New BI department: Make recreation accessible, inclusive for all

The Bainbridge Island Metro Parks and Recreation District is going to have a new Adaptive Recreation Department.

About $122,000 is being put into the budget to hire a full-time staff person who will focus on new and current programs for people with limitations as well as to look at facilities and trails with attention to accessibility. The objective is to make recreation accessible and inclusive for all, minutes of the district’s most-recent meeting minutes say. Recreation Division director Madison Collins said adaptive recreation opportunities are important for the wellness of not only individuals but families and communities.

Also at the meeting, the district said it is looking at putting a bubble over the BI Recreation Center’s outdoor pool when the Ray Williamson Pool at the Aquatic Center is shut down for renovations. With a bubble, the district could offer year-round swimming at BIRC, said Amy Swenson, Administrative Division director.

In the area of equity, a batting cage project at Strawberry Hill Park also was discussed so softball could be more in line with baseball.

District executive director Terry Lande said he heard from the Bainbridge Community Tennis Association that it has raised a considerable amount toward new tennis courts at Sakai Park. Under grants and donations is a line item for renovating the tennis courts at Battle Point Park into pickleball courts with money raised by the pickleball community.

There are also several electric vehicle charging station grant opportunities that staff will be pursuing.

Commissioner Jay Kinney said that when the BIRC was purchased there was criticism that the park district would lose money. Even if the district runs a deficit on the BIRC for a period, once the loan is paid off it will be making a lot of money, he said. He added that staff should not have anxiety about pulling money out of reserves to make the principal payment if that ever needs to happen.

Commissioner Tom Swolgaard said the district is not in this for profit, adding the Aquatic Center is subsidized. Once the bond is paid off the district will be able to take the BIRC funds and use them for other things, like purchasing land or whatever is needed at the time.

Kinney said also the public loves the facility, and Lande said BIRC is serving every demographic on BI.

Also, Park Services Division director Dan Hamlin said the Fort Ward Parade Grounds playground is set to open by the end of the month.

Swenson gave an update on the budget, saying the General Fund is estimated to have a beginning cash balance of about $7 million in 2024. If everything budgeted for is spent in 2024, reserves will be reduced by about $262,000, she added.

Due to the last levy lid lift passed by voters in 2021, property taxes will increase with the June number for the Consumer Price Index through 2027. For 2024 that means a 4.5% hike. But even though that can be asked for, the collection of 75 cents per $1,000 of assessed value maximum is still in place.

The projected increase in property tax revenue for 2024 is $442,000 which includes new construction. Program fees for BIRC are projected to increase by $299,000. All other recreation budgets are projected to increase by a total of $153,000.

General personnel costs for 2024 include the proposed 4.5% cost of living adjustment for full-time and regular part-time staff equaling about $211,000. Health insurance was negotiated down to a 4.5% hike equaling about a $49,000 increase.