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News Roundup -- Ferry food: get it while it's hot/BHS growth leveling off/Events honor local military/BHS is tops in law, bar none

Ferry food: get it while it’s hot

Sipping a fresh cup of coffee as the sunny skies of Puget Sound sailed by his window, island resident Steve Neff said his regular ferry ride to Seattle just became “more cruise than commute.”

The M/V Wenatchee’s galley was cleared of over 18 months’ worth of dust and reopened for business Thursday, offering hot dogs, popcorn, oatmeal and pizza to hungry riders.

But despite the wide selection and service “deserving of a tip container,” Neff said one thing was missing:

“A massage parlor – that’d be nice.”

After a long negotiation over wages, hours and benefits, Olympic Cascade Services struck a deal with the galley workers’ union to fire up the grills on the Washington State Ferries busiest routes. Bainbridge galley service started Thursday, with Bremerton starting yesterday. The Edmonds and Kingston routes are soon to follow.

“We’re delighted to have food service back on the boats in time for summer season and we think customers will enjoy Cascade’s menu,” said WSF Executive Director Mike Anderson. “Riders have been waiting patiently for this day and now our staff, Cascade and its employees are working full tilt.”

While the menu hasn’t dramatically changed since Sodexho ran the kitchen, anything’s better than vending machine fare, Harrison Perkins said.

“It was no fun using the vending machines,” Perkins said. “They have junk food mainly – lots of fat and nothing to really sustain you throughout the day. And the vending machine coffee stinks.”

With fresh Tully’s now on tap, the onboard coffee is “light years better,” said Jasson Lewellen.

Still, Lewellen admits he’s a bit nostalgic for the old styrofoam-dressed rotgut of years gone by.

“I miss that old sludge,” he said. “There was something special about it. I can still remember the taste. It was definitely not good coffee, but it got you more wired and had a ‘boing!’ to get you really going.”

Tully’s sales consultant Rich Femenella said his company has been looking forward to this day for years.

“It’s a great partnership,” he said of the 45,000 pounds of coffee the company expects to sell to Cascade each year. “This is now our number one buyer of our fair trade blend.”

Galley workers, many of whom returned to work after over a year and a half, were also happy to be cooking and making change again.

“It’s been a long year,” cashier Dee Bradley said. “With no money, I was struggling. I bartended a bit, but it’s not easy – not easy for anybody these days. I know a few people who lost their homes and moved out of state for jobs. I lost a lot of my savings.

“Now I’m selling my house in Kingston and moved to Bremerton. But I’m glad to be working. We’ve got a new company and I’m hopeful. I’ve got my fingers crossed.”

Regular commuter Phil Herring said he’s “thrilled” about the rebirth of onboard service after purchasing a coffee from Bradley.

While the coffee’s better and the addition of hot oatmeal and croissants are a plus, he said prices are as “equally odious” as they were two years ago.

Herring said he’s also a bit concerned for the new food service businesses that popped up at Colman dock in Seattle.

“I hope Commuter Comforts does fine and I’m a little worried about the sub sandwich guy, because people would rather eat on the ferry than the terminal,” he said.

Commuter Comforts co-owner Carol Jelinek just happened to be scoping the scene as Herring expressed his concern.

“I’m trying not to lose sleep over it,” she said, while watching the bustle at the galley cash registers. “We offer different things. They’re more like a concessionaire here, and ours is more fresh, healthy and made on the spot.

“As a commuter, though, I missed this.”

Despite new food service providers at Colman Dock, Herring said it’s important to have some hot meal offerings onboard the ferries.

“If you’re like most commuters, and not a tourist, you arrive at the terminal two minutes before it leaves,” he said. “So you need food onboard. It’s like a suburban form of multitasking – eating and commuting to work – instead of waking up earlier to have breakfast at home.”

– Tristan Baurick

BHS growth leveling off

The island community may be growing, but Bainbridge High School isn’t.

In fact, BHS should see a student population of around 1,450 every year through 2020, about the same as it is today.

That’s the conclusion of an enrollment study commissioned by the Bainbridge Island School District as part of its master planning process. The findings will inform discussions of facilities upgrades, for which school officials expect to put a multi-million-dollar bond levy before voters this fall.

The leveling off of high school growth is attributed to a graying island population, among other factors.

“The overall population of the island is getting older, and that’s driving what we’re finding,” said Mark Cork, an associate with Mahlum Architects, in a presentation to the school board Thursday evening.

The study projected school growth based on census data on island women of child-bearing age, land-use zoning, new home construction and real estate prices, among other information.

Harold Skow, a consultant retained by the district to assist with the demographic study, said the high cost of island housing is keeping young families and first-time home buyers out of the market. New Bainbridge residents – those who aren’t already retirees – tend to be established families buying their second or third homes, whose kids have already reached the middle grades.

So while the ranks of middle and high school grades are being replenished by newcomers to the district, those ranks aren’t being swollen further by kids coming up from the younger grades.

“It’s counterintuitive,” Skow said. “When somebody tells me we’re building 200 homes per year for the last 15 years, my first reaction is that this is a growing school district.”

Skow also correlated the high level of education among island adults with smaller families. That led school board member Bruce Weiland to quip that Bainbridge adults “are spending more time thinking than acting.”

Tamela Van Winkle, project manager for the school district, said conclusions are already being drawn.

The first is that the district will not need to a build a new school anytime soon. The second is that upgrades to the high school – designed for a student population of 900-1,200, and with a current enrollment of 1,436 – are imperative.

“We are 12 classrooms short at the high school right now,” Van Winkle said. “We are in a critical space challenge. We don’t even have a staff lunchroom anymore. It’s now a classroom.”

The high school is currently undergoing a comprehensive accreditation review that looks at instructional programs and facilities, and officials from other districts this week toured the BHS campus.

The 200 building, which houses the library, student commons and various classrooms, and the LGI theater did not make a good impression, several school officials said.

“They were appalled by the facilities and the technology and the equipment. It truly was embarrassing,” Van Winkle said. “I think that what always surprises individuals is that (with) our achievements and the quality of our staff, that we would have our facilities and technology in this state of disrepair and age.”

The district’s draft master plan will go to the school board at the end of June, with the final document to be completed in July.

Van Winkle said the study will include a separate report for each school, identifying facilities needs and priorities for the next 10 years.

– Douglas Crist

Events honor local military

Following World War I, the red poppies of Belgium’s Flanders fields, where many soldiers died, became a symbol of honoring the dead and the living victims of war.

This Monday, there will be Memorial Day services sponsored by the American Legion’s Colin Hyde Post No. 172 on Bainbridge Island and services aboard a U.S. Navy destroyer, moored on the Bremerton waterfront.

On-island, the public is invited to gather with Legionnaires, Auxiliary members and Sons of the American Legion members at 10:45 a.m. at the veterans memorial at Bainbridge High School. Following a brief service, the monument will be decorated with flowers and flags by attendees.

Participants may proceed to the post hall on Bucklin Hill Road for the main program at 11:15 a.m., where the Reverend Curt Zimmerman, Priest-In-Charge at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, will speak. The ceremony will conclude with Boy Scout Troop No. 1564 raising the flag from half staff to full staff at noon.

Leading up to the holiday, legionnaires will decorate the graves of all known veterans at the five Bainbridge Island cemeteries and the St. Barnabas interium from May 28 to May 30.

Since 2001, 186 American service members have died in support of military operations in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and the Philippines, and 1,607 in Operation Iraqi Freedom in the Middle East, as of May 12, 2005.

Sons of the American Legion will put up flags along Winslow Way for Memorial Day and the Post urges islanders to display flags at homes and businesses in honor of fallen soldiers.

In Bremerton, the Bremerton-Olympic Peninsula Navy League Council sponsors Memorial Day services beginning at 10 a.m. aboard the decommissioned U.S. Navy destroyer USS Turner Joy, moored on the Bremerton waterfront.

Lt. Col. Bruce Crandall, a highly decorated retired Army officer who was featured in the Mel Gibson movie “We Were Soldiers,” will speak.

Attendees are encouraged to come early to walk the Bremerton boardwalk and take a tour of the ship. Complimentary refreshments will be served in the crew’s mess following the ceremony.

BHS is tops in law, bar none

Bainbridge High School students took the three top honors in the Kitsap County Law Day essay competition, in May, sponsored by the Kitsap Bar Association.

Sophomores Peter Schwab, Charlie Fick and Ariel Smith took first, second and third place, respectively.

The contest, which is open to Kitsap County students in grades 7-12, each wrote opinion essays on an interesting and timely legal case.

Peter Schwab wrote on anti-terrorist laws undermining the basic foundations of U.S. justice system; Charlie Fick discussed individual rights; and Ariel Smith tackled corporate liability.

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