Poulsbo votes no on giant troll sculpture

High cost, lack of fundraising groups among concerns

A giant troll sculpture won’t be coming to Poulsbo after all.

The City Council voted Oct. 5 to not go through with the statewide Pacific Northwest Troll Project, which would have implemented a giant troll sculpture at Fish Park.

The council decided it would be too expensive, other city projects take priority, it lacked longevity, and there was a lack of volunteer groups stepping up to raise funds for the project, which would have been around $75,000.

“I still have some major problems with this project,” Councilmember Gary McVey said. “We’re being asked to approve a contract for funding without having the funding in place. If we were going to raise $75,000 plus for community improvement, I would like to see it be raised for something the community really wants such as a skate park, a permanent farmers market, pickleball courts, the list goes on.”

McVey said that even if private funds were raised, there would still be in-kind city costs. The city would have been required to maintain the sculpture through the artist and his team, along with paying travel expenses for them.

The councilmember noted that even Danish artist Thomas Dambo said the sculptures only last three to five years as they are made from recycled wood.

“If you factor the in-kind cost of city labor…and the cost to maintain it over time, you’re talking about a heck of a lot of money,” McVey said. “I just don’t think it sends the right message about the city’s priorities right now.”

Councilmember Connie Lord added: “Why would we want to spend that kind of money for three to five years of a sculpture that deteriorates? We’re in such a bad economy and shaky future that we need to watch our pennies. Good ideas aren’t always feasible.”

In June, the council sent a letter of interest to explore bringing a troll to Poulsbo as part of a larger regional installation in 2023.

Dambo, based in Copenhagen, is well-known for his large-scale troll sculptures. A whimsical story is woven into each project, where giant trolls encourage people to explore the outdoors and protect the environment. He has created over 80 trolls around the world.

Contracts submitted on behalf of Dambo and the Scan Design Foundation proposed two stipulations for the council to consider — 1) the city provide in-kind support with volunteer labor, land and housing for the artist team, but no financial remuneration from city funds. Moving forward with the project was contingent on private funding through donations from a community partner. 2) Declining to pursue the project.

However, in support of more public art in Poulsbo, Councilmember Andrew Phillips floated the idea of having local resident Bill Austin build a troll that could be more useable and last longer. Austin has helped the city with many projects over the years, including most recently helping refurbish the downtown clock on Front Street.

Other items

Public Works went over the Parks and Recreation building roof replacement contract, which was awarded to Signature Roof Service LLC for $107,562. The roof is over 30-years-old, and the city has limited records from when the building was a school, documents say.

In 2016, the city replaced part of the roof, and this contract is to replace the remaining sections, which does not include the basketball court. The HVAC unit has already been replaced.

Also at the meeting, Housing, Health and Human Services director Kim Hendrickson presented a grant opportunity for expansion of the Fire CARES Program to Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue. The Association for Washington Cities has approximately $2 million from the Health Care Authority to award to cities starting up new “alternative response” programs. Fire CARES is called out specifically by AWC as being a preferred alternative response.

The grant, if awarded, would start a new program called Fire CARES-Central, which would be based on the Fire CARES program at the Poulsbo Fire Department. The program would be staffed by a full-time firefighter/EMT employed by CKF&R and a full-time social worker employed by the city of Poulsbo, documents read.

The team would also include a part-time substance use disorder professional. Fire CARES-Central would respond to behavioral health-related 911 calls. The team would work with the existing Poulsbo CARES program to ensure seven-day coverage in the North Kitsap/Central Kitsap. The application to AWC is $211,000.

Both items will be placed on the consent agenda for approval during the Oct. 12 meeting.