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Roundabout gets a trim -- News Roundup

City works crews took up planter strips around the Madison roundabout last week, replacing tall vegetation to improve driver visibility and pedestrian safety.

Pulled up were stands of Oregon grape, which when fully mature can grow to six feet in height, said Lance Newkirk, operations manager for public works.

“As the original Oregon grape plantings grew taller and taller, staff began receiving calls from citizens regarding pedestrians entering the crosswalks being harder and harder to see,” Newkirk said. “Staff received calls from parents of younger school children concerned that their kids, because of their smaller stature, were getting lost in the vegetation.”

The landscaping had been selected on the assumption that taller plantings around the perimeter of the roundabout would reduce visibility and provide traffic calming.

But callers felt that with reduced visibility, their children were less safe when entering the crosswalk; most wanted the city to trim or remove the plants, Newkirk said. Complaints also were fielded from people in wheelchairs.

“We did examine the visibility of pedestrians at the crosswalks at the roundabout, and found that, with the existing planting in place, pedestrians at the crosswalk were harder to see than they should be,” said Randy Witt, public works director.

Local garden authority Ann Lovejoy said Oregon grape is not a good candidate for regular trimming, and officials were not happy with plant spacing that allowed weeds to take root.

The strips were replanted with low-growing vegetation that will require less maintenance.

The project “will continue to make the city’s first roundabout a beautiful success story,” Newkirk said.

– Douglas Crist

DOT planning highway spray

State highway officials will visit the island this week to discuss weed control and spraying along Highway 305. A public meeting is slated for 6 p.m. May 6 in the council chambers at City Hall.

Purpose of the meeting is to discuss management of roadside weeds and invasive plants, said Lloyd D. Brown, spokesman for the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Current plans include limited use of the herbicide Roundup to control weeds at the base of guardrails and signs. No spraying outside that foot-wide zone is planned.

At the same time, the agency is developing an integrated vegetation management policy, tailored to conditions and public sentiment in individual communities.

“We’re doing customized programs on Whidbey Island, Clallam County, Thurston and Pierce counties, (as well),” Brown said, “in response to increasing public concern over use of chemicals to control vegetation, and the need to be better environmental stewards.”

Recent court decisions, Brown noted, have forced WSDOT and other agencies to curb the use of chemicals near streams.

The island will be included in a statewide study of vegetation management options, both chemical and mechanical, and the effectiveness and cost implications of both alternatives.

WSDOT will also make a presentation before the City Council at its May 12 meeting. Spraying, which would be completed in less than a day, would not begin until after that presentation.

“We’ll hear what the public’s thoughts are,” Brown said.

The spraying program is not new; Roundup has been applied to control weeds at the base of local highway signs as recently as last year. Officials hope to beat back vegetation that retains moisture, contributing to black ice and undermining of the pavement.

The forum will also include discussion of long-term work. WSDOT plans to repave Highway 305 across Bainbridge Island in summer 2006, and shoulders will be cleared of noxious and nuisance vegetation at that time, Brown said.

Information: Lloyd Brown, (360) 357-2789, or Joyce Komack, (360) 874-3050

– Douglas Crist

Gym owners are honored

Michael and Alexa Rosenthal, owners of Island Fitness on Madison Avenue, have been named 2004 Business Couple of the Year by the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce.

Two years ago, the Rosenthals purchased the remaining assets of the defunct Health Maintenance Centers gym, put up for auction as a receiver marshaled assets of founder Kevin Lawrence. The gym had been closed down by court order, as Lawrence was prosecuted by the federal government for defrauding investors.

The couple, who have lived on the island for 11 years, reestablished the gym under a new name. Michael serves as general manager, while Alexa handles fitness programs and personnel.

“The Rosenthals were a clear choice since they were able to turn around a business that had essentially let the community down, and revive a successful, going concern,” said Harry Field, a member of the award selection committee.

The Rosenthals will be honored at a luncheon banquet at 11:30 a.m. May 27 at Wing Point Golf and Country Club. Cost is $25; call 842-3700 for registration.

Czars n’ Starz benefit slated

Camp Siberia, a summer camp for Russian orphans that’s staffed by Bainbridge teenagers, presents an evening of Northwest food and Russian entertainment, May 8 at Kiana Lodge in Poulsbo.

The evening is entitled “Czars and Starz” and will include the Kiana signature salmon dinner, along with live and silent auctions, including Russian art and items created by Camp Siberia counselors.

Entertainment will be provided by the Russian folk music ensemble Khorovod, led by Olga Sukhover.

Now in its fourth year, Camp Siberia will send 18 students from Bainbridge Island to Novosibirsk, Siberia, this July to create a fun, “American style” summer camp for about 60 of Russia’s neediest, most forgotten children.

Counselors also bring with them several tons of clothing, sports and art supplies, medicines and financial support for the orphans.

Proceeds from the “Czars and Starz” evening will go toward a scholarship fund, ensuring that Bainbridge youth, regardless of means, will be able to share their talents with Russian children.

Tickets for the benefit are $75 per person from Michelle Stowell, 842-5458, or Janie Ekberg, 842-7707.

Funds seeking social needs

Bainbridge Island’s Health, Housing and Human Services Council is seeking funding proposals for 2005 for services from nonprofit agencies providing health, housing and human services to Bainbridge Island residents.

In 2004, $267,900 was allocated from the city for such services.

Currently, 10 agencies are receiving from $5,000 to $90,000 each to provide youth services, daycare, volunteer and transportation services, and support to families.

HHHS has the responsibility for reviewing applications and making funding recommendations to the city for service contracts to be included in the 2005 budget. Applications for funding are available at City Hall from Holly Wilder in the mayor’s office.

Applications are due by 4 p.m. June 4. For further information on eligibility for funding, contact Jan Lambert, 842-9335.

Letter carriers food drive set

The National Association of Letter Carriers, in partnership with the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association, will hold its 12th annual food drive on May 8.

Postal customers are asked to leave their donations of non-perishable food, hygiene items, baby food and cleaning supplies next to their mailboxes this Saturday morning.

Letter carriers will pick up the donations and distribute them to local food banks, including Bainbridge Island’s Helpline House.

“Demand on our area food banks is still high,” said David L. Foote, executive director of United Way of Kitsap County. “The economy is improving but the needy are the last to benefit. That is why this annual food drive plays such an important part in our local area.”

The drive is sponsored by the National Association of Letter Carriers with the support of the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association, United Way of Kitsap County and Kitsap News Group.

In 2003, Kitsap residents donated more than 120,000 pounds of food, hygiene items and cleaning supplies to drive.

Carriers and volunteers hope to collect even more on May 8 to meet the area’s growing needs.

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