State of city shows Poulsbo has much to consider

Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson presented the State of the City at the March 8 City Council meeting, going over each of the department’s recent progress as well as planning for the future.

Housing, Health and Human Services was highlighted by the Poulsbo Fire CARES program, a mobile integrated health response that is a joint effort with Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue. Also mentioned was the 1/10th of 1% sales tax for affordable housing that was approved by council. Another large HHHS project is the Nordic Cottages as the city looks to provide affordable housing for low-income seniors, per city documents.

“It’s really unusual for a city of our size to be doing any of this,” Councilmember Britt Livdahl said. “We’re punching well above our weight.”

For police and courts, Kitsap County is providing the city new prosecution and defense attorneys in the wake of former city prosecutor Alexis Foster’s resignation in October. The presentation mentioned that police are fully staffed but more is needed, documents state. Community policing and crisis intervention team training are also an emphasis for the city, along with speed enforcement. Another key aspect was the need for state laws to change, such as House Bill 1054, which states law enforcement can only engage in a vehicle pursuit if there is “probable cause” to arrest a person for committing a violent crime or sex offense.

Parks and Recreation recently hired new director Jeff Ozimeck, replacing Dan Schoonmaker, who left for a police position in Port Orchard.

The Poulsbo Events and Recreation Center has pivoted to a phased approach, starting with Phase 1, which would include two turfed and lighted tournament fields, with outdoor amenities such as basketball and pickleball courts, picnic shelters, Pacific Northwest-inspired playground, seating along walking paths and concession stands for sports tournaments. The PERC will be located near College Marketplace.

More parks are also in the works, such as Morrow Community Park and Play for All. The city has also received or is in the process of receiving land donations such as the Edwards properties, O’Neil property, and Snider Park. With all that’s going on in the parks department, Erickson raised the question, “Are people willing to pay more?” She mentioned a metropolitan park district could help with that.

“There’s lots of activity going on but we need money,” she said. “The parks department needs a sustainable funding source.”

For planning and economic development, Erickson asked if the city’s population will be 24,808 by 2050, to which she replied “yes.” She said many houses are coming along but can we afford them? The presentation also says code changes will need to be more flexible and that state law changes are pushing the city to do more.

Engineering and building are facing challenges in infrastructure and construction. The $18.5 million Highway 305/Johnson Parkway roundabout project is slated to be completed in April. The presentation also stated there was a $68 million valuation of permits last year. Downtown parking was another key issue the city will tackle in the near future.

Some questions the city needs to consider were outlined in the presentation.

● How do we create more affordable housing while retaining community character and preserving trees and open space?

● Health Care: next steps? Hospital Benefit District? The CARES teams? Old models restored?

● Crime and addiction: Are they linked? A co-response approach? Homelessness? Tools for enforcement? Hinderance of state laws.

● How do we solve the parking problem in downtown Poulsbo? Parking garage?

● What are we going to do about the old Albertsons Store? What about other vacant property?

● Should the Farmers Market assume the old Public Works location? And does Coffee Oasis buy/grant the building?

● How do we make our roads and walkways safe from speeding cars, including Highway 305?

● We will outgrow our police station: What next?

● More active recreation? Pickleball, skate park, STO, PERC? What about public art?