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Ferry security funding sought -- News Roundup

Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Bainbridge Island) wants the Department of Homeland Security to reimburse the state for $121,000 in overtime costs associated with providing troopers and bomb-sniffing dogs at the ferry terminals.

The Washington State Patrol’s request for the reimbursement was recently denied by the federal government, on grounds that Washington state was in “non-orange” alert status when the overtime costs were incurred, from April 22 to Aug. 2.

In a letter sent Friday to the Department of Homeland Security, Inslee and three other Washington lawmakers contend the overtime costs were incurred as a direct result of FBI intelligence “associated with possible terrorist activities on the ferries and in good faith that the increased, unfunded costs” would be reimbursed though “Operation Liberty Shield.”

“This is a national issue and we were hit particularly hard,” Inslee said. “The Washington State Patrol is currently taking the money out of other places.”

In total, the Washington State Patrol has spent more than $400,000 in the last six months on ferry security measures, Inslee said. Some of those costs may be reimbursed in the next round of funding.

But Inslee believes that Homeland Security should reconsider the overtime reimbursement request, which was denied, appealed, and denied again.

The letter states that overtime costs were not merely part of incremental improvements to security, but a response to a real and documented threat.

“The FBI issued a report earlier this year detailing at least seven incidents of surveillance of the ferry system consistent with pre-operational planning methods used by terrorist entities prior to attacks committed against other targets,” the letter states. “At least one of those incidents involved an individual who has known ties to terrorist organizations.”

Security costs increased dramatically this past month under U.S. Coast Guard mandates to improve security. Authorities declined to state how many new K9 teams and undercover officers have been hired to work on the ferries and at the terminals, citing security concerns.

– Rhonda Parks Manville

Council chilly on new hires

The city may reject portions of a proposed budget that would add several new city staff positions.

“The mood of the council is that we add no new staff,” said Councilwoman Debbie Vancil at a Monday budget workshop.

The city’s 2005 preliminary budget’s estimated $20 million in operating costs includes funds for an in-house attorney, a full-time engineer and staff support for the Winslow Tomorrow project.

“I’m committed to having almost no new staff,” Councilwoman Deborah Vann said. “The staff level needs to be held.”

The council Monday expressed a unified commitment to maintain existing staff levels unless proposed additions will save money or not add costs.

“I won’t support new staffing until we know how the city’s going to be sustainable,” said Councilman Bill Knobloch.

Each position would cost the city an average of $86,000 a year, Vancil said, with benefits rising 30 percent annually.

Some councilors stressed that funding is unusually tight this year, as city services have had to keep pace with a rising population.

“Instant gratification is no longer available as we go through the growth process,” Knobloch said, adding that he hopes improved technological efficiency will offset costs and the need for new staff.

While Councilwoman Christine Rolfes supported the staffing cap, she suggusted that some added staff could reduce spending in the long run.

“It may save costs because we wouldn’t have to contract out,” she said.

Public Works Director Randy Witt urged the council to support his department’s request for an engineer, expressing doubt that he could maintain some services without the additional help.

The council will discuss the proposed budget again at a public meeting Nov. 3, from 6-9 p.m. at City Hall.

– Tristan Baurick

Chili Halloween at the church

Eagle Harbor Congregational Church has found a chili way to take up the can for UNICEF this Halloween.

The church will open its doors to hungry trick-or-treaters and their parents during downtown activities Oct. 31, in a benefit for the United Nations Children’s Fund.

“When my kids were young, they had (UNICEF) boxes,” said Matilda Chamberlain who is organizing the church’s chili, hot dog and drinks event on Halloween night. “UNICEF and Halloween are so closely related because kids trick-or-treating would bring around cans for UNICEF. I think it should be emphasized even more because of the war and poverty in so many countries.”

With the church centrally located on the corner of Winslow Way and Madison Avenue, Chamberlain says she hopes downtown trick-or-treaters will come in to take a break while making a contribution to UNICEF at their fund-raiser, which runs from 5-7 p.m.

The church’s minister, Dee Eisenhauer had the idea to combine UNICEF with Halloween.

The church members have contributed the food cost, so all proceeds will go to the international organization that works for the safety and health of children worldwide.

Chamberlain says the church also works through the year with Helpline House, Habitat for Humanity, Bainbridge’s sister island Ometepe and makes its church available for meetings by various groups.

“We are eager for people to know the doors are open and that we have a welcoming congregation,” she said. “We do hope this (chili fund-raiser) will become annual.”

– Tina Lieu

Downtown events slated

This Friday, Winslow Tomorrow will kick off “Envisioning Tomorrow,” a series of public presentations designed to inspire, educate and inform the effort to develop a vision and plan for the future of the island’s downtown.

Friday evening from 6-8 p.m., Jim Charlier, a nationally renowned planner specializing in multimodal transportation, will speak on innovative approaches to balancing the needs of multiple users in downtown areas.

Charlier, who has dubbed his presentation “Mobility 101,” says that his goal is to provide perspectives and tools that members of the Congress and the general public can use as the Winslow Tomorrow effort moves forward.

Topics will include the importance of connectivity, the use of transportation in place-makingand pedestrian science – analysis of the different types of walkers that utilize downtown, the types of walking activities that take place and the facilities that best support these activities.

“I don’t plan to tell the Congress what to do in downtown Winslow, but rather, to bring ideas and tools from other places that may be useful in this process,” Charlier said.

The series will continue on Nov. 1 with a presentation by Seattle’s Buster Simpson and Bainbridge resident Maggie Smith, artists internationally recognized for public art installations.

Simpson and Smith will discuss the Arts Master Plan, which they created at the request of the city, and will discuss the role of art in public spaces. Their presentation is scheduled from 6-7:30 p.m.

At 7:30, Bill Johnson, island resident and nationally renowned landscape architect, will facilitate a discussion with the Winslow Tomorrow Character Committee on the nexus between character and regulation in place making.

This discussion will examine questions such as how character is achieved in public spaces; the role of review processes, design standards, and regulations in creating character; and the social, environmental and economic costs of too much or too little character.

Both presentations will take place in council chambers at City Hall. For more information, call 780-3718, or see the Winslow Tomorrow section of the city’s web site at www.ci.bainbridge-isl.wa.us.

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