PORT ORCHARD — By just about every measure, the City of Port Orchard can say it addressed — or continues to address — a challenging list of goals it set for the year 2019.
Of Port Orchard’s eight priority capital projects last year, five were completed and three are in process, said Mayor Rob Putaansuu, who shared a status update with Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce luncheon members last month. He later presented his state of the city remarks at a City Council meeting in January.
Topping Putaansuu’s list was the behemoth Tremont Street widening project, a $21 million construction effort 15 years in the making, which was the costliest ever for the city. The next-costliest project, City Hall’s construction in 1999, came in at $6 million.
The now-completed Tremont expansion is a showcase for Port Orchard, literally and figuratively.
The two-lane arterial connecting downtown Port Orchard to State Route 16 was widened to four lanes, which can now accommodate traffic congestion during commuter stress times in the morning and afternoon. Two roundabouts at the Pottery Avenue and South Kitsap Boulevard interchanges have smoothed out backups leading into and out of the city.
But the commute has improved for people using public transit along the route, as well. New bus stops were included in the Tremont project plan, as were ease ways for buses making passenger stops, which Putaansuu said have made the route safer for those using that option. As work on Tremont progressed over the past two years, crews took advantage of the disruption to upgrade the city’s public utility systems — stormwater, sewer and electrical — so yet another need for detours and delays in the near future could be avoided.
At the roadway’s surface level, however, Port Orchard now has a landscaped transportation gateway leading into downtown with signature signage for drivers and passengers arriving at the South Kitsap Boulevard roundabout.
Bay Street Pathway
Another key high-profile project, the Bay Street Pathway phase-three element, was completed last year, Putaansuu said. That segment connects Port Orchard’s Waterfront Park and the pedestrian bridge at Blackjack Creek to the shoreline side of the Comfort Inn and Titus Ford, where the newly finished Rockwell Park sits for use by residents and visitors. The remaining section is to be completed sometime in 2023.
Upgrades to the city’s water system were also high on Port Orchard’s priority list in 2019. Putaansuu said a treatment system for the city’s Well No. 9 was completed, and work on a drilling and conveyance system for Well No. 13 got underway last year. Also in-work was the McCormick lift station No. 2. And the marina pump station also got attention last year.
Other prioritized projects got underway in 2019, led by funding decisions made by the Kitsap Public Facilities District board of directors to provide budget priority to a major mixed-use commercial/residential project downtown. The first phase of that project, undertaken by Sound West Group of Bremerton, is to build the South Kitsap Community Events Center in downtown Port Orchard. The building is to also house the relocated Port Orchard branch of the Kitsap Regional Library system.
The redevelopment project also will feature a relocated downtown location for Kitsap Bank and hundreds of new housing units for the South Kitsap region.
A significant new hire was made, the mayor said, to fill Police Chief Geoffrey Marti’s retirement vacancy this summer. After an extensive search that included candidates from the region, Putaansuu selected Poulsbo’s assistant police chief, Matt Brown, to lead the city’s law enforcement agency.
Goals and priorities for 2020
While the city completed a bulky list of goals for 2019, it has more than its share of priorities to finish this year. Aside from the multi-phased downtown commercial/residential project, the mayor said city officials hope to also invest in public infrastructure improvements, of which about $4 million is in deferred maintenance. Much of that repair and renovation list is centered at City Hall.
“If I ever took you up to the clock tower, you’d find a big tub filled with a sump pump on it with a big garden hose that goes out on the roof,” the mayor said. “That’s not a good situation. We also need to put a [new] roof on it, so we need to evaluate it — there’s plenty of roof space — to see if solar panels make sense.”
Putaansuu said the civic building is now in need of a replacement for its signature clock, a new roof and windows, exterior painting, and cleaning and sealing of brickwork. Officials also will evaluate the effectiveness and the return on investment by installing solar panels. Inside City Hall, Putaansuu said a lengthy list of replacement projects await, including ADA-compliant customer service counters, window coverings, office space needing efficiency remodeling, and the usual need for interior painting, HVAC, LED lighting and generator upgrades.
Even with millions visualized for deferred maintenance, the end result still leaves a need for extra office space, which the city is sorely lacking, Putaansuu said.
Also on the docket are updates to planning documents for major transportation projects identified by government officials, including the Bethel-Sedgwick (Highway 16/160 interchange) corridor, the Anderson Hill roundabout and maintenance and improvements to existing city surface streets.