By Rob Gelder, Ed Wolfe and Charlotte Garrido
Kitsap County Board of Commissioners
We hope the New Year is off to a good start for the citizens of Kitsap County and want to share our 2019 priorities with you.
The state Legislature is back in session and we’re working closely with our representatives in Olympia to leverage Kitsap County’s opportunities for economic and business growth, employment services, environmental protection and funding. We also serve on a number of regional boards to collaborate on programs, policies and strategies that will benefit Kitsap residents.
Looking back at some of our major accomplishments in 2018, we celebrated the completion of community fundraising through the Kitsap Forest & Bay Campaign to purchase the Port Gamble Forest Heritage Park, preserving nearly 3,500 acres of habitat and open space for generations to come.
Similarly, the stewardship plan for Coulter Creek’s 1,195 acres was adopted and we look forward to its implementation. We wrapped up capital projects, including significant improvements to the south end of Silverdale Way and a new bridge over the estuary off West Kingston Road.
Our goal to strengthen community partnerships resulted in a new picnic shelter at Wild Cat Lake and improved athletic fields at the fairgrounds. The Homes for All coalition is creating a village of tiny homes in South Kitsap and addressing housing solutions countywide. Such partnerships encourage innovations, leading to more efficient and effective use of public funds, and we’ll continue to pursue opportunities in 2019.
The launch of an online permit center in the Department of Community Development is helping to improve permit review times and access to related services. To further increase transparency in local government, a new online public-facing dashboard provides monthly updates on the county’s $433 million budget.
Following completion of a 2018 feasibility and needs assessment, plans to construct a new courthouse and centralized law and justice center continue. Both are sorely needed to replace inadequate, aging facilities.
We worked with Kitsap Mental Health Services last year to open a triage center in Bremerton, providing a safe place for people in mental health or substance abuse crises to receive immediate care. In 2019, we expect to fund $96 million in human services programs (including veterans’ assistance, employment, developmental disabilities, homelessness, behavioral and mental health, youth support, substance abuse prevention, aging and long-term care). These locally provided services are as good as anywhere in Washington!
In January, our staff began to gather input on short-term vacation rental policy. A survey is open to collect public comments that will help shape policies and enforcement strategies. We will also continue to refine a bag-ban ordinance to reduce single-use plastic bag consumption and are discussing a countywide policy with Kitsap city councils.
We know it is crucial to ensure a strong, long-term, sustainable financial strategy for Kitsap County to fund new road projects and maintain our existing system. We continue to expand and promote pedestrian connections, as well as safety improvements between schools, parks and residential areas.
New projects are underway on Washington Boulevard in downtown Kingston, Ridgetop Boulevard and Bay Shore Drive in Silverdale and Golf Club Hill Road in Central Kitsap. We also secured $1.24 million to do preliminary engineering for plans to reroute ferry traffic in downtown Kingston and start the design of an additional vehicle holding lot.
The second phase of a project at the Harper Estuary in South Kitsap replaces two 36-inch culverts with a bridge to restore natural tidal flow. The community is helping plan enhancements for Harper Park that will include trails and interpretive signage.
We’re committed to serving you and improving the health, safety and quality of life for all Kitsap residents. Visit www.kitsapgov.com to learn more and sign up to receive newsletters and other important news through our electronic notification system. Contact us at 360-337-7080, firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Charlotte Garrido, Rob Gelder and Ed Wolfe are members of the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners.