Monthly Archives: January 2009

Friday Afternoon Club: Scoring “Milk” a Coup for Orchard Theatre

Jeff Brein, owner of the Historic Orchard Theatre’s parent company, considers is a “coup” that the Orchard – opened just a year ago in downtown Port Orchard – was able to show the Oscar-nominated “Milk” this early in its run.

The film, which opened in December, runs today through Thursday at the Orchard and at Bainbridge Island Cinemas, both owned by Far Away Productions, Brein’s company.

The Orchard’s 7 p.m. Thursday showing of the film is a fund-raiser for Kitsap Pride, with proceeds going toward Kitsap County’s annual Gay Pride event, set for July 18 at Evergreen Park in Bremerton.

“Milk,” starring Sean Penn, tells the story of Harvey Milk, who in 1977, was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, becoming the first openly gay man to be voted into public office in America.

Documentary/art films like “Milk” that may not have immediate mainstream appeal are typically slower to hit the major markets. Studios want to create a buzz about the film, Brein said, so they release a limited number of copies, watch the markets carefully and send the film to theaters where they can be fairly confident it will be well received.

The Orchard has been getting requests for “Milk” from members of the South Kitsap audience that Brein describes as a healthy mix of families, “retirees, military, professionals and working class” residents.

“It’s a real melting pot when you look at the 5 to 10 mile radius of that theater,” Brein said.

Kitsap Pride is one of a number of groups The Orchard has supported over the past year.

Kitsap resident Stan Hess, who plans to attend the fund-raiser, said he welcomes the expanded entertainment choices offered by The Orchard.

“A lot of us here on this side of the pond either don’t have the funds or don’t have the time to go over to Seattle to see it,” Hess said. “There certainly is a market on this side for so-called art films.”

Fire Victim Shares Cautionary Tale

I happened to be the reporter on duty Monday when we heard on the newsroom scanner reports of a fire in South Kitsap. To get to the fire, I had to walk down Oakhurst Lane off Berry Lake Road, because emergency crews had closed the area to traffic. Kitsap Sun Photographer Larry Steagall also made the trek down the dark dirt road, but we arrived separately.

Earlier that evening, Heidi Stockwell, her husband Chance DeLong, and their children, Elijah, 8, and Nathan, 5, escaped uninjured from a fire that started around 6 p.m. in the single-wide mobile home on the 6200 block of Oakhurst.

South Kitsap Fire and Rescue responded to the fire but had difficulty locating the property because of the poorly lit road and lack of a visible house number, according to Battalion Chief Doug Richards. Fire fighters put out the fire, but not before the mobile home burned to the ground.

Richards reminds homeowners and renters to make sure house numbers are visible from the road and that smoke detectors are in working order.

Stockwell, who believes one of her children may have started the fire with a lighter, has her own advice.

“I pretty much want to send a message to every parent who has small children,” said Stockwell. “If you have any matches or lighters, keep them (matches and lighters) with you at all times because you never know.”

The family has set up an account at Timberland Bank in Silverdale to accept donations.

Rally Planned Thursday for Cedar Heights Dance Team

Students on the Cedar Heights Junior High School dance team got a major workout as they practiced their hip hop routine Tuesday. You can see a video of the team’s dance tomorrow at

The pressure is on, as the team prepares to compete in the National Dance Team Championships Saturday and Sunday in Orlando, Florida. This is the fifth year Cedar Heights will be represented at the prestigious championship that draws around 400 elite dance teams from around the country.

The Cedar Heights team will give a preview of its performance at a 7 p.m. rally today (Thursday) at the junior high.

Joining Cedar Heights in Orlando will be John Sedgwick Junior High School’s dance team in its second year at the competition. The two Kitsap schools are among six from Washington — and the only junior highs in the state — heading to nationals.

Participating on the team take all the dedication of a varsity sport, as teams practice three or four nights a week and often on weekends.

Cedar Heights and Sedgwick’s performances at the national competition will be available for viewing at Saturday evening. Both teams have a chance to make the finals on Sunday. The event will be broadcast on ESPN later this year.

Port Orchard: Thrifty or Cheap Part II

Yesterday, I wrote about Port Orchard’s penchant for thrift, which has been extant at least as long as I’ve lived in South Kitsap (since 1979).

The city, for example, didn’t go for a voted bond issue to pay for its City Hall (completed in 1999) or expansion of its wastewater treatment plant (completed in 2007). Payments on the City Hall debt come from the city’s current expense fund, its cumulative reserve for municipal facilities fund (where real estate excise tax goes) and its water-sewer operating fund. The city’s portion of the wastewater treatment facility debt is paid for through sewer rates.

“At the time City Hall was built the City fathers did not want to increase the tax burden to the citizens by having an additional property tax levy,” wrote City Treasurer Kris Tompkins in an e-mail to me.

As I look to the year ahead, however, I wonder if (and to what degree) that thrifty mindset may be about to change.

Port Orchard is on the cusp of change and growth that will require some major expenditures. There are currently three major projects on the city’s plate, the Tremont Corridor, the Bethel Corridor and the Town Center Revitalization Project/ parking garage, which I wrote about Tuesday.

In a comment on the story, Sally Santana writes:

“How are we going to afford this and the Tremont roundabout too? And the Bethel Corridor?”

The short story on this is that the city has funding for work set to take place in 2009 on these three projects. Beyond that, there are funding gaps, and city officials are looking at a number of different potential funding sources, including state and federal grants, and economic stimulus money.

Here’s where the three project stand in terms of progress and funding.

The Tremont Street project is budgeted at an estimated $15 to $16 million with construction set to start in 2011. The work set to be done in 2009, completing the design and right-of-way acquisition, is covered in this year’s budget. The project is partially funded with state and federal grants that require a local match, with money coming from the city’s arterial street fund. There is, however, a “funding gap” for completion of the project, according to City Engineer Mark Dorsey. The state’s $6 billion budget deficit could impact the Tremont Corridor, in which case, the city would have to come up with alternate funding besides money the state had committed to the project. The city is working with the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council and the Puget Sound Regional Coordinating Council to acquire more state and federal funding to close the gap, including federal economic stimulus monies for projects to completed within a two-year time frame.

Although the city has expressed an interest in annexing all of the Bethel Corridor sooner rather than later, that project is not even on Dorsey’s radar for 2009. The city will shortly complete annexation of 39 mostly commercial parcels on Bethel, including Fred Meyer, which will generate subtantial sales tax revenue. The theory is that, as the rest of Bethel comes into the city limits, the cost to complete the widening with infrastructure will come in part from sales taxes. But the city will also be looking toward a variety of funding sources to see this project to completion, Dorsey said. The city is also asking the county to suspend a revenue sharing agreement that would increase the city’s share of revenue gradually over three years to provide the county a “soft landing” financially speaking.

The city has spent all but $6,500 out of $30,000 on a preliminary design for the town center/parking garage. They have also spent $16,000 on a geotechnical report to make sure the proposed building wouldn’t need extra support to prevent it sinking, as buildings close to a shoreline are prone to. The project is in the “very” preliminary stages, according to development director James Weaver. The prospectus on the town center (on the city’s Web site) includes a rather lengthy list of potential funding sources including:

“1. The Port of Bremerton, a major stakeholder that needs approximately 100 spaces, has indicated
a desire to provide commensurate funding of portions of one or more parking structures.
2. Federal funding through Congressional earmarks or programs.
3. Kitsap Transit, another major stakeholder that could seek funding through many sources to
support transit improvements and parking requirements for bus and ferry users.
4. Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority, as the Port Orchard designated development
authority for New Market Tax Credits and which can pursue both low interest loans and grants
in conjunction with arrangements with private developers.
5. The City of Port Orchard, which can obtain funds via a bond issue, sale of the existing library
parcel, and pursue grants and loans on its own.

Additional possible funding opportunities may include

6. Washington State Local Infrastructure Financing Tool (LIFT) funding opportunities
7. New Market Tax Credit financing
8. Federal Economic Stimulus financing
9. Federal Appropriations
10. Public / Private Partnerships
11. Community Development Block Grant and other potential funding sources.”

The item city residents will want to pay close attention to, and one that I’ll be watching, is: “The City of Port Orchard, which can obtain funds via a bond issue.”

So, getting back to the thrifty or cheap question, to what extent is major spending on infrastructure and development of public properties justified if the goal of the city is growth and economic development? Considering the state of the economy, to what degree should the city hold to its traditionally thrifty principals? Did adherence to those principals in any way cause the stagnation that Port Orchard is often cited as suffering from?

City of Port Orchard: Thrifty or Cheap?

You’ll have read in today’s Kitsap Sun that the county’s projected sales tax revenues are lower than expected.

According to the story by Steve Gardner:

“Revenues came in $600,000 less than expected for the year, even after the county had trimmed its original budget expectations by $2.8 million.”


The county is in good (?) company. Gardner writes:

“On Bainbridge Island, the city learned last week that permitting fee revenues were dramatically less than expected for the end of the year.

In Bremerton, the city closed its offices to the public on Fridays, in part to deal with a $4.4 million budget hole there. Poulsbo came in $1 million short after 2008. Steve Gardner just informed me (1:30 p.m.) that he heard from the city of Poulsbo an update that this city also came in about where they expected for revenue.

Port Orchard was the only city to come close to its original budget.” Port Orchard and Poulsbo both came in close to their original budgets.

When asked if Port Orchard was feeling the other cities’ budget pain, City Treasurer Kris Tompkins e-mailed me:

“We came into 2009 pretty close to budgeted beginning cash balances. We will be watching revenues (and expenditures) closely each month, particularly sales tax collections. I will be briefing the Mayor and
Finance Committee regularly so we can adjust if necessary.

As you know we tend to budget conservatively here.”

I can testify to this. I don’t live within city limits, but we get our water and sewer from Port Orchard. I can remember a time (definitely less than five years ago, possibly less than three) that the city did not provide return envelopes with its bills. I have jokingly said they charge by the sheet for toilet paper if you want to use the restroom at City Hall. It’s not true, but it reflects the mentality of at least the last 20 years, which is at least how long Tomkins has been with the city. In all probability she will continue to keep the city council on a short leash to extent her job description allows.

Gardner and I were talking about this yesterday evening. Playing devil’s advocate, Steve asked if budgeting conservatively is being straight up with constituents. After all, it boils down to underestimating revenues and overestimating expenses. City officials who budget spot on get dinged in an economy like this, where nasty surprises are the order of the day.

South Kitsap School District does the same thing as Port Orchard. The district reported a $2.9 million budget shortfall for the 2008-2009 school year, but about $2 million of that was what Terri Patton, assistant superintendent of business and support services, calls “soft money.” Because the district budgets conservatively, they ended up ahead by about $1 million at the end of the last school year. They used $470,000 for the district’s needs, reducing the fund balance below the targeted 3+ percent. They used $250,000 of their “contingency fund” (savings account for emergencies), and they had $184,000 in “carry over.” According to Patton, “We made real cuts of $900,000.”

So, playing the devil’s advocate, I would ask, “Is this playing the shell game with the public’s money or responsible stewardship of same? How does a public entity strike the balance between providing for the constituents’ needs and providing for a rainy day?”

(Let it be noted that both PO and SKSD, like all other jurisdictions, invest any excess funds to generate additional revenue. According to Patton, their cushion will be depleted by the 2009-2010 school year, and they’ll be looking at “real cuts of $3 to $5 million.)

Will Sidney Museum Be Displaced by Town Center Project?

A proposal to build a parking garage and community center on Prospect Street has members of the Sidney Museum and Arts Association feeling a little nervous.

Although city officials say plans aren’t set in stone, preliminary drawings show the Port Orchard Town Center Revitalization Project encroaching on the Sidney Museum and Art Gallery at the corner of Prospect and Sidney Avenue. Jud Turner, representing the nonprofit arts association, has asked the city council to preserve the historic building, constructed in 1908.

The proposed town center includes as 473-stall underground parking garage, 7,500 square feet of retail space and a new 13,500-square-foot library, along with pedestrian malls and other amenities that designers say would make the area a hub of city activity.

A story on the town center will run tomorrow in the Kitsap Sun.

The council on Tuesday will vote on a proposal to extend its contract with Art Anderson and Associates for a feasibility study and conceptual design of the center. The Bremerton firm will present a cost estimate for the project at the council’s Feb. 17 work study meeting at City Hall. Members of the association’s board also have been invited to speak at the meeting, which is open to the public.

At the council’s Jan. 20 work study, Turner asked the council to consider alternatives to tearing down the historic building. Councilman Fred Olin suggested the building could be moved, but the two-story museum has a number of structural problems that would make it costly and difficult to relocate, said Dorsey.
“I don’t know why the museum and library couldn’t share space. It seems like the perfect marriage,” said Dorsey.
“It’s very, very early in the process, so it’s good everyone is getting their concerns out on the table now,” said Development Director James Weaver.

The city has identified multiple funding sources for the project, including federal economic stimulus money. Although the city is not ready to break ground any time in the near future, it seems not a matter of if, but when the center will be built.

Anyone with an interest in the proposal or its impact on the museum may want to circle Feb. 17 on their calendar. In addition, city staff are meeting with the museum’s board at 6 p.m. Feb. 12 at the museum. The preliminary plan is available on the city’s Web site.

By the way, the extension of the $30,000 contract with Art Anderson will not add to the cost; $6,500 has yet to be spent. The council also authorized a geotechnical study with a different firm, costing $15,000, that showed the proposed structure could be built without having to be shored up with pilings.

South Kitsap Soccer Club Rising From the Ashes?

I received the following e-mail today from Mike Kerr, vice president of administration for South Kitsap Soccer Club. Mike wanted me to know that the club, serving more than 1,500 players, has reformed its ways since last year, when I did a story on the Kitsap Peninsula Youth Soccer Association’s intervention into club administration.

I was at the school board meeting Mike references, but I arrived late (with a focus on the district’s 2009/10 budget presentation) so wasn’t in on the presentation of a $10,000 donation from the club to the district to help with field maintenance. That’s not chicken scratch, especially considering the district’s budget crunch. The district for 2008/09 had to make $2.9 million in adjustments to balance its budget. With the state facing a $6 to $7 billion budget deficit, SKSD, along with all other Washington school districts, is bracing for even deeper cuts in the upcoming school year.

South Kitsap School District Superintendent Dave LaRose said he is grateful for the club’s donation and partnership. “It’s just another example of how we see our schools and facilities as having so much more influence than just bell-to-bell,” LaRose said.

On the flip side, little over a month ago, I heard from a former SKSC board member that, despite Mike’s upbeat report, there are residual and ongoing feelings of discontent with SKSC among some community members. I said at the time I would consider doing a story to update the club’s situation. My editor and I discussed the newsworthiness of the story (which is essentially about a group of adult volunteers who are having a hard time getting along) and, relative to other events and issues that needed coverage at the time, we decided to put it on the back burner. I guess I’d need to hear from people evidence to suggest this is newsworthy. Is the previous rift on the board actually harming the players the club is set up to serve? If so how? Have dynamics on the board improved? What do you think of the change from 21 to 13 board members?

If you prefer not to comment in this public forum, contact me by e-mail at or call (360) 792-9219. If you do post a comment, remember to avoid libelous or defamatory statements. Thanks, Chris

Here’s Mike Kerr:


While this time last year we, the South Kitsap Soccer Club, were taking a political beating from infighting and resignations to the point of having State intervention I thought that news of how the club is doing might be interesting.

This year we reduced the size of our executive board down to 13 members from the unmanageable 21 member size it had been. During the elections this year we also worked hard to identify other relationships that had been disregarded during the restructure including relationships with both Kitsap County Parks and especially the South Kitsap School District. The SKSC Board voted to have our organization as a public supporter of the upcoming Levy vote for SKSD and last night I appeared before the SKSD board meeting and donated a $10,000 check on behalf of the SKSC to the district to help keep the school grounds fields used for soccer in top shape. This was the result of my having met with the Facilities department head Tom O’Brien and discussing a renewed partnership between our two organizations for the betterment of the kids.

I don’t know if this is considered newsworthy, but it most certainly would shed light upon the positive direction our club has taken out of the ashes of last year’s political debacle. You sources on the SKSD board can confirm my claims.

Best regards,

Mike Kerr
SKSC VP of Admin

Kitsap Sun Intern’s First Impressions of South Kitsap

Let me introduce Angela Lu, our intern, at least through March. She is living in South Kitsap during her stay with us. Here she shares her honest impressions of South Kitsap.

Angela says:
First impressions of SK

The very first split second I saw South Kitsap — Port Orchard to be exact — was on the evening of January 2, 2009. All I could see of the city was what my headlights and the few bright lights of local eateries would shine light on:
Dark roads.
Fred Meyer (which I’m completely new with)
A few stores and parking lots.
More trees.
A place like nothing I’ve seen before.

Maybe my thoughts and opinions would make more sense if I tell you where I’m coming from. I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, which is half an hour (more like an hour with traffic) from Los Angeles. After graduating high school, I went to Northwestern University near Chicago to study journalism. And that is what led me here, to place I’ve never heard of, to intern for a quarter for the Kitsap Sun. After three months I’m headed back to Chicago to finish my junior year in college. Continue reading

South Kitsap Parks Grant Jeopardized by State Budget Deficit

I got an e-mail today from the county with an update on South Kitsap Regional Park. A park master plan was developed last year with input from the community and approved by the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners in November. The county has been screening vendors of playground equipment (high on the list of improvements to be made) and will soon begin a survey (the kind on the ground not on paper or online) of the park. But the e-mail gives a cautionary heads up that $500,000 in state recreation grants could be in jeopardy due to the state’s nearly $6 billion budget deficit.
Martha Droge, parks projects coordinator, said she and other parks staff are confident SK Park will eventually come into the money. Their grant application is rated fourth among more than 70 applications for the funds. But when and how much funding is appropriated is yet to be decided. I’ve got a few calls and e-mails out to people who may be able to give more information on the prognosis for the SK Park grant and for parks funding in general. Stay tuned.

Here’s what the county wrote:
Speaking of funding, we are anxiously waiting to hear about park grants funded by the legislature, including the $500K grant for this park from the state Recreation and Conservation Organization (RCO). Due to the state’s economic situation, the grant funding cycle is contingent upon legislative budget decisions that have yet to be made. Because the park scored very high — #4 out of 70+ — we are confident that it will be funded at some point even if delayed.