Brian Kelly | Bainbridge Island Review
                                The Harrison-Bainbridge medical building on Madison Avenue North.

Brian Kelly | Bainbridge Island Review The Harrison-Bainbridge medical building on Madison Avenue North.

Bainbridge council agrees to $8.9 purchase of Harrison-Bainbridge medical building

City of Bainbridge Island will buy the Harrison-Bainbridge medical building for $8.975 million from CHI Franciscan Health so it can retrofit the structure as a new public safety facility.

At a special meeting Tuesday, the Bainbridge council voted 4-3 to give City Manager Morgan Smith the green light to sign a “letter of intent” with CHI Franciscan Health for the purchase of the building at 8804 Madison Ave. North.

City officials expect to approve a purchase and sale agreement to finalize the deal in a few weeks.

The city has been considering the Harrison building as the new home for the city’s police force since late 2017, when officials received an unsolicited offer from CHI that suggested a potential retrofit of the building.

Built in 2014, the building is 17,548 square feet in size and has a current market value of $2.6 million, according to the Kitsap County Assessor’s Office. The 3.02-acre site was purchased by CHI in August 2013 for

$1.75 million.

The city has been in talks with CHI over a purchase of the site since August 2018, when the council gave then-city manager Doug Schulze the go-ahead to pursue a letter of intent to buy the building.

The purchase of the property prompted a split on the council, however.

Councilman Ron Peltier suggested the council explore an offer by Visconsi Companies for the Ohio-based developer to build a two-story police station within its commercial development on High School Road with a 20-year lease.

Peltier, who was once one of the most vocal opponents of the Visconsi development on High School Road, said consideration of that location hadn’t gotten a fair hearing.

Building there, Peltier said, might be a way for the city to reduce the costs of the facility.

Others on the council also raised objection to the Harrison purchase.

Deets said he opposed the Harrison location because of its price tag.

“I just don’t like the price,” Deets said.

Councilwoman Rasham Nassar, who had earlier supported buying the property, also joined with Peltier and Deets to vote against the proposal.

Nassar raised concerns about the risk of renovating the medical center, and said unforeseen cost overruns were likely.

Some council members’ worries over the purchase echoed public comment before the council’s vote.

Members of Squeaky Wheels, a bicycle advocacy group, asked the city to reduce the amount spent on the new police station so there would be money for road shoulder improvements for cyclists.

“Don’t get me wrong; the existing police station is not a very nice building and I understand why people want to replace it,” said Ross Hathaway. “But the city has limited funding and $20 million is a big cost for this community to fund.”

“Citizens are getting injured or killed on our roadways,” he said, and noted a delay in funding for planned road projects.

“What I could do with $20 million to improve public safety on our roadways,” he added.

Joyce Granger, also a board member for Squeaky Wheels, urged the council to be conservative with what it spends on the new police station, and recalled the failure of a recent ballot levy that would have raised $15 million for roadside improvements.

“I was very disappointed that our levy didn’t pass,” she said, and added,

“be as conservative with the funds as possible, get what you need, but not more — and share the available capital funds to other projects, as well.”

City officials, though, noted that the other top location for the new police station, known as the Yaquina site, was rejected due to its high cost.

Mayor Kol Medina recalled putting the police station on the Yaquina property was estimated at $28 million.

City Manager Morgan Smith said there had been an extensive and detailed review of the Harrison building and retrofitting it into a public safety building.

“This is not a quickly thought-out option,” she said.

The $20 million planning target for the new public safety facility was a sound one, she said.

“I really discourage us into wishing it into being cheaper,” Smith said.

Councilman Matthew Tirman said the price of the Harrison property was higher than he had hoped.

But it was in the ballpark, he added. And it was a fair market value.

“I think the time for indecision is over,” Tirman said.

“It is a critical public safety need,” he said. “The time to act is now; I’m going to vote yes.”

Councilwoman Sarah Blossom also supported the property purchase, and added some criticism for those who have let residents think there was a less expensive option available.

“It bothers me. I think it’s irresponsible for council members to sit up here and give the public the impression that we have this option that’s going to cost a lot less money,” Blossom said.

The impression that the council is leaving a cheaper option on the table, Blossom added, “was just not true.”

With four in favor — Councilwoman Leslie Schneider, Medina, Tirman and Blossom — the council agreed to move forward on the property purchase. Peltier, Nassar and Deets voted no.

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