City says it isn’t responsible for ruts in theater’s approach

The in basket: Suzie Womack-Pride e-mailed to say, “I am writing on behalf of our local non-profit theater group Western Washington Center for the Arts located on Bay Street in Port Orchard.

“There are several very deep and very dangerous potholes (I heard theater attendees have fallen into them!) directly in front of the building in the parking ,” she said. “I investigated and learned this area is within a 75-foot right-of-way deeded in 1886.

“I contacted the city of Port Orchard’s public works director and  he said they would not be filling the pot holes as ‘they do not necessarily maintain their right of way.’
“I assumed once the city learned of a potential danger for the public it would be taken care of, as it could very simply and easily be done. This small theater group has concerns of their own liability should someone become injured due to these pot holes.
“Please help us! We will do the work ourselves if we must,” she said, “but my goodness, it would be nice to get some community cooperation, especially from the entity that holds the most responsibility, our city!”

The out basket: She doesn’t exaggerate the condition of the area in front of their theater. While it would be hard for someone to fall “into” one of the depressions, they could be ankle breakers. But is will be up to the building owner to fix them.

Mark Dorsey, the public works director, likened the situation to that of a sidewalk, for which the abutting landowner is responsible if it deteriorates – or is covered with snow, for that a matter.

“Basically only roadway improvements are maintained under state law,” he said, “whereby roadway improvements include the 1) the travelled way and 2) the shoulder.  The state and the city only maintain the portion of the roadway included within the roadway improvement.

“In the case of the approach/parking lot for the WWCA,” he said, “two-thirds….of  their parking lot and their approach is located within the right-of-way.

“What she is basically asking the city to do is pave their approach and private parking lot using taxpayer money.  There are thousands of examples throughout the state where either parking lots, driveways and/or commercial approaches are located within right of way…..but that doesn’t mean it’s maintained by the taxpayers.

“The same is true for sidewalks…’s the adjoining property owner’s responsibility to maintain their segment of the sidewalk,” Mark said.


2 thoughts on “City says it isn’t responsible for ruts in theater’s approach

  1. My impression of the response by Mark Dorsey is that his attitude seems to mirror that of the State DOT concerning ferries. I was once told by a DOT official that: “ferries are there to carry cars, not people.”

    Firstly, sidewalks are equivalent to roads in that they are public transportation corridors that carry people not cars. Why the property owner is responsible for a public corridor is an issue for another time.

    The second point is that the WWCA did not ask the City of Port Orchard to pave the parking area. The theatre did that four years ago (I know that because I paid for it). The theater asked the City to fill the potholes on the road shoulder. The specific physical nature of the area in front of the theater is unlike most of the other “downtown area” in that there is no sidewalk or even an equivalent of a sidewalk on that side of the road. I suggest Mr. Dorsey inspect the area a little closer. His statement is misleading, typically bureaucratic and frankly obnoxious. If his attitude reflects that of the City of Port Orchard, then shame on the City of Port Orchard.

    Also important to note is that most of the damage is a result of the lack of storm water drainage infrastructure. Here, as throughout the downtown area, Port Orchard chooses to ignore this major problem.

  2. Two other important point that I should add to my earlier comment are:

    The City placed a curbed, concrete structure in front of the theater last year. It is meant to provide a barrier to protect a pedestrian entering the crosswalk located there. Is that structure on the “shoulder” of the road (in front of the pedestrian pathway) or is it in the pathway? Note that there is no sidewalk! If it is on the shoulder then so are the potholes!

    Public policy says that safety of public rights-of-way (streets, roads, highways, pedestrian pathways) are the responsibility of the municipality.

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