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Council moves forward with Strawberry Plant; grants more funds to BIAHC

The City Council Wednesday night decided, among other things, to continue with the Strawberry Plant Project as planned and to add an additional $43,000 in funding for the Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities Council into the budget.

Neither decision came without controversy.

One Bainbridge resident had to be escorted out of the Council Chamber by the chief of police after he protested the council's decision to continue with Strawberry Plant. Councilor Hilary Franz teared up during the conversation over arts funding, wondering why the administration couldn't find additional funding for liveaboards who are about to be displaced, while it can give more to other programs.

The council decided to move forward with Strawberry Plant with the addition that the city look for ways to feature more access to the shoreline.

The amendment was suggested by Councilor Barry Peters who learned at a Nov. 7 community meeting about the project that shoreline access was a shared goal of the community.

The proposed project would dramatically alter the shape of the shoreline along the 4.7-acre Eagle Harbor parcel.

Concrete bulkheads and the shoreline would be cut back, with the intent of creating new marshland and nearshore habitat. The proposal includes provisions for an over-water viewing structure, a bridge over the creek and small-boat launch.

The council made the decision to move on and pursue 90 percent design on the project several months after the project was stopped to allow for greater community involvement. After hearing all sides of the issue, the council ultimately opted for shoreline restoration.

"I know there's been a lot of opinion on this both ways," said Councilor Kjell Stoknes. "I have decided to prioritize the restoration of the shoreline."

Stoknes was backed by the rest of the council, with the exception of Kim Brackett who abstained.

The vote to increase funding for the arts from its base of $136,000 to $179,000 came after the council debated several different dollar amounts. The vote was 3-2 with Franz abstaining after an impassioned speech in which she wished the council would have been able to come up with extra money for people like liveaboards who could soon lose their spots in the harbor.

"I have a really hard time with this because I value the arts and I value people's lives that are going to be displaced very shortly based on decisions this council will be making," Franz said.

Interim City Manager Lee Walton identified five sources of funds the city could use for the arts (Gravel Roads Maintenance Contract, City Hall Landscape Services Contract, Japanese Knotweed control, Trust for Working Landscapes, and Kitsap County Conservation District). From those five sources, former Mayor Darlene Kordonowy originally asked for an extra $73,000 in arts and humanities funding, but that eventually was reduced. Members of the arts community assured the council that an increased investment in the arts will help Bainbridge's ailing revenue stream.

"Funding the arts pays for itself and more," said BIAHC treasurer Mike Lewars. "Our city could not spend the small amount we request more wisely."

For complete stories on each decision, see Friday's paper.

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