any reason to recuse himself. Cartwright, however, did step down after Councilman Fred Chang said he also thought Carwright’s presence was a conflict of interest, because actions of the board have a direct bearing on Cartwright’s job. “I’ll honor that,” Cartwright said.

The tension in the air probably stemmed in part from an earlier discussion of emails as public records in which the Mayor and Cartwright grew testy with one another.

The Mayor, as a member of the KT board, also recused himself, and Mayor Pro Tem Cindy Lucarelli took over the meeting.

Putaansuu said he is “passionate about” Kitsap Transit’s study of a fast ferry to Seattle and wants to bring a vote on the proposed service to Kitsap residents, who would help foot the bill for operation of the ferry.

“My position is we’ve spent millions of taxpayer dollars to improve technologies (for the fast ferry) and the business plan (to operate it), and we owe it to the voters to ask them whether or not they want that,” Putaansuu said.

Councilwoman Bek Ashby asked if the council could legally take action on the appointment, given that the meeting was a work study session. City Clerk Brandy Rinearson said they could.

“The rule is you cannot make a motion if it relates to an ordinance or if you’re approving a contract or a bill for payment of money at a special meeting,” she said. Since the appointment was none of the above, they could take action.

Councilman Jerry Childs talked about Putaansuu’s “historical knowledge” of the fast ferry issue and said he was in favor of the appointment.

Chang said he was against it because of the “tradition” of having the mayor represent the city on the board.

When Elissa Whittleton, a member of the audience, asked if the mayor shouldn’t be asked whether he’d like to continue serving on the board, Putaansuu replied, “The bylaws say it’s to be chosen by the city council, not the mayor.”

Putaansuu abstained from the vote. Childs, Lucarelli and Ashby voted in favor of the appointment. Chang voted no.

When Matthes returned to the meeting to find he’d been replaced on the board, he said, “It was all prearranged.”

“In a way it’s a good thing,” the Mayor added, saying now he could still attend meetings and advocate exclusively for Port Orchard’s needs.

Chris Henry, South Kitsap reporter
chenry@kitsapsun.com
(360) 792-9219

Humane society expands feral cat trap-neuter-return program to Port Orchard

In February 2013, the Kitsap Humane society launched a program to reduce the feral cat population in Bremerton. KHS calls them “community cats.”

The method (not without its critics) is trap-neuter-return. KHS vets say it’s documented to work in gradually reducing feral, pardon me, community cat colonies.

Adult feral cats can’t be socialized for placement as pets. The past approach to eradication of feral cat colonies has been to trap and euthanize the animals. But that doesn’t work well, according to KHS veterinarian Jen Stonequist.

Because feral cats are territorial, eliminating members of the colony simply creates a void that is soon filled again by new cats – and their unchecked litters of kittens. The cats who live in these colonies are generally in poor health and carry disease.

“An effective TNR program works to stabilize the free-roaming cat population in a community by preventing new litters of unwanted kittens, and reduces feline illnesses by reducing mother-to-litter transmission and transmission by fighting,” said KHS Spokeswoman Rachel Bearbower. “It can also significantly reduce the noise and odor which arise from unaltered males fighting, mating, and marking territories.”

KHS officials estimate there are more than 2,200 feral cats in the 98366 area code, where the effort is focused.

The Community Cats Program, funded through a PetSmart grant provides live traps and training on trapping to willing neighborhood volunteers.
Adults are neutered or spayed, and given a full check up and a rabies vaccine before they are reintroduced to their preferred neighborhood. A small mark on the ear prevents repeats. Kittens are taken into the humane society for placement as pets.

Over time the colony shrinks, as the animals are unable to reproduce.

The humane society also has a litter abatement program. If your pet has had a litter, you can bring the babies (dog or cat) to KHS. They will be spayed and neutered, and placed in “forever homes.” KHS also will spay the parent free of charge and return the animal to you.

Anyone with information about feral cat colonies in the Port Orchard area, or who is interested in volunteering for the Community Cats program, is asked to contact Kitsap Humane Society at CommunityCats@kitsap-humane.org or call 360-692-6977.

City’s classification of B&Bs could impact other home-based businesses

You can visit kitsapsun.com later this evening to see how and why the Port Orchard City Council voted Tuesday to increase stormwater rates.

The lead up to this we’ve covered extensively, and last night’s vote was a long time coming.

Due to space constraints, I was not able to elaborate on an issue that arose out of the utility committee’s discussion in June of how bed and breakfasts should be assessed in the stormwater utility.

Here’s a little background you’ll need:
Stormwater charges are based on impervious surface units, with one ISU defined as 3,000 square feet of impervious surface, such as roofs or pavement. Residential accounts, all deemed to comprise one ISU, are charged a flat monthly rate, as specified in the city’s code.

Commercial businesses and multifamily dwellings are assessed for the area of impervious surface on their property divided by 3,000 square feet multiplied by the monthly rate.

And here’s the long version of the second half of the story that explains how, in one attorney’s opinion, the reclassification of B&Bs as commercial could have far-reaching impacts on all of the city’s homebased businesses.

“Gil and Kathy Michael, owners of Cedar Cove Inn B&B, seconded a suggestion that ratepayers be credited for putting rain gardens, pervious pavement and other stormwater treatment systems on their properties.

The Michaels were required to mitigate stormwater runoff during an earlier expansion of the historic home above Bay Street from which they do business.
And the couple had another problem with the proposal, given that the Cedar Cove Inn has been reclassified as a commercial property.

At the June utility committee meeting, members discussed how B&Bs are assessed in the stormwater utility. The committee considered a suggestion from staff that they should be classified as commercial for accounting purposes.

“The way we handle the code and the way the account is set up is if you have a business license, even if it is a home-based business, you are technically commercial,” said Andrea Archer Parsons, assistant city engineer.

Of the city’s three B&Bs, only Cedar Cove would be significantly impacted, the committee realized. They asked staff to see how other cities classify B&Bs for stormwater assessments, and the report was presented Aug. 19 to the full council but no action was taken.

On June 10, the Michaels got a notice saying their B&B would be assessed as a commercial property “due the fact that they are required to have a business license.” On Oct. 15, they got a notice saying they would be charged for four ISUs.

Their attorney Gary Chrey on Tuesday argued that by extension the “commercial property” rule could apply to all of the city’s home-based businesses, and that could have unintended consequences beyond higher utility rates. He listed higher real estate taxes and more onerous building code requirements among a litany of results.

Public Works Director Mark Dorsey said he didn’t know where that wording came from and that it needed to be looked at.

Chrey also took issue with wording in the city’s code that defines commercial property as “all property zoned or used for commercial, retail, industrial or community purposes.” The key words here are “or used,” which technically broadens the definition of commercial. Chrey asked that the code be reworded so the classification is based on zoning only.

“I think we still need to do some work, based on what I’ve heard here tonight. We have issues that are related to the increase,” Councilman John Clauson said.

But the council didn’t want to delay the increase entirely and put the city at risk of falling out of compliance with escalating federal water quality standards.

Councilman Rob Putaansuu proposed a one-year graduated increase from the current $7 per month to $9.70 per month on Jan. 1 and $14 per month on June 1 as a way to buy some time to sort out the complicating issues. The increase to $14 is needed, Putaansuu and others say, to fund capital projects that would control flooding and improve water quality.

Putaansuu, John Clauson, Jeff Cartwright and Jerry Childs voted for the ordinance. Fred Chang, Bek Ashby and Cindy Lucarelli voted against it.

Chris Henry, South Kitsap reporter

Visualize Asbestos Abatement

If you’ve driven through downtown Port Orchard lately, you will have seen the old Los Cabos building wrapped in white plastic.
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The city of Port Orchard bought the eyesore in August with the idea of demolishing it to improve the ambiance of the downtown core. The sale price of $148,000 included demolition by Turnaround Inc., the company that held receivership on the building. The demolition will be ongoing for the next two to three weeks, hence the wrapped building. More on that in a minute

The former site of Los Cabos restaurant was gutted by fire in July 2013. There were boarding rooms upstairs that were occupied at the time of the fire. Three people escaped by climbing out a bathroom window onto a roof and jumping onto the bed of a truck at street level.

The building sat abandoned ever since, growing a fine crop of mold in what was the dining room.
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But the mold is not the worst problem. The two-story, 6,000-plus-square-foot building was constructed in 1910, accord to the Kitsap County Assessor, and has asbestos within from various additions and remodels.

Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, is a remarkable material, fireproof, strong, a good insulator, but it has been linked to cancers including mesothelioma, a cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs.

According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, asbestos can be found in insulation of houses built (or remodeled) between 1930 and 1950, in textured paint and patching compounds whose use was banned in 1977, some vinyl flooring tiles, some roofing and siding shingles, older hot water pipes and furnaces.

According to Bobby Pelkey, of Rhine Demolition of Tacoma, the company handling the building demo, asbestos isn’t a big problem if it’s contained in materials like tile or widow putty, but if it’s part of insulation or “popcorn” ceiling tile, tearing it our could release the asbestos fibers that can cause cancer on exposure.

To protect themselves, workers wear fully enclosed suits and respirators. They tear out the hazardous material and seal it before removal. Inside the building itself, they construct a three-segment decontamination chamber, which includes a shower for removing any particles. The suits are bundled and sealed after they are taken off, as with the rest of the contaminated material.

The job is hazardous, no doubt, but says Pelkey, “As long as you take the proper steps to protect yourself, there’s nothing to worry about.”

According to crew supervisor David Schultz — who has been in the demolition business and working with asbestos for 21 years now — one of the biggest dangers of older buildings is unstable floor and ceilings. Before demolition begins, the building is tested for asbestos, and a walk through reveals potential hazards, such as a ceiling likely to collapse.
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It’s a living, and decent one at that, Schultz said. “I make a comfortable living.”

And about that plastic wrap, it seals any asbestos fibers inside the building. So when the building comes down, the asbestos will have been removed. Voila a blank slate.

Once the demolition is complete, gone will be the entire building, including this well-established collection of pigeon poop.
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What would you like to see on the property?

Signs of life at the Lighthouse

Back from the ashes … again, the Lighthouse restaurant will reopen next week under new ownership, former general manager Brookes Konig said Friday.

And the new owner would be Konig himself, who is leasing from property owners Tim Tweten and Gordon Rush, doing business as 429 Bay Street LLC.

By now, everyone in Port Orchard knows the back story: how the grand landmark building sat unoccupied during the recession, how earlier this year Eric A. Smith of Bothell, a Seattle cop took a stab at the restaurant business, hiring Konig as general manager, how Smith called the place Robert Earl Lighthouse, after his dad, how the community was happy to see the place reopened in May.

Konig, former regional manager of Famous Dave’s, had no personal connection to Smith. A friend of Konig’s in the local hospitality industry hooked them up. So Konig was just as shocked as the rest of South Kitsap when Smith was charged July 2 in Snohomish County with three counts of first degree child molestation. Business, dropped off after the charges came to light. Employees were laid off, and in mid-July, the Lighthouse closed.

Word was, Konig was looking for a backer to reopen the place. On Friday, he signed the final papers on the lease, and he has purchased the business from Smith.
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On Saturday (that’s today) Rotary members will be at the restaurant, now called the Port Orchard Lighthouse, helping get the place back in shape for reopening some time next week. There’s a free barbecue from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and anyone is welcome.

Konig is eager to regain the good will of the community and hopes to distance the Lighthouse from the tarnish of allegations against Smith. “The recovery is what’s so important to this restaurant,” he said.

Konig has rehired 23 former staff members and is still hiring.

The Pink-a-Nator petitions to park at the courthouse

Surely you’ve seen the Pink-a-Nator. It’s hard to miss the Pepto-Bismol pink utility truck with the slogan “Servin’ it up curb side.”
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The food truck dishing out specialty burgers, po’boys and other hearty comestibles has had a regular spot at the Annapolis Sunday Market and in a lot near the Fred Meyer shopping center (although not so much lately, since owner Michelle Roberts-Wash has been busy with catering).

Now, Roberts-Wash has her sights set on the Kitsap County Courthouse campus.

She attended last week’s Port Orchard City Council meeting to pitch her plan. The truck would occupy more than one space. The council’s public property committee has discussed the idea, said Councilman Jeff Cartwright, a committee member. The committee suggested a 90-day trial pending feedback from the county.

Meantime, the Kitsap County administrator expressed concerns about loss of parking spots that are already at a premium, according to Port Orchard City Clerk Brandy Rinearson.

Roberts-Wash had scoped out parking spaces on Austin Avenue between the county administration building and public works building. Councilman Rob Putaansuu noted that, at the previous meeting Aug. 12, a city resident had complained that she couldn’t find a place to drop off her ballot.

Other spaces Roberts-Wash had looked at were in front of the courthouse or the Sheriff’s Office.

Councilman Jerry Childs asked if this would set a precedent. What if others came along looking for space to sell their wares?

The public property committee talked about that, Cartwright said. In fact the Pink-a-Nator sparked a wide ranging discussion about food trucks, including Portland’s approach of designating whole blocks to meals on wheels. “Should the city have its own designated food truck zone?” the committee pondered.

“We talked very heavily about the parking versus the convenience of having a food service there,” Cartwright said. “We also talk about would that food service impact other businesses that also serve food.”

A hot dog vendor has a permit to sell in front of the administration building. Inside, Coffee Oasis has an espresso stand that sells food items.

Several council members commented — in the spirit of free enterprise — that competition with other businesses shouldn’t drive their decision.

Putaansuu also suggested the Pink-a-Nator might work in “underutilized” areas including Cline Avenue (the flat part not the mountain climb) and the gravel lot off Taylor Avenue.

Mayor Tim Matthes said South Kitsap County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido “would appreciate more notice and more information than she’s received so far.”

The council agreed to honor Garrido’s request, and Roberts-Wash said she’s fine with that.

So what do you think? If Port Orchard were to designate a food truck zone, where should it be?

And, if you’re a restaurant or cafe owner with a brick-and-mortar location, what are your thoughts on a food truck zone?