News

Wanted: new administrator/City vexed by high appraisal/Capital plan only teased/Around-island swim today/Fay Bainbridge expects crowd

Wanted: new administrator

The search is on for a new city administrator, following the July resignation of Mary Jo Briggs.

A headhunter briefed city councilors on Wednesday about the process being used to find her successor, though one councilor was worried more about what the outgoing administrator’s resignation might signal.

“I think it’s a warning bell,” Nezam Tooloee said. “There may be something broken with our system.”

Because of that, Tooloee wants the city to take stock, rather than rush ahead to hire a replacement for Briggs. He also thinks it may be time to consider a different form of city government.

A recent benchmarking study that evaluated the city’s performance as an organization said that city’s with a council-manager system are more efficient than those with a council-mayor system, like Bainbridge.

Greg Prothman, of the Prothman Company, who is leading the search, said he’s seen varying levels of success with both systems in other cities.

“Almost any form of government can work fine when there are clear boundaries,” he said.

Defining clearer boundaries was the number one recommendation of the benchmarking study.

Briggs cited ongoing struggles between the mayor, staff and council when she announced her resignation. She will stay with the city until Jan. 31. 2008, by which time Prothman hopes to have a new administrator hired.

He noted a shortage of new blood in the field.

“We’re seeing fewer and fewer candidates,” he said.

Prothman went on to say that he hopes to net 25 to 30 qualified applicants during the search, which would then be whittled down to a group of about five. The same search would have attracted double that seven or eight years ago, when the market was better, he said.

One reason for the change is the mass retirement of workers from the baby boomer generation. Prothman said the shift has been apparent all over the country.

Council on Wednesday reviewed the language of the job description, which will be posted through 15 western states, along with benefits and salaries for comparable positions elsewhere.

Salaries for administrators and city managers elsewhere in the Puget Sound region range between $140,000 and $160,000 annually.

– Chad Schuster

City vexed by high appraisal

Though the sale is done, the city is pondering what to do following news that it may have overpaid – by nearly double – for the Meigs Farm Property.

“We are looking at any legal options we might have,” said City Administrator Mary Jo Briggs. “At this point we have no idea if we have any options.”

City Councilors in April approved the $1.5 million purchase of the nearly 20-acre parcel, located on State Route 305 south of Koura Road.

The new appraisal, completed and returned to the city this week by Columbia Valuation Group, Inc. of Seattle, values the property at $700,000.

The reappraisal was sought by Briggs after questions were raised about the value of the property, which is home to a well whose value also has been debated.

The topic was mentioned briefly at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, but will not get a full discussion until later this month, after an evaluation of the property’s water resources has been completed.

– Chad Schuster

Capital plan only teased

Second reading of the Capital Facilities Plan was pushed to the next City Council meeting, after a lengthy public comment period at Wednesday’s meeting forced some items from the agenda.

A public hearing about the CFP, which outlines the city’s capital needs over a six-year period, did happen as scheduled, and included criticism by some about possible overspending.

Since its introduction in July, the CFP has been trimmed by $83 million, and now stands at $101 million.

– Chad Schuster

Around-island swim today

The first annual Arms Around Bainbridge swim relay sets out today, with more than 25 swimmers and 20 supporting boaters participating in the 28-mile circuit around the island.

The epic swim through the choppy waters of Puget Sound will raise awareness and funds for an individual or family that needs the support of the community to get through hard times.

This year’s event will help offset the medical costs of local resident and Island Fitness employee Olivia Carey, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last May.

The swim begins at the head of Port Blakely Harbor at 5 a.m. and heads in a clockwise direction completing Port Orchard Passage between 8:30 a.m. and 12 p.m., Agate Pasasge between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. and the east face of the island between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Swimmers participating in the perimeter swim face tough challenges in the form of cold water, jelly fish, curious seals, shoreline anchor buoys, docks and submerged obstructions as well as the very real dangers posed by currents, wind and moving boats.

Organizers hope residents will turn out and show their support for swimmers as they pass shoreline communities and wrap up in Blakely Harbor.

All costs involved in the making of the event have been donated. Boaters have given fuel and swimmers have each paid $100 to participate, allowing all money garnered to go directly towards Carey’s medical costs.

“Every dime of this is going to the right place,” Sharon Kane, one of the events organizers, said. “We’re still hoping people will contribute and continue to contribute after the swim.”

To view a map of the planned route and see where swimmers will be throughout the day, or to make a donation, see www.armsaroundbainbridge.com.

– Sean Roach

Fay Bainbridge expects crowd

Island parks are expecting a big turnout this Labor Day weekend with reservations exceeding those in previous years.

“Normally we don’t even fill up and the campground has a few vacancies,” five-year state park aid Peggy Russell said of Fay Bainbridge State Park. “This year they have been coming earlier, and it’s looking like it’ll be a busy weekend with the weather forecast being so nice.”

Typically the park only fills to capacity on July 4th, but this year has seen a few sell-out weekends as island and local area residents fill those empty camping spaces.

“A lot of people have been calling to make reservations and they have been saying with gas prices and everywhere being so busy they want to stay closer to home,” Russell said. “We get a lot of local people and a lot of travelers. Since it’s getting full this year I’m thinking a lot of locals will show up for the weekend.”

– Sean Roach

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