Horse trading for Pritchard Park funds

It’s just a zero that separates the state House and Senate budget allocations for a Japanese-American memorial on Bainbridge Island.

But it’s certainly not nothing.

The House capital budget for the next biennium includes $2 million for the proposal. The Senate came in an order of magnitude lower, at $200,000.

Negotiators for both chambers are currently trying to reconcile those two versions.

“We’re continuing to work on this, and I suspect we’ll come in somewhere in between,” said Mike Ryherd, a professional lobbyist who is donating his services to the community’s effort to put the former Wyckoff Superfund site on the south shore of Eagle Harbor into public ownership.

“This is one of those times where things either grow or disappear,” said Sen. Betti Sheldon (D-Tracyton), who put the item in the Senate budget as what Ryherd called “a placeholder.”

“I’m pretty sure this is one of those things we’ll negotiate,” Sheldon said Thursday.

Although Sheldon said she has heard reports that inter-chamber negotiations for the capital budget are going smoothly, there won’t be a final answer until the much more contentious operating budget is resolved.

That’s because both the state’s constitution and statutes limit the percentage of total revenue that can be devoted to debt service. So until the revenue side of the operating budget is finalized, the total capital bonding capacity won’t be known. That, in turn, affects which projects can be funded.

The Republican-controlled Senate has taken the position that taxes cannot be raised.

Many of the majority Democrats in the House are pushing for some form of revenue enhancement, particularly to fund the school-improvement initiatives.

“It really depends on how the operating budget works out,” said Rep. Beverly Woods (R-Poulsbo). “What I like about the House capital budget is that is does more for job growth.”

Woods said that capital projects can also grow or disappear in the horse-trading that takes place as legislators try to hammer out the operating budget.

A local effort, headed up by City Council member Christine Nasser Rolfes, has been trying to effect public ownership of the 55-acre Wyckoff property, renamed Pritchard Park for the late Joel Pritchard.

The summer islander served in both the state and federal congresses and two terms as Washington lieutenant governor.

The island’s Japanese-American community and the Bainbridge-North Kitsap Interfaith Council are trying to establish a memorial to the World War II exclusion of the island’s Japanese-American population at the Taylor Avenue road-end, immediately west of the Pritchard site.

The site, contaminated by spills from the former creosoting operation, is being cleaned up by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The trustee that controls the property will sell it at some point, and turn the proceeds over to EPA to reimburse it for its work.

The trustee has said he will give the community the remainder of the year to work out a deal for the property, which is appraised at roughly $8 million.

The preliminary funding plan called for raising $4 million in federal funds, $2 million from private donations and $2 million in city and state state funds. The city’s Open Space Commission has allocated $500,000, leaving the remaining $1.5 million as the target for state funding.

The $8 million property-acquisition budget does not include the money that will be required to develop the memorial itself. That allocation will depend on where the money can do the most good, Nasser Rolfes said.

“This state money will be extremely helpful,” she said. “We need to discuss with the memorial committee how best to allocate it between memorial development and acquisition, to leverage it in the best possible way.”

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