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McCormick Woods Rumor Patrol

The Port Orchard City Council, Mayor Lary Coppola and city officials will host a Q&A session on the proposed McCormick Woods annexation at 7 p.m. Wednesday (tomorrow) at the Clubhouse at McCormick Woods.

One of the first questions they’ll address is whether Bremerton can annex McWoods via a vote of Bremerton’s citizens that would leave McCormick Woods residents entirely out of the loop. The short answer is, they can’t.

That according to city attorney Greg Jacoby, with whom I spoke tonight at the City Council meeting.

I’ve been trying to figure this out since I, as a McCormick Woods resident, received a mailing from the City of Port Orchard marked “annexation ballot enclosed,” which was sent out around the end of September.

City officials have made no secret of the fact that they would welcome a McCormick Woods annexation. The process was set in motion by a Q&A session hosted about a year ago by then-Mayor Kim Abel. The city has legitimate incentives to seek a McCormick Woods annexation, among them property tax revenue from McCormick Woods homeowners and increased access to state and federal grants as a larger jurisdiction, although there has also been talk of the contribution McWoods residents would potentially make on the city council.

On more than one occasion, PO officials have pledged their support of any organized effort on the part of McCormick Woods residents to annex. The city, as a gesture of support, picked up the tab for the mailing, which included:

* An invitation to the Q&A session.

* A list of “Advantages of Annexation,” drawn up by members of the McCormick Woods annexation committee (made up of McWoods residents who have organized the annexation petition drive and who have concluded, through their research, that annexation to Port Orchard holds significant advantages to residents).

* An individual copy of the annexation petition, ready for signatures.

* A letter from Mayor Coppola warning of the consequences, should McWoods residents decline to annex into PO. The alternative … dare we speak it? Bremerton.

Coppola noted that Bremerton in a recent update of its comprehensive plan included McCormick Woods in its expanded urban growth area. Bremerton City Council President Will Maupin has said that if McCormick Woods residents came to Bremerton with a petition to annex, that city would be open to accommodating them, but, Maupin added, historically, McWoods has been thought of as logically belonging within PO city limits and Bremerton did not have any plans to derail a McWoods annexation into PO.

Yet in the mailing to McWoods residents, Coppola writes, “considering Bremerton’s aggressive expansionism as illustrated by the Port of Bremerton and SKIA, you can only wonder what it must have in mind for the long term future of McCormick Woods.”

Oh, yeah, that SKIA thing. It’s no secret that Port Orchard has been stung by Bremerton’s reticence to guarantee that PO will provide sewer service to South Kitsap Industrial Area, according to a 2003 memorandum between PO and the Port of Bremerton. POB is the primary landowner within the 3,400-acre SKIA, slated for industrial development. Bremerton earlier this year accepted a petition by landowners in SKIA North, representing 150 acres of the SKIA puzzle, to annex. PO recently pressed the county’s Boundary Review Board, charged with vetting the proposed annexation of SKIA into Bremerton, to hold a public hearing on SKIA North. Bremerton has also approved a petition to annex SKIA South (the rest of the acreage, including land held by the POB) and it is likely PO will call for a formal challenge of that proposal as well.

So where were we? Oh, yes, Coppola’s letter to McWoods residents. Coppola said that since a portion of McCormick Woods (McCormick North, a.k.a The Ridge) is contiguous with land on Anderson Hill Road that is part of the City of Bremerton, Bremerton could annex that area “by a simple majority vote of its existing citizens.” I did a reality check with Coppola via e-mail last week, asking what citizens he was talking about, and he replied back “Bremerton’s.”

I also checked with James Weaver, Port Orchard’s Development Director, who was under the same impression. Both Coppola and Weaver referenced a no contest clause residents of The Ridge signed prohibiting them from opposing any proposed annexation.

Weaver said, “The Ridge is abutting the City of Bremerton existing City Limits (formerly known as Northwest Corporate Campus) and, from my understanding, may be annexed upon request by the City of Bremerton without vote or McCormick initiated petition.”

Weaver, in his e-mail to me referenced the Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington publication on annexation as a source of information on the methods by which an annexation may be achieved. Among them is an election process initiated by a city council that wishes to annex a given area, but, as I read in the fine print, the people who ultimately get to vote are not the residents of the municipality seeking to annex the area, but the residents of the area to be annexed.

Weaver also deferred to the city attorney on the issue, saying he is not the authority on annexation law. Jacoby said McCormick Woods residents would definitely be the ones to vote on an annexation with Bremerton. But what if … I asked … Bremerton only wanted to annex the Ridge, which can’t object because of the no contest clause. Jacoby said he’d get back to me on that scenario, which, I admit, is highly speculative. I mean, why annex The Ridge and not the rest of McCormick Woods? But surely it’s a question residents of The Ridge will want answered.

To add to the confusion, the McCormick Woods annexation committee also bought into the Bremerton-take-over idea. In its “advantages” list, the committee said that inaction on a McWoods-PO marriage would mean “we could do nothing and still be annexed into the City of Bremerton with or without our consent.”

According to Jacoby, that’s not true.

It does not appear the mayor or the annexation committee were being duplicitous, just misinformed. Jacoby said he first learned of Coppola’s assertions about a possible McTake-over by Bremerton this morning.

During a discussion with the City Council on Wednesday’s upcoming Q&A on McWoods, Coppola sought a different tone regarding other jursidictions and their relationship to McWoods. The reference was actually to Kitsap County’s budget burden, especially if Silverdale incorporates. But, to me, Coppola seemed to be backpedaling when he said of city officials conduct at the annexation meeting, “I don’t think we want to denigrate anybody. I don’t think that makes us look good. … We’re going to take the high road.”

Follow Up on Port Orchard City Hall Resignations

The City of Port Orchard has responded (in timely fashion) to the Kitsap Sun’s request for documents related to the resignations of three city staff members since January. I wrote about the resignations when former city clerk Michelle Merlino left in June.

Merlino’s resignation bears similarities to those of former city engineer Maher Abed, who resigned in April, and former city planner, JoAnne Long-Woods, who resigned shortly after Coppola took office.

The “separation and release” agreements show severance payments made to the three individuals as follows:

Michelle Merlino:

1.5 months’ salary – $8,322.60

133.57 hours accrued vacation – $4,275.58

1 month medical premiums – $956.25

Total: $13,554.43


1 month salary – $8,481.20

22 hours vacation – $3,522.96

1 month medical premiums – $956.25

Total: $12,960.41


1 month salary – $7,869.80

3 months medical premiums – $1,434.39

Total: $9,331.19

The total cost of the three resignations to the city, therefore, is $35,846.03.

Long-Woods also agreed “that she will never reapply for employment with the city for any position.”

All three agreements included a provision that the city “agrees not to make disparaging remarks of a personal or professional nature” about the individual, who in turn “agrees that she (he) will not make disparaging comments of a personal or professional nature about the city or its current or former elected officials, public officers, directors, employees, representatives, agents, insurers, successors and assigns.

According to the letter I received with the documents, the mayor derives his authority to appoint or remove officials in these positions under the Port Orchard Municipal Code.

POMC 2.08.010: Appointment and removal of the city clerk, city treasurer, city engineer and police chief.*
The mayor of the city may appoint or remove the city clerk, city treasurer, city engineer and the police chief subject to a confirmation vote by a majority of not less than four members of the city council. Such appointments and removals must be in writing, signed by the mayor and filed with the city clerk. (Ord. 1830 § 1, 2001; Ord. 1223 § 1, 1982; Ord. 1056 § 1, 1978; Ord. 919 § 1, 1973; Ord. 759 § 1, 1966; Ord. 685 § 1, 1961).

* Appointment authorized – See RCW 35.23.021.

RCW 35.23.021: The mayor shall appoint and at his or her pleasure may remove all appointive officers except as otherwise provided herein: PROVIDED, That municipal judges shall be removed only upon conviction of misconduct or malfeasance in office, or because of physical or mental disability rendering the judge incapable of performing the duties of his or her office. Every appointment or removal must be in writing signed by the mayor and filed with the city clerk.

Speaking of South Kitsap: Same Blog, New Address

Dear Blog Readers/Commenters

The Kitsap Sun is switching its blogs to a new improved software that, among other features, will allow comments to be posted automatically after your first post is approved.

The new address is

It looks a little different, but still has the same archive of posts and
comments, a couple new bells and whistles and hopefully better, more
consistent functionality.

For those of you who subscribe to the Speaking of South Kitsap blog via
e-mail, your subscription has been transferred, and you will be e-mailed
each new post.

For those of you subscribing via RSS, you will have to re-subscribe for the
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Thanks for your patience during this transistion.

Chris Henry