Fire destroys storage shed -- News Roundup

A blaze that destroyed a large wooden storage building outside a Lovgreen Road home Wednesday was likely caused by small children playing with a cigarette lighter, fire officials say.

Family members in a residence on the property feared the children, ages 4 and 5, were trapped in the building, but the youths were found safe elsewhere on the grounds.

One resident was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation, but no other injuries were reported.

The blaze was reported by a Bainbridge Police officer and other passing motorists shortly after 10 a.m. The building sits next to the highway, and smoke was seen coming from the eaves.

Firefighters found the building engulfed in flames, and braved the blaze to conduct an interior search when residents could not account for the children’s whereabouts.

“Once they found out no one was inside, they pulled out and went defensive” against the fire, Chief Jim Walkowski said.

The 40-by-60-foot building was a total loss, with most of the contents destroyed or damaged by smoke.

The blaze took about 25 minutes to control, Walkowski said. Two dozen firefighters and eight fire and aid vehicles responded to the alarm.

– Douglas Crist


***Warren out, search goes on

Although she will retain her title as director of planning and community development through the end of next week, Stephanie Warren ended her tenure in that job Friday when she began a week-plus of scheduled vacation.

When Warren returns to City Hall on April 21, it will be to help an as-yet unnamed interim planning director settle in.

“We hope to have an interim director named by the week of April 21, and Stephanie will help train that person,” Mayor Darlene Kordonowy said.

By law, the city must have a designated official to make permit decisions under the State Environmental Policy Act, and city ordinances require numerous permits to be issued by the planning director.

Pending designation of an interim director, Administrator Lynn Nordby will act as the SEPA official. Permit decisions will be made by Bob Katai and Josh Machen, two of the more senior members of the short-range planning staff, in consultation with Nordby.

The interim director will serve under contract for a minimum of three months, Kordonowy said, and for as long as may be required afterwards to find a permanent replacement. Finding the right person for the job will be more important than speed, she said.

“We need to look at this as an opportunity, so it’s important that we get the right person,” she said.

Kordonowy emphasized that the interim director will be just that, and will not be a candidate for the permanent position.

“We don’t want someone to fill that spot and try to ease into a permanent role,” she said. “If the interim person wants to become a candidate for the permanent job, we will ask them to step down from the interim job.”

Kordonowy modified her previous stance that the interim director would come from off the island, saying she’s been made aware of several residents with the proper background for the job.

But she did say that on-island candidates are not associated either with the department or with any sitting committees such as the Planning Commission.

Before launching a search for a permanent director, Kordonowy said she wants to get input from those within the community who have an interest in the department to determine what qualities the new director should have.

“We want to hear from the stakeholders about what they want in the director,” she said.

Warren resigned last month from the position she has held since 1991.

She will remain with the city as a special consultant to the mayor’s office, the council’s land use committee and other groups on planning issues.

She will work out of her home until the end of 2004, when she will be eligible for retirement benefits.

– John Waldo


***Antenna plan meets no foes

Park commissioners were generally supportive this week of a proposal to put wireless communications equipment on the Battle Point Park water tower.

Representatives of the Atlanta, Ga.-based Cingular Wireless gave a presentation at Thursday’s park board meeting, saying the equipment would be safe and would not compromise the tower.

Options included a single antenna mast rising 10 feet from the side of the tower, or shrouded apparatus atop its dome. A small equipment shed would sit at the tower’s base.

Diagrams suggested that the antenna would improve wireless coverage for the company’s customers in the Battle Point, Manzanita and Fletcher Bay neighborhoods.

A Cingular spokesman has previously declined to say how many customers the company has on the island, calling the information proprietary.

The company last year was rebuffed in an attempt to site an antenna on school district property near the Grand Forest.

Thursday, the only public comment came from an amateur astronomer concerned about lights – there would be none, the company says – and a neighbor who urged park commissioners not to let themselves get low-balled in lease negotiations.

“Where are all the opponents?” Commissioner Tom Swolgaard asked, to which Kirk Robinson rejoined, “They all have cell phones.”

Board members expressed support for the proposal, but formal approval was deferred. The district has yet to negotiate a lease for the site, for which Cingular last year proposed to pay $800 per month.

“It’s gone up significantly since then,” said John DeMeyer, acting director for the park district. “I think they upped the ante.”

A recent survey of Puget Sound-area park districts that host cellular facilities showed that some receive as much as $18,000 per year in lease income from providers.

– Douglas Crist


***Council offers 911 support

The Bainbridge Island City Council Wednesday passed a resolution supporting a one-tenth of a cent sales tax hike to support Cencom, the county emergency communications system.

The tax would bring in about $2.7 million annually, to fund construction of a new 911 center in Bremerton.

The sales tax hike would replace the last three years of a property tax levy approved by Kitsap voters two years ago. Once the center is completed, revenues would support ongoing 911 operations.

The system handles emergency dispatch for more than a dozen Kitsap County agencies, including Bainbridge police and fire.

Voters will decide the issue in a special mail-only election on April 22. Ballots appeared in island mailboxes this week.

The council approved the resolution by a vote of 5-1, with Norm Wooldridge absent. Alone in dissent was Councilman Bill Knobloch, who said passage could hurt Kitsap Transit’s chances of passing a three-tenths of a cent sales tax hike to support foot ferry service this fall.

The Cencom proposition has previously been endorsed by the Bainbridge Island Fire Board.

– Douglas Crist

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