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Znetix, council -- Year in review, part two

The Znetix/HMC scandal reached a crescendo in August when founder Kevin Lawrence was arrested and jailed on charges of criminal fraud.

A horde of buyers descended on a series of auctions at which tangible property bought with millions of investor dollars was sold off, netting well over a million dollars, most of which has gone to administering the estate.

Much of the island’s political passion was seemingly devoted to the city’s proposed shoreline regulations, which throngs packing the Bainbridge Planning Commission meetings denounced as unnecessary infringements on property rights.

And a week before Christmas, the mayor and city council ended the year pretty much as they began it, with each denouncing the other as devious and obstructionist. All sides vowed to do better next year.

The year in review, part 2:

July – Longtime assistant Ken Crawford replaced Steve Rowley as superintendent of the Bainbridge Island School District. Crawford’s aggressive efforts to reach out to the community earned him high marks in his first few months on the job.

The city imposed a moratorium on all subdivision applications after a Washington Supreme Court case called into question the city’s requirement that subdividers set aside a portion of their land as designated “open space.” Home-builders immediately sued.

For the first time in almost 15 years, the Washington State Ferries planned to overhaul the Bainbridge-Seattle ferry schedule. Principal reason was that the new, larger boats couldn’t load and unload fast enough to allow the existing schedule to be met.

The Bainbridge Island Historical Society began a fund-raising drive to pay for moving the museum from its Strawberry Hill Park location to a downtown site on Ericksen Avenue east of the Bainbridge Performing Arts Playhouse.

August – HMC/Znetix founder Kevin Lawrence was arrested without incident at a friend’s home on Bayhill Road and charged with 64 counts of conspiracy, fraud and money-laundering in connection with the alleged sale of some $90 million in stock in Znetix-related companies. Three associates pleaded guilty to federal fraud counts, and agreed to cooperate with the prosecution.

After federal agents presented evidence suggesting that Lawrence was planning yet another stock promotion, he was denied bail and ordered held in federal confinement until his planned September 2003 trial.

A series of auctions on Bainbridge and Seattle disposed of HMC/Znetix’ material possessions, yielding over $1 million, most of which went to pay expenses of the court-appointed receiver. Mike and Alexa Rosenthal, who had been operating the Madison Avenue gym since April, bought the on-site equipment at auction.

The city bought a half-acre tract of beach land on Rockaway Beach for $585,000, the first purchase made under the $8 million open-space bond levy passed last year.

The Fort Ward Parade Grounds were dedicated as a city park in a ceremony that brought back a number of men and women who served on the island base during World War II intercepting and decoding Japanese messages.

September – Bainbridge voters gave 70 percent approval to the park district’s maintenance and operations levy, avoiding the shutdown that would have occurred Jan. 1 had the levy not passed on its second try.

Overflow crowds packed a series of Planning Commission meetings to protest proposed shoreline regulations, especially plans that could require trees to be planted along the shorelines, obstructing water views.

A new ferry schedule took effect that dropped one Bainbridge-Seattle run each day, saving fuel and crew-overtime money. The biggest difference – fewer late-night sailings from Seattle.

Stephens House, a vocational facility for severely disabled youngsters, opened adjacent to Eagle Harbor Congregational Church. Participants make and sell doughnuts.

October – Bainbridge’s only auto fatality of the year occurred on Blakely Avenue when a 59-year-old island man died in a head-on collision.

A spate of burglaries hit south-end waterfront residences. Burglars entered from the water side, sometimes while the residents were asleep at home.

A new state audit said the city was in compliance, and had corrected the serious problems cited in a previous audit.

The city bought the 12-acre Hall property stretching from Wing Point Road south to the water for $790,000, using open-space funds. The property has 600 feet of beachfront on Eagle Harbor.

November – Voters stuck with incumbents, returning Democrat Jay Inslee to the U.S. Congress and Democrat Phil Rockefeller and Republican Beverly Woods to the state House of Representatives. At the same time, voters overwhelmingly rejected both state and county ballot measures that would have increased taxes.

Bainbridge Concerned Citizens, a group formed to spearhead opposition to the proposed shoreline regulations, said it intended to be a long-term player in island politics, and would field a slate of council candidates in 2003.

A consultant recommended moving the ferry system’s maintenance yard from Eagle Harbor to a Seattle location, potentially freeing up the 10 acres of shoreland and offshore space for development. City officials and area legislators applauded the idea.

Saying the city administration is top-heavy, some city council members called for cutbacks in that area, including making the city administrator’s job part-time. The council also called for an executive session on personnel to which City Administrator Lynn Nordby was not invited. Sources confirmed that the meeting did involve Nordby, whose position ultimately was retained.

December – A multi-agency task force began looking at pedestrian and traffic safety issues in the congested Bainbridge ferry-loading area. Among the suggestions – begin ticketing jaywalking pedestrians.

The first round in a lawsuit involving the road-end at Fletcher Landing on the island’s west side went to the city when a superior court judge ruled that the public had a right of access along the former road and across the tidelands to the water. The upland neighbors who had deeded rights to the 40-foot-wide strip said they would appeal.

The city council rejected any new city staff positions during budget deliberations, taking a “no net increase” approach.

A committee charged with studying parking in downtown Winslow recommended small steps, such as better enforcement of two-hour restrictions, parking along Madison Avenue and the development of small lots on the periphery of downtown.

The state ferry system recommended raising fares by only 5 percent, a cutback from earlier plans for larger hikes. Instead, the system plans to save some money through trimming costs, and raise money by offering additional products and services on board and at terminals.

The Serenity House group home for disabled adults on Pleasant Beach Road was threatened with closure as its long-time owner wants to sell, but no buyer willing to continue operating the home came forward. A multi-agency task force is studying the situation, hoping to find a way to keep the facility operating.

At the final council meeting of the year, several council members attempted to use an informal workshop to raise the issue of management problems at city hall. Mayor Darlene Kordonowy angrily responded that she had not been given time to discuss the issue, and gave the council low marks for working with the administration and staff during the year. Councilman Michael Pollock said he was “affronted” by the mayor’s rebuke, and said he had brought the issue to her several times in the past week.

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