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Storm before the calm

The Year In Review, Part 4.

Tension and water levels rise as islanders chart a choppy course through the final quarter of 2007.

Not quite a year since a powerful windstorm led to protracted power outages, Bainbridge is again lashed by mother nature, this time with near-record rainfall that causes $2.5 million in damage to city roads.

Before that, the city is lashed by the law when the State Supreme Court rules against a long-standing shoreline moratorium. Some see cloudiness in the ruling: Justice Tom Chambers sides with the reasoning of the court’s minority, but ultimately favors litigants. He, like some of his colleagues, has harsh words for the city’s actions.

“It is arrogant, high handed and beyond the pale of any constitutional authority for a stagnant government to deny its citizens the enjoyment of their land by refusing to accept building permits year after year based on a rolling moratorium,” Chambers says.

Still, the darkness at City Hall isn’t all-consuming; despite confusion and contention, the 2008 budget is finished almost on time – and its passage is divine, said City Council Chair Chris Snow.

“Pretty much our prayers have been answered,” Snow said.

October

October begins with a call by Mayor Darlene Kordonowy for “dialogue” – as opposed to “discussion” – between city leaders. Kordonowy says the former word is more collaborative. She opens the dialogue by presenting a $55.3 million budget that includes $27.5 million in operating expenses. Some groups are upset by their exclusion from the plan, most notably island seniors. The senior center is allocated only a fraction of what’s needed to continue plans for a new building. The budget presentation also heralds the end of the Community Housing Coalition, whose functions will be brought in-house by the city in 2008. Budget wrangling will dominate the final months of the year as various groups and causes vie for funding.

Days are shortening, but the green crowd touts sun energy at this year’s solar tour. The tour features 12 Kitsap County homes, eight of which are on Bainbridge. Solar enthusiasts marvel at the growing interest in both the tour and solar energy as the push continues for an island-wide green-building ordinance.

Bainbridge Congressman Jay Inslee is on the same page as his constituents – he releases “Apollo’s Fire: Igniting America’s Clean Energy Economy” and does a reading at Eagle Harbor Books.

At neighborhood meetings, the city’s emergency preparedness consultant Ed Call urges islanders to forget the sun and prepare for winter weather, which put a whipping on the island in 2006.

From gray skies to gray areas: the city’s new ethics board begins its effort to bring greater accountability to elected officials.

The school year turns tragic when popular Ordway Elementary School counselor Jeff McKinstry is murdered in his Kingston home. McKinstry’s 21-year-old son is later charged with the crime. Hundreds of islanders turn out at a vigil to honor the slain teacher and mentor.

The ferry system unveils a security video urging riders to report suspicious activities aboard vessels. Some say the video contains an anti-Islamic bias based on a scene in which a bomb is shown with a note attached that reads: “Death to America, Praise Allah.”

In a 5-4 decision by the Washington State Supreme Court, the city is told it erred when it imposed a moratorium on shoreline construction. The moratorium – which stopped the construction of bulkheads, docks and other shoreline structures – was first imposed by the city in 2001 and later extended several times. The city decides not to appeal and must pay $75,000 in legal fees to plaintiffs.

House on the move: A two-story north-end house endures a challenging move to become the new home of West Sound Wildlife Shelter.

Islanders get a taste of winter as a windstorm knocks out power to several hundred Bainbridge residents. Bainbridge Schools Superintendent Ken Crawford turns out the lights on his career by announcing his retirement; curriculum chief Faith Chapel is immediately tabbed as his replacement.

A new report echoes what Winslow residents have been saying for a long time: downtown needs more parks. The city then gets a new park, but not downtown – it’s on Manzanita. The council approves the $1.7 million purchase of the Williams property. The accepted deal has been restructured after being shot down by the council earlier.

Streetscape planners say they’ll consider a Local Improvement District after all; many had been calling for one to help fund the $20.6 million project, but planners hadn’t yet begun exploring the idea.

November

The Streetscape gets mixed reviews at an open house. “It’s an absolute waste of money,” says Craig Clark, of Johansson-Clark Real Estate. “Put the utilities in and be done with it.” But others support the project. “The people who think growth isn’t going to happen are wrong,” says Winslow resident Helen Bartuska. “It’s going to happen.”

Islanders learn the names of those who will help decide the fate of the Streetscape – Barry Peters, Hilary Franz, Kim Brackett and Bill Knobloch – as newly elected members of the City Council. The island also sees changes on the school board – John Tawresey and Patty Fielding step in for retiring members Bruce Weiland and Cheryl Dale – and on the park and fire boards, which added Lee Cross and Paul Bang-Knudsen respectively.

Changes are afoot at Wyatt Way, and not everyone is happy about it. Some neighbors vow to fight plans by the city to build a roundabout where the street meets Madison. Two private projects there move forward quietly.

Several long-running arguments continue, one between supporters and opponents of artificial turf fields, and another between liveaboards and the city, which continues to push toward creating an open water marina in Eagle Harbor.

The council discusses the need to cut operating costs at City Hall, as recommended by a recent study. The discussion foreshadows what’s to come.

Affordable housing advocates approach the city for help in purchasing and preserving the Quay Bainbridge Apartments. The 71-unit complex is one of the few remaining bastions of affordable housing in Winslow. It will take nearly $4 million in help from the city, along with $1 million in private donations, to prevent its conversion to market rate housing.

A black bear is caught snoozing in the backyard of Sands Avenue home. The bear avoided ferry lines and bridge backups by swimming to the island.

Had the animal boarded the bus, no one but the driver would have noticed: Kitsap Transit officials say they may cut midday service on the Winslow shuttle due to low ridership. A final decision won’t come until next year.

Hoping to improve strained relations at City Hall, the mayor announces plans for a five-day, $24,000 communication training retreat for staff and councilors. She says the training won’t involve city business. Instead it will facilitate better communication between staff and leaders. Some question the timing of the retreat in the midst of the budget process and year-end time crunch. Two councilors don’t attend.

Island delegates help state lawmakers reinstate the property tax revenue cap enacted by Initiative 747 and later struck down by the Supreme Court.

December

Residents mull ways to repair damage on Halls Hill Road; roads around the island soon get worse when heavy rains cause some $2.5 million in damage. Crystal Springs, Sunrise and Hidden Cove are among the hardest hit areas. Impromptu rivers rage through yards and pour into basements. The waterlogged ground leads to fallen trees and power outages. The state and city declare a state of emergency to clear the way for funding for repairs.

The mayor proposes $20 million in cuts to the city’s capital plan; included in the cuts is the new police and court facility. Police and court employees cringe at the thought of continuing on in their separate but cramped quarters and plead to the council to put them back in the plan. The council obliges and asks staff to cut $2.5 million in operating expenses from the city budget. The senior center gets put back in as well, though the capital plan won’t see a resolution this year.

A ferry summit is held in Bremerton to discuss the mounting problems facing Washington State Ferries. A large Bainbridge contingent attends. No firm solutions are reached, but WSF is already testing out one way to improve its finances: ads on ferries. The system receives $39,000 per month for starters, with more ads – and presumably more money – likely to follow. Some complain about the corporatization of a state icon; others roll their eyes and go about their commute.

Redmond-based business consultant Larry Ishmael announces he will again seek Inslee’s seat in Congress.

Officials say the Bainbridge High School football field will get new artificial turf in 2008. Unfortunately for fans, work may not be done in time for football season, meaning home games would be played on the road.

The road to budget nirvana gets longer when councilors and city staff can’t agree on a common set of numbers from which to work, and thus can’t finish the budget on time. As the holidays approach, bleakness fades and accord is reached; the council approves a $54.2 million budget; the capital plan is punted to next year.

Merry Christmas from one of your local legislators: Rep. Sherry Appleton files a fleet of ferry bills for the 2008 legislative session that would address myriad complaints by ferry users, including those associated with the new fare collection system.

On Christmas, it snows.

And one island family – which receives ongoing assistance from social service agencies and whose home had fallen into extreme disrepair – was grateful for an extreme home makeover, provided by dozens of island volunteers just in time for the holidays.

“It all just really touches your heart,” said one of the residents of the home. “I’ve lived on Bainbridge practically all my life. I went to school here, and came back to raise my daughter. I’m just so grateful to live in this community.”

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