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Thorne quits as ferry boss -- News Roundup

Mike Thorne announced his resignation this week as head of Washington State Ferries.

Thorne’s duties will be performed by Washington State Secretary of Transportation Doug McDonald until the position is filled – a process that could take several months.

Thorne assumed the CEO position in January 2002. Prior to that, he was the director of the Port of Portland and a member of the Oregon legislature. He expects to return to Oregon after his resignation becomes effective Oct. 1.

Thorne led the ferry system through tough financial times after Initiative 695 wiped out the system’s capital budget and much of its operations funding.

Fares were hiked and service on some runs cut, in an effort to make the system more self-sufficient.

Council backs fireworks vote

Agreeing that it doesn’t hurt to ask the question, the City Council this week backed a November advisory ballot on a proposed county-wide fireworks ban.

Bainbridge and Kitsap fire officials hope to use the ballot to gauge public support for a ban on all fireworks, including the “safe and sane” varieties currently legal for discharge on July 4.

The advisory ballot would not enact a ban, but would simply poll voters on their support or opposition.

Wednesday, Bainbridge Fire Chief Jim Walkowski cited increasing problems from fireworks discharge.

In the past three years, he said, there have been more than 1,000 significant fireworks-related fire and aid calls statewide, with five amputations and one person impaled from the use of explosive devices among the 233 injuries reported.

Fire resources in other areas including North Kitsap have been overtaxed by fireworks-related blazes, he said.

Several council members questioned the effectiveness of a ban, given the ready access to all manner of fireworks at tribal stands across the bridge.

Confessing that he is a fan of mortars, Councilman Bill Knobloch asked whether the problem is as significant on Bainbridge as in other areas.

Walkowski cited a recent Fourth of July incident in which fireworks ignited a grassy hillside and threatened a home.

“Do we have fireworks-related incidents? Yes,” Walkowski said. “Do we have people hurt by fireworks? Yes. Do we have structures damaged by fireworks? Yes.”

Council members also sparred over what to do with the advisory ballot findings. Knobloch and Councilman Jim Llewellyn argued that regardless of the outcome of the vote, the council could decide the issue on the merits, not just on public opinion.

“If we’d taken a straw poll on the roundabout and respected that outcome, we’d never have one,” Llewellyn said.

The Poulsbo City Council also voted to put the question before voters, while Port Orchard and Bremerton council members have yet to vote. Kitsap County commissioners are expected to take up the issue next week.

– Douglas Crist

Lee to lead BYS program

Hansville resident Lois Lee has been named executive director of Bainbridge Youth Services, beginning work in BYS’ Commodore office this week.

Lee is the immediate past Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of Snohomish County and has spent most of her career in the nonprofit sector.

She has served as Director of Health and Human Services for the Suquamish tribe, Director of Children and Family Services for the Peninsula Community Mental Health Center and Coordinator of Emergency Services for the Lewis County Mental Health Center.

In addition to administrative management experience, Lee brings an understanding of and appreciation for youth and family counseling. She has a master’s degree in clinical psychology from Towson State University in Maryland and has worked in the field as a counselor.

Lee succeeds Geoff Ball who began working in March 2004 for Sound Experience, a Port Townsend-based organization for environmental education.

Pick ’em, then enter ’em

Red, green, yellow, orange, smooth, round, cute, bumpy or ugly, all tomatoes will be welcome at the the first Homegrown Tomato Tasting at the Farmers’ Market this morning, Sept. 11.

“We want to encourage farmers’ market shoppers and tomato enthusiasts to enter their best-tasting tomatoes,” said Rebecca Slattery of Persephone Farms, who came up with the tomato tasting idea being sponsored by the Bainbridge Island Farmers’ Market. “We’ll just judge purely on flavor – not looks.”

Slattery says the hope is if it is well accepted, the Homegrown Tomato Tasting will become an annual event. There are contest categories for best tasting “slicing tomato,” “cherry tomato,” “salad tomato” etc. Small farm prizes will be awarded to winners and the judges, who will include Mayor Darlene Kordonowy and culinary consultant and cookbook author Greg Atkins.

Slattery says she has heard of people on the island who keep tomato seeds passed down in a family, with each generation of tomatoes becoming better adapted to the growing conditions here, which are normally not good for tomatoes.

Tomatoes like hot, dry weather. The moist weather of the Northwest allows blight to settle in and kill tomatoes.

Slattery calls tomatoes the “dark horse crop,” but puts that down as to “why people are so passionate about it.”

“There’s a lot of really neat types of tomatoes being grown. Heirlooms go head to head with modern hybrids,” Slattery said. “We’re hoping to get some regular home gardeners to get excited about sharing their tomato successes.”

The Homegrown Tomato Tasting will be held today at the Farmers’ Market at City Hall plaza. Entrants are asked to bring three labeled specimens for each entry of their tastiest garden tomatoes with a limit of three entries per person.

Contest tomatoes will be accepted from 9 a.m. with winners selected at 11:45 a.m.

– Tina Lieu

Hiatus for licensing office

The Bainbridge Island Auto Licensing Department on Winslow Way will be closed Sept. 11-27.

The office is closing for renovation and vacation. The space, located in the Chamber of Commerce office, is being renovated as part of a larger remodel of the building on the corner of Winslow Way and Highway 305. Auto licensing manager Vicki Rauh is taking her annual vacation at the same time.

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