Tag Archives: City of Port Orchard

PO Mayor apologizes for public meetings violation

We got a press release today (May 2) saying that five or more members of the Port Orchard City Council may attend the annual Housing Luncheon of the Home Builders Association of Kitsap County.
There’s nothing unusual in that. The city sends out notice of any meeting or event where there may be a quorum of the seven-member council. That’s required by state law to prevent the possibility of back-room deals being struck.
Recently, however, there was a misunderstanding about how many Port Orchard council members planned to attend an ad hoc committee meeting on a sewer plant contract. And Port Orchard Mayor Tim Matthes began the April 22 city council meeting with an apology.
“The (ad hoc) committee met (April 17), and a fourth council member attended unexpectedly,” Matthes said. “The city recognizes that proper notice was not given when a quorum of four council members met, resulting in a violation of the open public meetings act. The city will take measures to assure that does not happen again.”
The mayor required members of the committee to recap what was discussed, and he invited members of the audience to request a recording of the April 17 meeting. He also allowed the public to comment on the committee’s recommendation before the council voted on the contract. (The council overrode the committee’s recommendation in a 4-3 split vote.)
Matthes said the city’s risk managers recommended taking these steps to mitigate the error. He announced he would schedule a “mandatory elected officials and supervisory staff training” on requirements of the open public meetings act.
“We want to be very clear and make sure the public understands we take the open public meetings act very seriously,” said City Attorney Greg Jacoby.
Council members Jerry Childs and Cindy Lucarelli disagreed an error had been made, saying the four council members had individually notified City Clerk Brandy Rinearson that they intended to attend, and they believed she had given notice of the meeting.
John Clauson, however, said he had mistakenly understood that only three (himself, Lucarelli and Fred Chang) would attend. Clauson said he sent an email to Rinearson indicating there wouldn’t be a quorum.
Committees of the council include three members of the seven-person council, and meetings are listed on council agendas and the city’s website. If an additional member is to attend, the city must give notice of the “special” meeting at least 24 hours in advance, including emails to the press and others on the city’s mailing list and a notice on the front door of city hall.
Rinearson, in an email to the press on April 21, advised that the city did not give proper special meeting notice.
Childs at the April 22 meeting noted that at some committee meetings a fourth council member will sometimes show up, sometimes to observe. Childs wondered why the quorum issue hadn’t been previously raised.
That question is sure to get some scrutiny at the upcoming training Matthes mentioned. The issue of committee meeting transparency in general has been discussed periodically over the past couple of months. City resident Elissa Whittleton has asked that committee meetings, often held early in the morning at MoonDogs or another local restaurant, be held in council chambers where they can be videotaped.

Your chance to serve on city of Port Orchard advisory boards

The city of Port Orchard is accepting letters of interest from residents wishing to serve on its Planning Commission, Design Review Board and Building Board of Appeals.

All three are volunteer advisory boards that carry considerable clout. The Planning Commission advises the City Council on land use policies. The Design Review Board oversees the aesthetics and amenities of proposed construction projects in the downtown area.

The Building Board of Appeals is actually more than an advisory board. Its members, with a two-thirds vote, can reverse or modify the decision of the city’s building official. This board meets infrequently on an as-needed basis, according to Senior Planner Jennifer Haro. The board, made up of individuals with expertise in the building industry, holds hearings open to the public to review appeals of building permit applications.

The city is looking for applicants who represent a cross section of the community and “who will use their best judgement in deciding upon the issue before them,” according to a news release.

Applications and brief volunteer job descriptions are available at www.cityofportorchard.us.
Applications are due by Friday. Mail to City Clerk Brandy Rinearson, 216 Prospect Street, Port Orchard, WA 98366 or email cityclerk@cityofportorchard.us.
For more information, call (360) 876-4407.

Waterfront pathway process complicated by federal regulations

Owners of five Beach Drive properties are alarmed anew at news the Port Orchard City Council has taken the next step toward construction of a public waterfront pathway that could go right through their homes.

The city recently approved a contract that sets in motion steps for possible acquisition of the properties by eminent domain. But other options are being considered, and taking of the properties is far from a done deal, City Engineer Mark Dorsey stressed. The contract includes financial capacity and authority for Universal Field Services to negotiate with the property owners on total acquisition, when and if the city council gives the OK.

The council needs to know the pros and cons of all options, Dorsey said, which is why the contract includes the most extreme scenario. Under other scenarios, the houses could be left standing, but there are liability and public safety issues.

Property owners are miffed that city officials didn’t personally contact each of them before the contract was approved. To explain why, we need to get down into the weeds, so hang with me here.

First, let’s jump back to 2011. The property owners have known for at least two years that eminent domain is a possibility. The issue came up in a properly noticed public meeting in which the council discussed early design of the pathway, causing an uproar from the property owners. According to homeowner Randy Jones, then-Mayor Lary Coppola visited him a day or two after the meeting. Coppola assured Jones that the eminent domain option was at that time hypothetical and the taking of his home was not imminent, Jones recently said.

That’s still the case. It will take the city a long time to jump through the hoops of regulations put into play by a $300,000 federal grant the city accepted under previous Mayor Kim Abel for preliminary design of the pathway.

The grant requires Port Orchard to complete the whole path, one way or another — through the homes or around them — or the city must return the $300,000.

The Bay Street Pedestrian Pathway is seen as a great amenity by most city officials. Two segments are already completed and have been well-used. So it’s unlikely the city will turn back now, but that’s yet another option the council will weigh, according to Dorsey.

The city faces the same use-it-or-lose it issue with the Tremont Street Corridor, where more than $3 million in federal funds were used for design. According to Dorsey, the federal government, dispersing money through the state Department of Transportation, used to spread money around “like peanut butter,” leaving a trail of partially completed public works projects. Since 2009, the feds require assurance grant-supported projects will be completed, making it harder on public officials, but reducing the likelihood that taxpayers’ money will be squandered on nice ideas never executed.

So why didn’t Port Orchard officials recently come knocking at the property owners’ doors? Under one of the federal grant regulations, the city must use an intermediary to contact residents about the potential taking of their properties to avoid the appearance of “collusion,” according to Dorsey. The law requires a clean division of roles. The city, acting on the public’s behalf, could be seen as having a conflict of interest were any staff members or elected officials to discuss the eminent domain issue with property owners outside of a public meeting.

Speaking of which, the council takes public comment during its meetings. The next one is at 7 p.m. Tuesday at city hall, 216, Prospect St.

Roger Gay gives a pop quiz

Roger Gay, a regular reader and commenter on the Kitsap Sun’s website, posted a comment on today’s story about the Port Orchard’s sales tax revenue boost due to annexations.

Roger begins:
“Why did Home Depot withdraw from building in Port Orchard? What is the expected impact from the apartment complex’s being built at the Sidney/Sedgwick intersection? What happened to the proposed roundabouts on Tremont and improvements to that corridor? Has the new waterside park facilities and trail in downtown Port Orchard increased downtown walk about traffic? When is the farmers market facility scheduled to open?

I felt like I was in eighth grade, walking into class and getting a pop quiz.

Roger went on to say that with recent improvements, Port Orchard actually seems to have it going on, whereas Bremerton … not so much. Roger, correct me if I’ve misstated your opinion.

Anyway, I got out my number two pencil and jumped in to answer Roger’s questions, which many of you may have as well:

Home Depot: Company sales projections didn’t justify moving forward, although HD has done most of the heavy lifting on the site, which is now set for any other big box store that wants to try its luck on the Bethel Corridor.

Tremont Street: Roundabouts were redesigned over a period of several years in part to better accommodate emergency vehicles. The city used federal grants for much of the $3.6 million it took for design and right-of-way acquisition. The city needs $15 million to build the gateway project. City Engineer Mark Dorsey will apply I believe in August to the state Transporaiton Improvement Board. The city will need to come up with an additional $2.7 for undergrounding utilities and other costs not covered by the grant. According to Dorsey, the fact the city used any federal money on Tremont means the clock is ticking on the project. There has been a tightening of rules regarding federal transportation money so that projects don’t just get started and lie the fallow. I’m guessing when and if the $15 m grant comes through, we at the Kitsap Sun will hear Dorsey’s whoop of excitement across Sinclair Inlet.

Apartment Complex: The Sidney, a 105-apartment complex at the corner of Sidney and Sedgewick, is open and leasing. In fact the council discussed the impact of the project at an April meeting. Rush Construction met all requirements for traffic and environmental impacts, Dorsey told the council. All of this was reviewed in detail and approved by the city’s hearing examiner several years ago, so if the council had any concerns about the size of the project or its impact on the surrounding area, the horse is out of that barn, Dorsey in essence said. The council agreed to look carefully at urban density regulations within the city the next time its comprehensive plan comes up for review. City planners are already working on population estimates to get ready for that process.

Port Orchard Market: In June contractors working on the building (which is actually two or three buildings spliced together) found a wall that they weren’t expecting, meaning they had to do a redesign of the facade. That required going back to the city for another permit, which I have heard was recently issued. Don Ryan, who is heading up the project, was reluctant to say exactly when the market will open so as not to disappoint, but the project is not dead, he said.

Port Orchard Marina Park: Based on my general observations (and especially the night of the July 4th fireworks) people are loving the park expansion, with its viewing platform, pedestrian path and interactive mural. Unfortunately, the new features attracted vandals, but POPD is on it.

Oh, and BTW, the newly renovated DeKalb Pier is to open soon, and it looks really classy.

As for cooperation between Port Orchard and Bremerton, there has been considerable talk and some action on that front. The cities and the Port of Bremerton partnered on expanded summer hours for the foot ferry between the two towns.

If you count the recent opening of the South Kitsap Skatepark, you might say, yes, there is a sense of momentum right now in good old PO/South Kitsap. I can say that city and port generated projects are the result of years of government wheels grinding slowly.

Chris Henry, reporter

Here’s a video of the skatepark opening:

Neighbors would be notified of extra pets, under PO ordinance

The city of Port Orchard allows residents to have up to three dogs and up to three cats per household. Licensed kennels are excluded from the pet limit.

But what about the family who moves into town with more than the allowed number of dogs or cats? Or the family that inherits a pet from a family member who moves into a nursing home or dies?

For those folks, the city offers a “pet variance.” Up to now, getting a variance has been a simple matter of filling out a form to document “hardship.” The city council recently revising the ordinance to factor in the impact of extra pets on neighbors.

The original proposal, discussed at an April 16 work-study meeting, was to require written permission from neighbors on either side of the residence slated for bonus pets.

The council discussed the issue of barking dogs, the most obvious potential source of annoyance. The city’s nuisance ordinance prohibits, “frequent, repetitive or continuous noise made by any animal which unreasonably disturbs or interferes with peace comfort and repose of property owners or possessors …,” Licensed kennels, shelters, vet clinics, pet shops and service dogs are exempted.

Councilman John Clauson pointed out that the number of dogs is not always the issue, when it comes to noise.

“You got five dogs that are little quiet dogs that live in the house, and you never see ‘em, I don’t care if you have 10 of ‘em,” Clauson said. “But you could have one sitting in your backyard that howls all night long, and I’m going to be unhappy.”

City Clerk Brandy Rinearson said the city’s contract with the Kitsap Humane Society covers barking dogs and yowling cats. Animal control officers from KHS are contracted to enforce this part of the city’s nuisance ordinance.

Public Works Director Mark Dorsey said health and sanitation also were concerns in allowing people to have more than three of any type of pet.

According to Rinearson, three was a somewhat arbitrary number set by the council that established the pet variance ordinance in 1999. Some cities have different limits (up to five dogs in one town she knows of); others have no ordinance limiting the number of pets allowed.

The council, after some discussion, decided it would be adequate to simply notify neighbors on either side if someone applies for a pet variance. The notification would come before the variance is approved. Members of the public can comment on any city council agenda item at the start of each meeting.

“My heartburn was we were constantly granting these with no process, and so the neighbors didn’t know,” said Councilman Rob Putaansuu. “So for me it’s about notifying the neighbors. I think you notice the issue so they know this is coming before us, and if they’ve got heartburn with it, here’s an opportunity to come and testify.”

The council agreed to place the amended ordinance on an upcoming agenda for formal approval.

Another “process” gap in the city’s code is how to handle the occasional request from a business for after-hours music and other goings-on. Such a request came before the council in early April, when Amy Igloi of Amy’s on the Bay sought permission to play music on her deck after 11 p.m. (the city’s noise curfew).

The city’s nuisance ordinance prohibits a host of public disturbances between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., including the sound of machinery and power tools like lawn mowers, blowers, grinders, drills and power saws. The code bans loud vehicles and music from both inside and outside buildings, along with “yelling, shouting, hooting, whistling or singing on or near the public streets” during those hours.

What’s missing, said City Attorney Greg Jacoby, is “a fair and reasonable process that’s applied consistently regardless of who makes the request.”

The city now issues special event permits, reviewed by staff and approved by the council. Jacoby said the council might choose to roll the music-after-hours requests in with special events.

Several people at the meeting raised the concern about “what if” authorized events became a magnet for complaints either because of mismanagement by the business owner or in spite of their best efforts and intentions.

Rinearson said then-Cmdr. Geoffrey Marti, now Port Orchard’s police chief, suggests that such events be allowed on a one-time basis only, not as recurring events.

Marti said his officers get many complaints about noise after 11 p.m., coming from both inside and outside Bay Street establishments.

Two city residents who were at the meeting testified to the remarkable ability of noise to carry up the hill from Bay Street.

“I hear the music all the time. It wakes me up,” said Bek Ashby, who is a member of the Port Orchard Bay Street Association, a business owners group.

The council was in a quandary as to how to proceed on the after-curfew music question. Rinearson offered to see how other cities handle the issue and get back to them at a future meeting.

Everything you ever wanted to know about that nasty odor in McCormick Woods

Port Orchard public works officials on Wednesday will answer questions about a major, long-term capital project to replace degrading septic systems within McCormick Woods.

A meeting is set for 6 p.m., with a second meeting at 6 p.m. Feb. 5, both at city hall, 216 Prospect Street.

The development’s 605 poorly functioning septic systems use hybrid technology. The “STEP” tanks — for septic tank effluent pumping systems — draw off liquid effluent to the city sewer line. Solids remain in the tank.

The STEP systems were approved for lots too small for regular septic systems by Kitsap County in the 1980s, when McCormick Woods was in the planning stages. Because of how the system works, decomposition of waste starts in the tank, causing strong hydrogen sulfide odors and corrosion at the pump station. Corrosion from the STEP systems threatens the integrity of sewer lines and equipment throughout the city, Public Works Director Mark Dorsey has said.

The city will swap out all “STEP” systems within the development over the next several years. Replacement of the septics has been on the city’s capital sewer projects plan since 2010 and will be paid for out of a sewer rate hike implemented that year.

The need to replace the STEP tanks has nothing to do with the city’s 2009 annexation of McCormick Woods. The city inherited maintenance of the STEP systems from Kitsap County in 1994, when a community drain field was replaced by a sewer line jointly owned by Port Orchard and what is now West Sound Utility District.

The STEP systems’ malfunction also had nothing to do with a sewer and water rate increase in 2009, shortly after the annexation. Before becoming part of the city, McCormick Woods was subject to a 50 percent surcharge on sewer and water services provided by the city. Once the annexation was complete, the surcharge went away, and the entire city — including McCormick Woods residents — had to absorb the loss of revenue.

For more information, contact public works at (360) 876-4991.

City eats water bill

The city of Port Orchard is checking its roughly 6,000 water meters for accuracy after settling a dispute with the company that runs McCormick Woods Golf Course.

The city recently agreed to waive $780.16 in water fees that the public works department failed to properly record in 2010 and 2011. The undercharges came to the attention of the city’s utility committee this summer, when golf course manager Shawn Cucciardi attended their August meeting to ask about his bill. For reasons not clear in the staff report, C&M Golf LLC was overcharged by about $60 for water used so far in 2012.

The under-billing errors originated after a fire at the golf course in 2009, a suspected arson that destroyed numerous vehicles and equipment at the cart barn. The golf course requested a “service meter upsizing” with the new meter drop, but the new meter was improperly calibrated on installation.

The city has three types of meters that all look alike, Public Works Director Mark Dorsey explained. Without checking the serial numbers, it is possible for the worker installing the meter to incorrectly calibrate the system, he said. The McCormick Woods meter read the correct amount of water being used, but the correct usage was not picked up by public works employees’ meter reading equipment.

The city undercharged the golf club by $840.52. The utility committee, in its recommendation, subtracted the overcharge of $60.39 to arrive at the $780.16 figure. Chairman Rob Putaansuu said he felt like it was a fair resolution. John Clauson, a committee member, agreed.

“This was an error on our part,” Clauson said. “It took a long time for us to discover this error. … It certainly is our fault. It is the right thing to do.”

Mayor Tim Matthes and Councilman Fred Chang weren’t so sure. Matthes said that the statute of limitations on incorrect bills is six years. “We have the responsibility to capture that,” he said, adding that waiving the fee could set an unwanted precedent.

City Attorney Greg Jacoby corrected the mayor, saying the city has the option to collect, which expires after six years. But the city is not obliged by law to collect the money.

Chang said the amount of water consumed (and its value) was a substantial hit to the utility. “We’re not just your average service oriented company,” he said.

Chang said at the least the city should establish a consistent policy if other under-billings are discovered during the city-wide meter check. (None have been discovered so far.) Other council members agreed on this point but over-rode Chang, who alone voted against waiving the 2010 and 2011 fees.

PO commemorative bricks, get ’em while they’re hot

The ribbon was cut on Port Orchard’s City Hall 13 years ago, but it’s not too late to buy one of the commemorative tiles or bricks on walkways outside the stately building perched above the Port Orchard Marina.

Each summer, in fact, there is a short window of opportunity to engrave bricks and tiles not already spoken for. If this were Arizona instead of Western Washington, we could buy bricks and tiles all year ‘round.

The answer to this riddle is temperature. According to city clerk Brandy Rinearson, in charge of peddling the memorials, temperatures that reach or exceed 80 degrees for at least a portion of each day are required to warm the bricks, or the materials will be too brittle and will crack during engraving.

The 6”-by-6” tiles in the plaza in front of the main entrance on Prospect Street each allow for a three-line message, with up to 15 characters or spaces in each line. The tiles cost $50 each. The 3.5”-by-7” bricks, on the lower level outside the police department, allow for 18 characters or spaces and cost $35 each.

There are 608 tiles total, with 152 yet unmarked, and a total of 672 bricks, with 320 up for grabs.

The city doesn’t make any money on the sale of bricks and tiles. The fees cover the cost of the engraving, which is done by the Kenadar Corporation of Tacoma. Kenadar requires a minimum of 10 bricks and or tiles per visit. The city last year sold about a dozen.

“In years prior to that, they didn’t really market it very well,” Rinearson said. “Last year, we really went for it and told everybody and anybody.”

Many of the bricks and tiles already engraved are predictable odes to and by city leaders, civic groups and business people. The family of former City Councilman Bob Geiger, who operated a pharmacy downtown for decades, is well represented, for example, as are the Vlists, longtime owners of a car dealership on Bay Street.

Since the purchase of the commemorative bricks and tiles was open to the public, however, many others represent ordinary citizens who otherwise might have faded into oblivion.

“Doris Lind-Perrine, World’s Best Mom.”

The Gauvin family writes, “London, Paris, Rome, Port Orchard.”

And if we’ve forgotten “Millie S. Cohen, Humanitarian, a Visionary,” we should not have.

The city also dedicated a time capsule at the opening of the new city hall on Sept. 11, 1999. Longtime councilman John Clauson recalls its contents as news articles of the time, a copy of the opening ceremony program, a list of then-council members and staff, the Fathoms O’ Fun court and other community information … oh, and a couple hundred dollars in bills of various denominations, to document the new bills that had recently been put into circulation.

The time capsule contains a video of the last council meeting in the old city hall and the first meeting in the new city hall. It also holds entries from a contest the city held seeking essays on “Why I Like Living in Port Orchard.”

“We were just trying to get a snapshot of what the community was at the time,” Clauson said.

How has Port Orchard changed since 1999? It’s bigger by about nearly 3,000 souls and about 10 square miles, what with annexations. Oh, and gas is a whole lot more expensive, Clauson notes. Otherwise, he says, the city retains that “small, hometown feel” that’s been its hallmark lo these many decades.

The time capsule, installed under the main entrance flagpole, will be opened in 2049, on the “new” city hall’s 50th anniversary.

Oh, and in case anyone is thinking of pilfering the cash in the capsule, know that items are secured in several sealed plastic pipes that are installed in a box under a brass plaque … one level up from the police department.

The Port Orchard Masonic Lodge also installed a “cornerstone” time capsule on the Prospect Street side of city hall, to be opened in 2099, 100 years from the grand opening. The Masonic ceremony was held Aug. 21, 1999.

The new city hall was commissioned after a seismic survey showed the old city hall would not withstand an earthquake. The old building has long since been demolished.

Construction on the three-story, 28,370-square-foot building began on March 3, 1998. City hall was open for business May 22, 1999.

City officials at the time expressed pride that they would be able to pay off the $6.3 million building out of the city’s regular revenue and did not have to ask taxpayers for additional financing.

Commemorative tile and brick applications can be found online at www.cityofportorchard.us, or call the city clerk at (360) 876-4407

Sedgwick Road open Saturday, despite complications in job

A repaving project on Sedgwick Road hit a glitch earlier this week, when crews from the paving company contracted by the city of Port Orchard found areas of wetland upon tearing off the old roadway.
That’s no surprise said Public Works Director Mark Dorsey, who noted the road was put laid over a marshy area long before rules of the Shoreline Management Act would have made it hard if not impossible to do so.
The goal of state shoreline laws is to have “no net loss” of functioning wetlands and shorelines. Development in and around some wetlands is allowed depending on how they score on a system the state uses to rate functionality, like how well they absorb water and filter pollutants. Development allowed on or near wetlands these days must be offset or mitigated by the builder’s enhancement of other wetland areas.
As it is, Sedgwick is grandfathered in, with no mitigation required. Crews filled in squishy areas on the roadway, then put down a layer of asphalt. More asphalt is needed, but first they need to see if the issue with wet areas is solved.
The road, which has been closed all week, will be open on schedule Saturday, but crews will be looking for the new asphalt to “proof” or set up. If it breaks apart and settles as cars drive over it, more fill work will have to be done, Dorsey said.
The city council on Tuesday authorized an additional expenditure of up to $50,000 for the required fix. The original cost of the job was estimated at $191,605. The extra money is available in the city’s street fund.

Check Port Orchard’s water quality on state’s data base

In researching a story on Port Orchard’s water quality, I was introduced to the state Department of Health’s Office of Drinking Water’s database on all systems in the state.

As you’ll read in the story, despite periodic episodes of discolored water in the Tremont Street – Pottery Avenue area, Port Orchard hasn’t had a report that raises any red flags with the state since 2004. That was for coliform bacteria, which a state DOH official explained to me is an “indicator” of possible contamination, calling for follow-up testing. In this case the follow up tests were within normal limits, said Bonnie Waybright of the Office of Drinking Water.

You’ll see a number of tests showing coliform bacteria through the years dating back to 1985, which is the extent of the online data. There are a couple episodes of e coli, including one as recently as 2002. Again, Waybright said, follow up tests showed no contamination with e coli.

My story explains the basics of water testing protocol and precautions taken for various types of contaminants, so I won’t repeat it here.

Linda Waring, DOH spokeswoman, gives the following tips on using the database.

“Port Orchard’s Water System ID is 68900. If you enter this number and leave the other boxes blank, it will pull up their monitoring history. You can also search by name. The tabs you’ll need are labeled “Samples” and “Exceedances.” Samples will give you all of their water quality results. Exceedances will show any samples that exceeded acceptable limits. If you click the sample number next to each test, the link will show you the exact results and the name of the lab that did the test.”

Waring says, “Discolored water is not an unusual complaint. Color and sediment are aesthetic concerns that do not pose a health risk.”

Here’s a link to a fact sheet that discusses color, taste and odor problems in drinking water.

The city’s proposed water rate hike is unrelated to the problems with well 9, which affect a relatively small geographic area and number of homes, said Public Works Director Mark Dorsey.

Contact the city’s public works department at (360) 876-4991 or (360) 876-2722.

Here’s a copy of the state’s certification of the water system.