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Council OKs BPA funding –– News Roundup

Council OKs BPA funding

A divided council Wednesday OK’d $15,000 in funding to support construction of a new rehearsal space at the BPA Playhouse.

The vote followed a rousing debate over whether the money should come from the city’s hotel/motel tax fund, a newly created contingency fund, or not at all.

BPA applied for money last year under the city’s hotel/motel tax program – a pot generally intended to promote tourism – but was not recommended for funding.

But after a misunderstanding over whether the project actually qualified, Councilwoman Debbie Vann recommended the money come out of the city’s general fund.

Instead, the issue wound up before the council Wednesday with a recommendation for hotel/motel tax funding, with Councilwoman Debbie Vancil calling it a chance to “rectify something that slipped through the cracks.”

That split the council both procedurally and philosophically.

Councilman Bob Scales supported the request, saying it would be bad precedent if a group denied hotel/motel tax funding simply came back for money from another fund. But Vann said it would be equally bad precedent if such groups could “come back with their lawyer and make noise” and get the funding they’d been denied in the first place.

Several citizens also spoke against the proposal, saying it would be unfair to tourism-related, “heads in beds” groups that were denied hotel/motel tax funds.

One noted that it would be the second time in three years that BPA was turned away at the hotel/motel tax trough, only to successfully petition the council for funds later.

Councilwoman Christine Rolfes also opposed the proposal, saying hotel/motel tax revenues were becoming a “slush fund.”

Final vote for funding was 4-3, with Vancil, Scales, Nezam Tooloee and Jim Llewellyn prevailing over Vann, Rolfes and Bill Knobloch.

– Douglas Crist

Decant going to Vincent Rd.

Spurned by three other neighborhoods, the city’s spoils “decanting” operation has finally found a new home.

Behind the strong recommendation of a citizen advisory committee, the City Council Wednesday unanimously approved the former landfill area on Vincent Road as the new decant site.

The Vincent Road option was both “environmentally benign and economically viable,” committee member David Harrison said.

The public works department was authorized to select five acres on the 40-acre property, also home to recycling and garbage drop-off, on which to process street sweepings and ditch spoils. In the decanting process, water is separated out so remaining wastes can be disposed of elsewhere.

The city has been storing such materials at a Head of the Bay property, but ran afoul of neighbors and health regulators.

The length of the site selection process – it began in 1998, with Weaver Road, Sportsman Club Road and the Head of the Bay sites rejected – was the subject of some mirth among council and committee members.

“I was 30” when planning began, a not-quite-wizened Harrison said.

Randy Witt, public works director, said facility design should be completed this year, and the department will ask for construction funding in the 2005 budget.

– Douglas Crist

Consultant search slated

The city will open up the selection process for a consultant to guide further downtown planning.

On a motion by Councilman Bill Knobloch and by a vote or 5-2, the council Wednesday asked the mayor’s office to put out a new “request for proposals” for the downtown project consultant.

The so-called “Winslow Way Plan Reconciliation Effort” would solicit public comment and meld downtown improvements proposed by merchants and property owners – roundabouts, parking garages and pedestrian treatments – with existing plans, and explore timelines and financing.

Public works officials had touted the Seattle engineering firm KPG, which had previously worked for the city on non-motorized planning and the “Gateway” district from Ericksen Avenue to the highway.

Wednesday, Winslow resident Ryan Vancil told the council that it could select a citizen advisory committee and keep the downtown project going even during the search for a new consultant.

Vancil’s wife Debbi Lester, an arts advocate, criticized both KPG’s credentials and its work on the Gateway project, and said several local firms are interested in the consulting contract.

Several other citizens also urged the city to avoid the appearance of “favoritism” and open the process up to other firms.

Councilwoman Debbie Vancil too urged deliberation, saying any downtown improvements “will impact Bainbridge for 100 years, and that’s not hyperbole.”

“Getting a fresh start, one with public trust, is very important,” Councilman Bill Knobloch agreed.

Councilman Jim Llewellyn voted in the minority, saying he was satisfied with KPG’s credentials, as did Bob Scales, who said selecting the consultant was the prerogative of the mayor, not the council.

– Douglas Crist

Comcast: ‘It’s not our fault’

Reports that Comcast was responsible for delays in moving the museum building to Winslow were inaccurate, the company says.

A museum official said earlier in the week that the cable company was not available Wednesday to move utility lines out of the way to facilitate the building move.

Comcast spokesman Steve Kipp says that was not true, and that the move was delayed for reasons unrelated to their linemen.

Jeff Monroe, a principal in Monroe House Moving, agreed Friday that the delay resulted from “too many logistics,” including road closures and other issues.

The museum move now is tentatively set for Feb. 25, Monroe said.

The historic schoolhouse building will be towed to “Three Tree Park” behind the BPA Playhouse, with the museum reopening later this year.

– Douglas Crist

Pasta feast for pedal pushers

The Squeaky Wheels bicycle advocacy group will host its third annual pasta dinner Feb. 28.

The event begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Bainbridge Commons, the night before the Chilly Hilly ride.

It’s intended to raise awareness on cycling issues and raise money for group activities, organizer Chuck Beek said.

The fare will include homemade pasta sauce and meatballs, bread, salad and desert, plus soft drinks and coffee.

Special events will include a silent auction “with all kinds of goodies,” both bicycle and non-bicycle related. Entertainment will be by author, actor and world bicycling traveler Willie Weir.

Cost is $20 for adults, $10 for youths, and free for kids under age 8 – or feed the whole family for $55. See www.squeakywheels.org.

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