Cops may stay in Winslow

Bainbridge police headquarters will likely stay put despite a recent search for a new location.

The City Council on Wednesday approved a police proposal to study the feasibility of knocking down and replacing their current facility at the corner of Madison Avenue and State Route 305.

The new multi-story building would likely include underground employee parking, expanded office and storage space and would also house the municipal court, which is currently located at Rolling Bay.

Built over 70 years ago as a fire hall, the police station is showing its age while the department suffers growing pains. The building frequently floods and requires high doses of annual upkeep.

Meanwhile, the roster of police staff grows along with a mountain of evidence requiring safe storage.

“We’re busting at the seams,” said Chief Matt Haney. “It’s an old building and, unfortunately, some old buildings are not save-able. We’ve had flooding that’s damaged records that were four inches off the floor. And the space...there’s no way we could fit the court in here.”

The court officials and police say a a shared facility would boost the court’s safety and cut down on police travel time.

Last year, the department was eyeing locations at the intersection of 305 and Madison Avenue, or New Brooklyn and Sportsman Club roads.

But a “site analysis” report conducted by island architect Dana Webber concluded last month that the current police HQ site was the best location.

The report cited the downtown location’s easy access to most residents and public transportation. It also made sense financially because the city already owns the property.

Affordable housing advocates and the Bainbridge School District are eyeing the 15-acre New Brooklyn-Sportsman Club property, which is city-owned, for other possible projects.

Funding for the new existing site feasibility study will come out of $243,000 earmarked for a new security entrance, also known as a “sally port,” for the existing police headquarters. It is unclear how much the new study will cost, but Haney believes it will not reach $243,000. Remaining funds will be returned to the city.

A redeveloped facility will likely require zoning changes and building height variances, Haney said.

“The earlier study was really just a sketch of where we might go,” he said. “Now we’re taking a critical look about what (the building) might look like.”

-Tristan Baurick

Roundabout work funded

A proposed new roundabout on Madison Avenue was hit with enough cash Wednesday to get the long-delayed project rolling.

The project, which was approved two years ago, was awarded up to $183,000 by the City Council for initial design work. Total costs for the project, which also includes non-motorized transportation upgrades, could reach $1 million.

Port Orchard-based HDR Engineering will lead the project’s initial phases, which includes drafting plans, public outreach, environmental permitting and assistance with construction bidding.

The roundabout would allow vehicles to pass through the intersection without stopping during periods of low or no traffic. It is aimed at shortening delays at Madison’s intersection with Wyatt Way.

Delays cited in a 2004 traffic study of the intersection ranged from 20 to 35 seconds during peak hours. By next year, vehicles may typically idle at the Madison-Wyatt intersection for over 50 seconds.

“Sometimes we see lines of cars down to City Hall,” said city Public Works Director Randy Witt. “If we don’t do something different, the lines are going to get longer and longer.”

Installing a stop light system was also considered.

“But we heard in very loud words that people don’t want stop lights,” Witt said. “People said they’re ugly. They’re also about the same cost to install but (roundabouts) cost much less to maintain over time.”

Council Chair Chris Snow believes the island has grown to like the roundabout at the intersection of Madison and High School Road despite strong public opposition when it was proposed about seven years ago.

“The roundabout is part of island lore,” he said. “I think we’ve learned a lot (from) that one.”

Witt said roundabouts allow for a faster, more fluid pace at intersections without automatic lights or stop signs mandating a stop even when one is not needed during periods of low traffic.

The High School Road roundabout exceeded its designers’ expectations, cutting traffic delays from up to one minute down to 10 seconds or less.

The Madison-Wyatt intersection receives bursts of high north-bound traffic in the evenings, a daily surge of south bound traffic when classes cease at the high school and a constant flow of south island drivers traveling east on Wyatt Way.

Included in the overall project are bike lanes and sidewalks along both sides of Wyatt between Madison and Grow avenues. The city is currently negotiating with nearby property owners on tree preservation and to acquire land to widen the intersection.

– Tristan Baurick

BI hosts global enviro-summit

Bainbridge Island will play host this week for an international conference of conservation experts from over a dozen countries.

The conference, which starts Monday and ends at the end of the week, promises to be an “enlightening and constructive international event,” according to Mayor Darlene Kordonowy.

“Given the challenges that the Puget Sound region faces in regards to rapid population growth...this program offers a timely opportunity to identify innovative approaches to development that would result in ‘no net loss’ in biodiversity,” she said.

Hosted by the City of Bainbridge Island, the event is the fifth meeting of the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Program, an international partnership between private companies, government agencies, research institutes, and conservation experts.

“Biodiversity offsets” are conservation actions designed to compensate for the environmental impact caused by development projects.

Bainbridge is one of six pilot sites worldwide taking part in the BBOP initiative. Early discussions of BBOP projects on Bainbridge include a shoreline restoration effort along the southeast end of Blakely Harbor. The project would likely remove a portion of a bulkhead and relocate a portion of Country Club Road away from the shore.

Projects in other countries include a gas-to-liquid project in Qatar, a nickel mine in Madagascar, a platinum mine in South Africa and a gold mine in Ghana. Other potential projects from around the world will be discussed during the conference.

The BBOP team will visit two pilot project sites on Bainbridge Island this week and provide advice and technical assistance to the city as it develops incentive-based policies to ensure the conservation of forests and coastal habitat. 

Over 100 people are expected to attend, including representatives from 14 countries.

BBOP is an initiative managed by Forest Trends and Conservation International under sponsorship by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Foundation and the Alcoa Foundation.

The one-day public portion of the conference will be held at the IslandWood learning center on Monday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, contact city planner Lily Ford at 842-2552. 

-Tristan Baurick

Speak and write Chinese

Based on a growing local interest in Chinese language and culture, four islanders have formed the Bainbridge Mandarin Learning Center, a nonprofit organization that starting in September will teach written and spoken Chinese to all ages.

Organizer Randi Lin Evans gathered three other Chinese islanders, Liming McMillan, Jue Pu and Pei Wang, to teach children’s classes in reading, writing and culture. Evans will teach an adult conversation class if there’s enough interest.

The BMLC will hold an orientation at 7 p.m. June 18 in Bainbridge High School’s room 342. Instructors will provide class details, syllabi and schedules and answer general questions about the program. For more information, contact Evans at 842-3928.

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