Putaansuu | 2016 a year of successes in Port Orchard

Port Orchard Mayor Rob Putaansuu

Port Orchard Mayor Rob Putaansuu

By MAYOR ROB PUTAANSUU

City of Port Orchard

As 2017 brings us new opportunities and challenges, I feel confident and energized for Port Orchard.

Much of my enthusiasm is the result of our success in 2016. First, I’d like to thank the citizens of Port Orchard for allowing me to be their mayor. Those who truly know me see a person with renewed passion and energy, one who loves to come to work to make a difference in our community.

The hard-working employees of the City of Port Orchard and our dedicated City Council have been fundamental to my success this year. As I stated a year ago, my first order of business was to establish a collaborative relationship with the City Council. While we don’t always agree on each and every issue, I know we all have the best interests of our community at heart.

We’ve accomplished so much this past year, but we all know there is so much more to do. Here are some of the milestones we’ve achieved: The timely completion of our Comprehensive Plan was a feat achieved by no other city in Kitsap County other than Port Orchard. I attribute that accomplishment to the determination of the Planning staff, Planning Commission and City Council. Our Comprehensive Plan is a roadmap to guide development, regulations, programs and projects in accordance with our community values. Without a valid Comprehensive Plan, the city would not be eligible for grants that are important in paying for our future capital project needs.

In 2016, Bethel Road paving was completed. This just gives us a better driving surface while we determine long-term solutions for this congested roadway. Corridor studies for Bethel and Sedgwick roads, also known as Highway 160, and designs for a roundabout on Old Clifton Road have been funded in the 2017-2018 biennial budget. These projects will lay the groundwork for future grant applications.

This administration and the City Council delivered on its promise to make funding the Tremont Corridor project our top priority. While it required the difficult decisions to implement traffic impact fees and create a traffic benefit district, these decisions helped make a compelling case in our grant applications, which netted our community $9.7 million and now provide the cash flow necessary to repay the required bond debt to complete the project. Project construction should start in 2017.

We were successful in accelerating $500,000 in funding for our Bay Street Pedestrian Path this past year. This achievement was something I was told couldn’t be done. Yet with perseverance and help from 26th District Rep. Jesse Young, we prevailed. At this time, design is nearly complete for a path from the Marlee Apartments to the bridge at Blackjack Creek. This section of the path will be finished this year and will give us a functional pathway from the Marina Park to the Westbay Center.

In 2016 we celebrated the Phase II completion of the Dekalb Pier project, a $865,000 project that was primarily funded by state grants. This new day-use dock extends 530 feet from the existing pier and includes 260 feet of new dock space for visiting boaters.

Our downtown is still an area of concern. I believe we all want a vibrant waterfront that has a retail component, is walkable and has more public space. The Pedestrian Path and the desire to relocate the waterfront parking, which would create more park space, are all part of the solution.

The construction of additional residential units is an important piece of the puzzle that we still need to solve. An additional 300 to 500 residents living in our downtown core will create the foot traffic necessary to support the shops and restaurants we desire.

I continually meet with the development community to identify the tools necessary to make our city competitive with our neighbors. And while we’ve put some incentives in place, we still have much to do.

In 2017, the City Council and Planning Commission will embark on a project to analyze zoning, uses and height restrictions, block by block in the entire downtown. This effort, coupled with the passage of the passenger-only ferry measure, could be the catalyst our downtown needs to be that inviting place everyone wants to experience.

The years 2017-2018 presents a major shift in budgeting for Port Orchard from our prior practice of single-year budgets. With this change, we also separated operational and capital needs. Our operational budget primarily captures the expenditures related to maintaining services, while the capital budget represents projects and equipment needs that are mostly paid for with one-time revenue.

Some of the other projects included in the 2017-2018 biennial budget are the construction of the McCormick Village Park at $955,450 and two significant water system projects totaling more than $7 million. These two waterworks projects will vastly improve the quality of the water we produce and eliminate our need to purchase water from the City of Bremerton.

In total, the capital projects in the 2017-2018 budget exceed $26 million, with much of this funding coming from grant sources. These improvements embody the largest capital program in our city’s history and signify a positive future for the City of Port Orchard.

One of the efforts I’m most proud of is the Homeless Housing Committee I’ve formed. While I’m merely the facilitator for this group of individuals, churches and community organizations, they’ve achieved a lot in just a few short months. While it is not my desire for Port Orchard to become a magnet for homelessness, I believe we have an obligation to help those in our community who are in need. This group is on the verge of establishing a cold weather emergency shelter, providing weekly showers to the homeless via a mobile shower unit and hotel vouchers for those in crisis.

In closing, I would like to thank you again for allowing me to be your mayor. We have much to be proud of as a community. Most of all, we have many positive things to look forward to in the coming years.