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Cost questions foul park plan -- News Roundup

Ideas come cheap, building renovations less so.

Witness the Battle Point Park transmitter building, modest plans for which to be turned into a youth gymnastics space have stalled over inevitable questions of cost.

“This no-brainer I had was obviously a silly idea,” quipped Terry Lande, park district director, during a public hearing on the project at Thursday’s park board meeting.

Earlier this year, the park board authorized renovation of a metal building at John Nelson Park – formerly the city public works yard – into a space for burgeoning youth gymnastics programs.

Lande, who took over the district’s reins in August, proposed instead to use that money to patch up the transmitter building for the same purpose. The district’s maintenance operations would then be shifted to the John Nelson building, freeing up a second, smaller structure at Battle Point for classroom space and a volunteer center.

Public testimony at Thursday’s hearing was mixed, although plans for the transmitter building restoration were generally favored.

The historic building – described as “a dire eyesore” for those entering the park – housed radio communications equipment during World War II.

Although it offers more than 3,000 square feet of open space on its main floor, the building has gone unused for decades, serving as a dumping ground for the district’s garbage. During a recent cleanup, four large totes full of refuse were hauled off.

District sports supervisor Jean Welch and others said the building would make a fine and much-needed space for younger-age gymnastics programs, which don’t need a particularly high ceiling.

“I think it sounds like a fantastic idea,” Bernadette Stephen-McRae agreed. “I don’t know why no one thought of it before.”

But cost projections vary wildly. While maintenance supervisor Roger Belieu said he could have the building ready for gymnastics use for $65,000 at most, park commissioner Tom Swolgaard said the cost would be substantially higher, perhaps in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In addition to a new roof, the building needs substantial electrical work and some sort of heating system. Compounding the challenges are the district’s general budget problems; Lande hoped to eke renovation funds out of current revenues, but said this week that spiraling health-care costs are pinching already strained resources.

Plans to move maintenance operations to John Nelson Park met with less support, not least because of public relations concerns.

The five-acre property only recently became a public park, although it was willed to the city for that purpose around 1950.

“There was a big to-do about the city using it as a maintenance yard,” park commissioner Kirk Robinson said. “We finally get the city out, and suddenly it’s a maintenance yard again.”

No decisions were made at the meeting; Swolgaard and district officials said they would continue to look at the transmitter building’s needs, to get a better idea of costs.

– Douglas Crist

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***Tab case, ferry vote not linked

The Washington Supreme Court’s decision Thursday upholding the legality of Tim Eyman-sponsored Initiative 776 will not affect Kitsap Transit’s plans to operate passenger-only ferry service, provided that Kitsap voters approve the plan.

In fact, Kitsap Transit says its plans correspond precisely with what Eyman claims he was seeking – voter approval of new taxes.

“We knew about the court challenge to I-776. But we, and the state legislator who gave us the authority to go with this POF ballot measure, felt the challenge to I-776 did not apply to our POF proposal,” KT Executive Director Dick Hayes in a memorandum sent to agency employees Thursday.

“We are asking for a direct vote of the people on the MVET funding portion of the POF program. We believe this means KT’s proposal is not affected as it is consistent with the goal of Eyman’s initiatives; that people get to vote on all the taxes.”

The initiative in question imposed flat $30 car tabs statewide, wiping out surcharges imposed by King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties to help fund Sound Transit.

The initiative, though, specifically states that it does not apply to taxes approved by a majority vote.

The initiative had been challenged as invalid for dealing with more than one subject, but the Supreme Court rejected that argument.

Kitsap Transit is asking voters to approve a sales-tax increase of three-tenths of 1 percent, and a car-tab add-on of three-tenths of 1 percent of the vehicle’s value to fund a fleet of fast passenger-only ferries connecting Kingston, Bremerton and Southworth to downtown Seattle.

The proposed tax would add 30 cents to a $100 purchase, and the vehicle-tab boost would cost the owner of a $20,000 vehicle an extra $60 per year.

– John Waldo

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***Woods plans town hall talks

Rep. Beverly Woods (R-Poulsbo) invites residents of the 23rd Legislative District to talk with her at town hall meetings in Poulsbo and Silverdale on Nov. 8.

Woods will review actions the State Legislature took during its 2003 session, which ran 31 days overtime as lawmakers negotiated a new state budget, and look ahead to the 2004 session, which begins Jan. 12.

Meetings will be at 10-11:30 a.m. Nov. 8 at the Poulsbo fire hall, and again 2-3:30 p.m. in the Silverdale Community Center. No reservations are needed. Information: (360) 786-7842.

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***Award fosters youthful charity

Bainbridge seventh- and eighth-graders can get a financial boost for their charitable projects through the newly established Sebastian Award for Creative Altruism.

One or more students or groups will receive grants of up to $300 to help pay for materials and other costs associated with a project that they have developed to benefit the community.

The award commemorates the life of Sebastian Eliahu Galpert, who died in November 1998, three weeks before his second birthday.

“His short life inspired incredible acts of kindness among our island neighbors, friends and strangers alike,” said the Galpert family, who established the award to encourage that same generosity by local youth.

All seventh- and eighth-grade students are invited to consult with friends, family and teachers to develop a project that “would leave you feeling happy with your effort and satisfied that the world is a better place because of it.”

Groups of any size can apply, and the project may benefit any cause, including young children, the elderly, a family, animals or the environment.

To apply, the student or group should write careful responses to the following:

1. Give the names of the students in your group; provide an e-mail, phone or address of at least one person.

2. Describe your idea. Make sure you discuss: who will participate, what the goals of the project are, what specifically you will do, and who will benefit. (You may include pictures or additional materials to illustrate your ideas.)

3. Why do you think this project matters? What do you think will be its impact on others?

4. What materials will you need to conduct this project. How much will they cost? Are there other costs (transportation, postage, etc.) that will be involved?

Submit completed applications by Nov. 17 to Sebastian Galpert Fund, 8766 High School Road, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110.

Proposals will be judged on their thoughtfulness, completeness and creativity; the winners will be announced the first week of December.

Information: 842-0615.

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