New police officer — and new biennial city budget —for Poulsbo

City Council welcomes new officer and his wife, approves budget and comprehensive plan at Dec. 14 meeting.

Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson swore in a new community services officer Dec. 14 and the City Council approved the 2016 Comprehensive Plan Update and the city’s 2017-18 budget — the city’s first biennial budget.

$81.5 million budget

The council approved a biennial budget totaling about $81.5 million over the next two years.

This is the first time the city has experimented with a two-year budget and council members praised the staff for how well the process went.

“It’s been a big move, but it’s been relatively painless,” Council member Ken Thomas said.

Cities like Bainbridge Island have used biennial budgeting and officials there say that it encourages strategic planning by helping officials and planners think further out while reducing the staff’s workload, as they only have to prepare the voluminous required support documents for every department once every two years instead of annually.

According to Poulsbo Finance Director Debbie Booher, the 2017-18 budget is designed largely to “catch up from stuff we didn’t do due to the recession,” including filling vacant positions and replacing worn-out equipment.

Holding the line on utility taxes

One bright spot for homeowners is that the city reduced utility taxes for water and sewer — from $1.68 for every $1,000 of assessed value, to $1.60 per $1,000. This reflects an increase in citywide property valuation, and doesn’t mean utility bills will necessarily go down.

Engineering charges increasing

Other fees and charges will be going up, in particular charges related to engineering, most of which hadn’t been adjusted since 2013.

As Mayor Becky Erickson and Planning and Economic Development Director Karla Boughton explained it, all of the “square, flat plats” in the urban growth area have been built on. That means any new developments present more challenges when it comes to grade and environmental concerns, and that means the city engineering staff has to spend more time evaluating proposals and, as Mayor Erickson has said in the past, “Progress pays for progress.”

According to Senior Engineer Technician Michael Bateman, look for increases in the engineering application fees, the engineering hourly rate, engineering construction design fees, and the grading permit fees.

The new grading permit fees will range from $360 for 500 cubic feet to $1,800 for 50,000 cubic feet. These amounts are less than those charged by Gig Harbor and Kitsap County, but higher than Port Orchard and Bainbridge Island.

Police department fully staffed

With the swearing in of Community Service Officer Jeremy Robinson, the Poulsbo Police Department is now considered fully staffed.

Robinson’s duties include code enforcement, courtroom duty, and electronic home monitoring.

In addition to Robinson, the department has welcomed a new chief and a new patrol officer in recent months. In addition, a part-time police clerk is now working for the department full-time.

Prosecuting attorney’s staff grows

The now full-time police clerk had been working part-time for Risk Manager/City Prosecutor Alexis Foster. However, that is no longer necessary as the new budget adds a full-time paralegal to Foster’s staff.

In addition to service as city prosecutor, Foster handles risk management and redacts public information requests.

2016 Comprehensive Plan Update approved

The final public hearing on the 2016 draft of the city’s Comprehensive Plan took place, followed by approval of amendments to the plan. Final approval will take place at the next council meeting.

Like the budget, it too was a mammoth undertaking — in this case taking almost two years and involved interacting with federal, state, regional and local government agencies. The council praised Boughton and her staff for the accomplishment.

That said, some of the most interesting parts of the discussion came from a few involved residents who took the time to come to the meeting and share their ideas and concerns.

Concern for the environment

Poulsbo resident Jan Wold expressed concern that the Comp Plan revisions “eliminate statements about maintaining the environmental health of Poulsbo.” Specifically, she was concerned that Parks and Recreation policy PRO2.4 eliminated wording that encouraged wildlife.

Council voted to replace the deleted section.

What about Edward Rose?

Wold also asked why the long-proposed Edward Rose project on Bond Road was not included in the revised plan, given that, if it is built out, it is expected to boost Poulsbo’s population by 10 percent (North Kitsap Herald, June 29, 2011).

Boughton explained that, while the project appears to finally be going ahead — with plans for housing, apartments and senior care — no formal designs have been submitted and so it was not included.

Possible park added

Resident Molly Lee’s 10- year quest to get the city to consider building a park on Olhava Way NW next to Walmart bore fruit at last. The council instructed Boughton to include the 9.2-acre forested parcel in the list of properties the city hopes to acquire in the next 20 years.

Kudos to garbage crew

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor Santa Claus can stop Poulsbo’s garbage collectors from making their appointed rounds. It seems Poulsbo is the only city in Kitsap County whose garbage trucks will run at their regular scheduled times during the holidays.