PORT ORCHARD — The parking lot at Bethany Lutheran Church Friday was a veritable “who’s who” of Kitsap County politics and state government.
Port Orchard Mayor Rob Putaansuu was there to shepherd people together for a modest ceremony. He first urged folks to get themselves a helping of hot dogs, chips and cake. And then gathered them together to listen to him describe the city’s long struggle in finding funding to widen and update Tremont Street, a busy arterial leading into the downtown area from Highway 16.
Then there was former state Sen. Jan Angel. Before Putaansuu made his remarks to the crowd, Angel — with a smile — said to a few onlookers that the Tremont project was “her baby.” Angel and other 26th Legislative District representatives over the past decade helped the city gain state funding for the $21 million project — including a crucial $8 million from the state’s Transportation Improvement Board and $2 million from the state’s capital budget.
“I’d like to really acknowledge Sen. Angel for her leadership through that process,” Putaansuu said, “as well as Reps. Caldier and Young. Without the additional $2 million that we got from the capital budget, [the city] would have been forced to bond $8 million, and not $6 million.”
While Kitsap County District 2 Commissioner Charlotte Garrido, who represents the South Kitsap area, was waylaid a bit from attending, her fellow District 3 commissioner, Ed Wolfe, was there. Also at the ceremony were Bremerton Mayor Greg Wheeler and Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson, all helping political players who helped steer $1.7 million to the project from the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council.
Port Orchard government leaders — all of the City Council members were at the ceremony, as were new police chief Matt Brown and South Kitsap Fire and Rescue Chief Steve Wright — listened to Putaansuu recount the often agonizing delays and difficulties in securing money from different government sources.
The mayor told the audience that when the actual construction started two years ago, “Guess what we found? Rocks the size of cars. Pipes where they weren’t supposed to be and soils that weren’t compatible for what we were supposed to be doing building a road on top.”
Even with $1 million in contingency funds, the project wound up with a $1.3 million budget shortfall caused by those unexpected construction issues. The city was forced to once again seek the help of what Putaansuu called “the Kitsap contingent” — Erickson, Wheeler and Commissioner Gelder, as well as Port Orchard councilmember Bek Ashby, who all sit on the Puget Sound Regional Council’s Transportation Policy Board. The group was able to get the needed funding to make up the shortage.
“What this demonstrates is the importance of partnerships and relationships,” Putaansuu said. “If our small cities and our Kitsap contingent hadn’t banded together, the City of Port Orchard would have had to tap our reserves to make up the difference.”
The mayor said that as a result of this patchwork of funding, what Port Orchard now has with the finish of the Tremont project is “underground utilities, upgraded sewer lines, stormwater facilities where we had none before, bike lanes and sidewalks, two double-lane roundabouts, LED street lights, a sign that welcomes you to [the city] and landscaping that says, ‘This is the gateway to Port Orchard.’”