Drive almost anywhere and you can see “Job Opening” signs.
The city of Poulsbo is no different – although when it comes to Public Works and the Police Department the demand is more urgent.
At Wednesday’s City Council meeting online, members were told not only does Poulsbo have only eight of the minimum 12 officers needed to have 24-hour coverage seven days a week, but is also lacks half the staff needed to handle garbage collection.
“It’s critical. I need bodies now,” said Mike Lund, Public Works director.
He said with only two of the four people needed to handle garbage collection he is having to pull a couple of people from other departments to get the job done.
That’s not the only area he needs help, as he’s down six employees overall. With vacations added to that, “The level of service is dropping,” he said, adding the future doesn’t look much better with five people planning to retire in the next few years.
Go to cityofpoulsbo.com to check on the job situations.
Being short police isn’t the only issue, Councilmember Ed Stern said when talking about the public safety and legal committee.
He said police need hybrid cars, digital storage for body cam video, and the city prosecutor needs a full-time assistant. He also said as Kitsap County and grant money ends the city will need to provide sustainable behavioral health funding.
Stern also talked about the 4th of July. He said the committee wants to place on a future council agenda a discussion about limiting fireworks to only July 3-4 from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. It would continue to allow fireworks on New Year’s Eve from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. By changing city code rather than instituting a ban the change could take place immediately rather than having to wait a year.
Council seemed to agree that selling fireworks as early as June 28 was unnecessary, as it only tempts people to shoot them off early. There was some disagreement about if retailers should continue to be able to sell fireworks as late as July 5. Some said it helps retailers dump stuff at cost so they don’t take a loss. While others wondered about the safety of buying fireworks then and storing them for a year. They did seem to agree that selling and setting them off on July 3 makes sense in Poulsbo, since that’s when the city traditionally celebrates its Fourth.
Whatever decision is made they also seemed to agree that educating the public about whatever changes there are is paramount.
Lund also talked about the Neighborhood Street Preservation Project. He said he’s done a lot of research for years and is ready to use a liquid seal to repair roads with just cracks in them. The process will extend the life of the roads up to 10 years, he said.
“It’s money well-spent,” he said, adding the budget is a little more than $304,000. A chip seal process would cost twice that and an overlay project almost five times that amount.
Councilmember Dave Musgrove said it looks like the “most economic way” to get the most “bang for the buck” and extend the life of roads. But he also wondered, since only one bid was received, if it might be better to hold off until other companies weren’t as busy to get more bids.
But Councilmember Connie Lord jumped in, saying that would only delay the project and make costs go up. She said it’s important to protect roads in “fair” condition so they don’t deteriorate to “poor” shape. She said she likes repairing roads, as the cost to take a road down to grade and rebuild it is “astronomical.”
The council then discussed American Rescue Plan Act funds, first for residents and then for nonprofits.
Finance director Deb Booher said for residents the $15,000 would be split up to applicants for utility assistance. The goal is to avoid loss of service for people who have suffered a loss of revenue due to COVID-19. She said there isn’t an income standard because some “higher middle class have been affected as well and still have a need.”
Musgrove added, “A lot people well off in 2019 were not in 2020.” He said they often are the ones who fall through the cracks as low-income folks often can receive help elsewhere.
Lord said some people who may need help may not have computers so the city needs to reach out to them, too.
A simple process also is available to nonprofits in need to help with economic recovery due to COVID.
Booher also gave her second quarterly financial report of the year. Because of COVID, the city was conservative in its financial projections so while revenues are behind they aren’t as bad as they could have been. Overall, revenues are supporting expenditures, she said.
Public, council comments
One public comment criticized Councilmember Andrew Phillips for his Blue Lives Matter flag that hangs behind him during Zoom meetings. She said if the city truly values diversity and wants more tolerance it can’t support a symbol of violence. She complained that for two years some community members have pushed for a race equity advisory group, but nothing has happened.
Later in the meeting Stern said a race equity committee is still being discussed.
Phillips said: “Everyone has a right to their opinion, but they have no right to take mine away.” He said the flag, which was made by a family member, shows his support for police who do what’s right to protect citizens. “There are bad apples everywhere,” and he does not support them in any way, he added.
The only other public comment was about parking spaces downtown. She said now that businesses are open to full capacity they should no longer take up parking spaces for outdoor service.
As for city comments, Mayor Becky Erickson said she wants to have one-on-one meetings with councilmembers this fall, along with a retreat. Since the council is going to remain stable despite the elections, she wants to know what they each want to accomplish in the next few years to make Poulsbo an even better place. “What does that look like? What’s missing?”
She also mentioned she’s excited that two new hotels will be opening in Poulsbo within two weeks of each other in early September.
Councilmembers Britt Livdahl and Lord mentioned COVID.
“COVID cases are rising, and that’s not what we want,” Livdahl said. “We need to come together as a community and end this as much as possible.”
Lord asked that everyone keep open minds and not be “fear based. You can be terrified without the proper information,” she said. “Pay attention to the facts and don’t get overwhelmed by media spin.”