Monthly Archives: August 2009

American Marine smarts after taking a $20 million hit

Bainbridge-based American Marine Bank is suffering from nearly $20 million in losses during the first part of 2009. The cause: several real estate loans – mostly to home builders and developers – that fell into default.

Predicting that 2009 was going to be a tough year, the bank began laying off about a dozen people and reduced employee hours.

“Our problems are focused on a specific number (of) loans,” President and Chief Executive Officer Renzo Lucioni told Sun business reporter Rachel Pritchett.

For more, read Pritchett’s story here.

Council finally passes ordinance for green + affordable housing

Rendering of the Ferncliff housing project
Rendering of the Ferncliff housing project
The two most politicized words on Bainbridge Island are “density” and “water.” *

Having those two words attached to a proposed ordinance aimed at encouraging sustainable design and affordable housing ensured it would go through the wringer of staff revisions, several City Council-ordered rewrites and intense public scrutiny.

After about a year of work, the version that arrived before the council on Wednesday was trimmed and polished enough for unanimous approval.

Some supporters still worry that the ordinance, which establishes density bonuses and flexible design standards to encourage the construction of earth-friendly housing affordable for to middle-income people, may now have limited appeal to developers.

And critics say the ordinance may alter the island’s small town feel with high-density developments that draw down limited groundwater supplies.

The ordinance is likely to achieve one of it’s key goals: allow the Housing Resources Board to move forward with its planned 48-unit project on Ferncliff Avenue.

For more, read my story here.


*There’s also “Winslow Way,” but that’s a combination of two words.

Islander not returning as Puma’s coach

John Wedge
John Wedge
The Kitsap Pumas professional soccer team announced this week it would not renew island resident John Wedge’s contract as head coach.

After helping to build the team from scratch, Wedge coached the Pumas through 13 wins and just two losses. The Pumas ended their first season in the Premier Development League late last month with a playoff loss.

Wedge, who served as director of the Bainbridge Island Soccer Academy, told Sun sports reporter Jeff Graham that the team’s owner, Robin Waite, was unhappy with the Puma’s 1-2 loss to eventual league champion Ventura County.

“(Waite) felt we had a team that should have done better,” Wedge said. “To me, those expectations are unrealistic.”

Pumas executive director Ben Pecora, also an island resident, declined to say why Wedge’s contract wasn’t renewed.

Players expressed surprise at Wedge’s departure but noted that practice sessions sometimes lacked a professional feel.

For more, read Graham’s story, here.

City Council candidate forum packs City Hall

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Here’s the scene outside the packed City Council candidate forum last night. Drawing over 200 people, it was one of the biggest crowds I’ve seen at City Hall. Attendees were greeted by a cheering section made up of (from left to right) Alex Zwirner, Peggy Connolly, Marya DuMont and others.

Candidates discussed a range of topics, including Winslow Way, development, sidewalks, shoreline planning and each other. The topic that popped up the most, however, was the city’s budget. Read my coverage of the event here.

New poll: Would you support a $20 car tab fee?

What do you think of the proposed car tab fee winding its way through Bainbridge City Hall? Would the $20 per vehicle per year be too much of a burden in these hard economic times, or is the annual $440,000 for roads worth the cost?

Place your vote at the poll on the right side of the screen.

For more on the car tab fee proposal, click here.

As for our last poll about the future of Strawberry Plant Park, the final result was close.

57 percent (21 voters) supported the city’s shoreline restoration and park development plan.

43 percent (16 voters) said the city should leave the shore as-is and ask for more public input.

If you didn’t catch it, the latest news with the park is that the city hearing examiner tossed out an appeal of the city’s plan. To read more on that, click here.

The two-fisted, foul-mouthed whiskey king of Bainbridge Island

William Impett
William Impett

While digging into the history of Bainbridge distilleries for a recent story, I found a good amount of information about floating whiskey bars, desperately thirsty loggers and the reigning island whiskey king – William “Bob” Impett – a seaman, logger, druggist, miner and co-owner of the infamous Whiskey Forty, a backwoods still and saloon serving island mill workers in the late 1800s.

As is always the case when they let me run free in the Bainbridge Historical Museum’s library, I gathered way more information than I could put in my story. Fortunately, I have this blog to fill you in on all the booze-soaked history.

The company town of Port Madison (founded late 1850s) didn’t allow hard alcohol on its property, which included much of the north end of the island. Owner and town founder George Anson Meigs was an adamant teetotaler, allowing only beer at the town’s hotel.

William H. Seward, President Lincoln’s secretary of state, was impressed with Meigs’ efforts to keep Port Madison dry.

“Here is the modern sawmill of Puget Sound,” Seward wrote during a visit. “All the pleasant manifestations of family life were noticeable and not a drop of liquor was sold.”

Seward apparently didn’t venture near the town’s edges. That’s where a number of “whiskey farms” were known to operate – just beyond Meigs’ control, but close enough that workers could hike in for an after-work shot or two (or six).

Some whiskey shacks were best reached on water using whatever floating vessel could be had. One Bainbridge pioneer recounted seeing two Port Madison lumberjacks paddling on a log to a liquor establishment on a nearby point. Balanced between them was a hefty jug awaiting a refill.

Whiskey sellers also took to the seas to help workers get their fix. Floating bars – or “marine whiskey peddlers,” as Meigs called them – were frequent visitors to Port Madison.

“A floating whiskey battery and dance house is laying anchor around Puget Sound and the commanding pimp is to lay siege to all the different ports on the Sound, Port Madison not excepted,” reported a Seattle paper in 1866.

Meigs went after one floating saloon – Gin Palace Polly – in particular, successfully pinning several charges on its owner, Ben Sprague.

In the book “Son of the Profits,” author William Speidel wrote that Gin Palace Polly was “popular with the men who took the day off whenever Sprague’s jolly crew put in an appearance. It was less than enthusiastically received by the operators of the camps.”

Of all Port Madison’s whiskey purveyors, Impett’s Whiskey Forty received the most ink in history books.

“If you wanted to drink, that was the place,” island historian Jerry Elfendahl told me.

Sometimes described as a two-building establishment, the Forty was built teasingly close to Meigs’ property on 40 acres near the northwest intersection of present-day Sunrise Drive and Torvanger Road. While Meigs was successful in fining or shutting down other liquor establishments built or floated near his town, the Forty seems to have thrived for quite a while. Its success probably owes a lot to Impett, who appears to have been a tenacious, resourceful and downright mean guy – a match, perhaps, to Meigs, who museum director Hank Helm told me was a “scoundrel” in his own right.

Continue reading

Council candidates forum on Monday

The League of Women Voters of Kitsap and the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce will hold a forum for Bainbridge City Council candidates from 7 to 9 p.m. Aug. 10 at City Hall, 280 Madison Ave.

The following candidates have been invited and are expected to attend: Tim Jacobsen, Kirsten Hytopoulos and Curt Winston (South Ward District 3); Dee DuMont, Debbi Lester and Virginia Paul (Central Ward District 5); Melanie Keenen, Bob Scales and Debbie Vancil (North Ward District 7).

The public is welcome to attend and to bring questions for the candidates.

Multimedia boozeapalooza

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Click here to read my story on the opening of Kitsap County’s first legal distillery in over 100 years. The Bainbridge-based makers of vodka, gin and whiskey should be open to the public later this month. In fine Bainbridge fashion, the distillery is 100 percent organic and uses 100 percent local ingredients.

Kitsap Sun web editor and food aficionado Angela Dice pulled out all the stops, producing two videos, a photo gallery (with the help of intern Aaron Gould) and a blog post about the new distillery. Check out her blog, the Food Life, for more.

See one of her videos below. The other video, which explains how distilling alcohol works, is on Angela’s blog.

The story went on the AP wire and was picked up statewide – Seattle P-I, Tacoma News Tribune, Tri-City Herald, etc. – so the secret’s out. Stock up before the out-of-towners get their hands on all the Bainbridge-made booze.

Click here to visit Bainbridge Organic Distilleries’ website.

School district ponders new bond, reduced staff

Based on the talk at the last Bainbridge school board meeting, a new bond is a sure thing for the November ballot.

The price will be the same and so will the goals: replace Wilkes Elementary and renovate several other buildings.

Check out my story on the proposed bond here.

Also discussed at the meeting were the reduced staffing for the upcoming school year.

Certified staff (teachers, counselors, etc.) were 257 last year. Next year: 249.5

Classified staff (bus drivers, groundskeepers, food service workers) were 132 last year. Next year: 127.

Nine candidates, three races

By now you should have received your mail-in ballots. With no official voter’s guide published this time around, we’re making an extra effort to give you as much information as possible to cast an educated vote in the the three Bainbridge City Council races. Check out the multimedia resources below.

North Ward: Melanie Keenan, Bob Scales, Debbie Vancil (incumbent)
For the race profile, click here.

For basic info and candidate questionnaire answers, click here.

For audio of the candidates’ interview by the Sun editorial board, click here.

Central Ward: Dee DuMont, Debbi Lester, Virginia Paul
For the race profile, click here.

For basic info and candidate questionnaire answers, click here.

For audio of the candidates’ interview by the Sun editorial board, click here.

South Ward: Kirsten Hytopoulos, Tim Jacobsen, Curt Winston
For the race profile, click here.

For basic info and candidate questionnaire answers, click here.

For a video of the candidates’ interview by the Sun editorial board, click here.