The year 2017 … For most folks, it was a year filled with its share of good and bad, triumphs and tragedies. We hope yours had more of the former and little or none of the latter.
In this issue, The Independent reviews the first half of 2017 in Port Orchard and South Kitsap. Port Orchard and South Kitsap suffered a few bumps and bruises as a community along the way. By and large, however, we can feel good about the direction our community is headed.
Here are some reasons to believe we’re in for a brighter 2018:
— The Tremont Street widening project is well underway. Contractors got to work in July, shortly after the City Council gave the go-ahead for the long-awaited transportation project that, when finished, will alleviate traffic congestion on this busy arterial leading into the city.
— Kitsap Transit’s fast ferry from Bremerton to downtown Seattle is now operational. It is the first leg of the agency’s ambitious plan for fast-ferry service from multiple Kitsap locations into Seattle. Southworth service is expected to debut in 2020. Rich Passage 1, the only fast ferry in the fleet to date, has been plagued by mechanical issues since it began service in July, but we’re confident those troubles will be resolved next year so that commuters can count on more dependable schedules. Despite the growing pains, the introduction of fast-ferry service has been a welcome addition to Kitsap County’s limited transportation options for commuters who work in Seattle.
— The Port Orchard City Council has been a productive group this year in moving forward the city’s progressive agenda. In addition to approving the Tremont project, the council also is moving forward on plans to build a number of park projects that will make Port Orchard a more desirable place to live and work: the McCormick Woods Park plan and two pocket parks projects — Waterfront Park near the gazebo and nearby Rockwell Park, to be situated next to Comfort Inn. Council members and the mayor also should be lauded for bringing order to the city’s tangled code ordinances, a tedious and complicated process, but one that has been needed for many years. The council also adopted code-city status for Port Orchard, bringing it in line with the vast majority of other municipalities in Washington state.
— Thankfully the homelessness issue hasn’t been swept under the rug by Kitsap County and city government leaders. Major headway has been made to create livable spaces for those without safe housing. Our not-for-profit community has stepped up in a significant way materially by building a number of tiny homes, soon to be placed in designated safe areas in the county. Shout-outs to the volunteers who have helped move the tiny homes agenda forward — most notably Tim Blair, pastor of Ekklesia Church in South Kitsap, Port Orchard Mayor Rob Putaansuu and the city’s homelessness committee, and Kitsap County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido.
— South Kitsap Fire and Rescue is back on track under the leadership of Fire Chief Steve Wright. Fruits from the passage of a $4.9 million fire equipment and apparatus bond measure in 2015 arrived in South Kitsap this year: six fire engines and five tenders, which now are in service.
The district was judicious when it ordered apparatus — they achieved significant savings with the bond money and was able to purchase a few additional pieces of rolling stock to replace worn-out vehicles. SKFR also will benefit from a levy lift renewal by voters in August. Residents living in the south part of this county should take comfort knowing that their fire district is now better able to quickly respond to fire and medical emergencies in the coming years.
— On the retail front, events were mixed in Port Orchard. Sadly, the landmark A&W restaurant on Mile Hill Drive has gone out of business and is for sale. And a favorite of chocoholics and ice cream aficionados, Carter & Co., lost its lease in the Port Orchard Public Market due to landlord-tenant conflicts.
The business run by Matt Carter, however, still has a presence at its other location at Westbay Shopping Center. But several new small businesses have opened on Bay Street. And early next year, Josephine’s Redeemed Boutique will reopen as Josephine’s Mercantile in the vacant former site of the Port Orchard Pavilion.
— Home Made Cafe, a favorite breakfast and lunch restaurant in town, will be better able to service the large crowd of customers who line up outside the converted church building for Sunday breakfasts.
Last month, restaurant owners Suanne Martin Smith and Paul Robinson won a $20,000 edg3 small-business competition sponsored by Kitsap Bank. The entrepreneurs are using the money to install a new freezer and update the restaurant’s kitchen.
We pay tribute
We pay tribute to two civic leaders we lost in 2017: Fathoms O’ Fun volunteer Jessie Turner and unofficial historian and Port Orchard booster Bryan Petro, who sadly passed away way too soon.
Thank you for tirelessly serving our community. We miss you.