Poulsbo City Hall plods into unknown

As of today, there are exactly 105 days remaining until Little Norway’s big adventure to answer the seemingly age-old question of where city hall should land ends. Or at least, that’s the latest prediction from the Waterfront Park Viking. He’s been wrong before, but it’s a new year, so let’s give him a chance.

Perhaps intrigued or entranced by the renaissance of the once downtrodden Bremerton led by its Bellevue-transplant Mayor Cary Bozeman and its economic development guru Gary Sexton, city officials are clanging the bell of public/private partnerships in hopes that the milk cow will come traipsing down Front Street with the perfect plan for a new city hall tied around her neck.

If Redmond can build a 94,000 square foot city hall building with almost 200 underground parking spaces and a 400-space parking garage for less than $32 million, why can’t Poulsbo get a 30,000 square foot city hall building with 100 underground parking spaces and a parking garage in the same type of arrangement, city officials are wondering.

That’s a good question worth asking, but Redmond and Poulsbo aren’t exactly mirror images of each other.

Poulsbo is known for its Norwegian heritage. Redmond is known for Microsoft and Bill Gates. Redmond’s population is almost 50,000, and Poulsbo’s is only 7,500.

So in other words, Redmond is a known entity, but Poulsbo isn’t yet. It’s a greater investment risk, so is it worth it?

Plus, no one knows where the downtown location will be exactly. Is it the existing city hall building site? Does it include the King Olaf Parking Lot? Or it some other location? Also, where will city operations be during the construction of a new city hall if the existing building is demolished?

City officials have apparently washed their hands of those questions, leaving them to the private sector. What happens if they don’t like the answers hasn’t been spelled out yet, but a few council members have said the city would do the project in house.

In November, the majority of residents voting instructed city officials to keep city hall downtown and placed their trust for the mission to finally be accomplished. Let’s hope that April 25, 2007 will be remembered as the day city hall became a reality, not one when it changed direction again.