BI gonna call greenhouse gas busters

Who you gonna call? Bainbridge Busters?

In one of the lighter moments of the July 12 City Council meeting city manager Blair King joked that Public Works director Chris Wierzbicki could dress up like one of the “Ghostbusters” at their next meeting.

They were talking about how the city is changing from gas to electric hand power tools to reduce emissions. The change would mean workers would wear backpacks containing batteries. The city hopes to show the council that the tools are lighter and make less noise.

“We need to lead by example,” Mayor Joe Deets said. “We will look for schools and parks to follow suit,” then require it islandwide.

Wierzbicki said the goal is zero emissions, but the pilot conversion will be looking at performance and battery life. “How much time it takes,” comparing gas vs. electric. Cost of batteries is a concern. He did say electric tools are becoming more powerful and effective, reaching the same level of performance as gas. He said he expects to spend $30,000 over the next 18 months on electric tools.

“It’s a little more challenging than we thought,” Deets said of the conversion.

Shade discussion

The council decided to remove some trees on city property to adhere to a covenant agreed to 20 years ago to make sure not to shade nearby agriculture land.

The city was supposed to not let the trees grow over 30-feet tall in a 100-foot buffer between the city and private land. The city has been in noncompliance for years.

Councilmember Brenda Fantroy-Johnson said she couldn’t believe the problem hasn’t been fixed as a promise was made five years ago. “Let’s get it done,” she said.

Councilmember Jon Quitslund said that timber has a lot of value and should be used for building affordable homes. He said he went out and looked at the trees, and he hadn’t realized “what a big deal this is.”

Deets suggested using it for people who need firewood. He said Fishline in Poulsbo has such a program for people in need, and we need something “like that on Bainbridge.”

King said the goal is to comply with the shade covenant, and any additional requests would delay the project even more.

Deputy mayor Clarence Moriwaki said he likes that the logging funds would be used to “reduce the cost for us taxpayers.”

King said clearing the land is the cheapest alternative. He said thinning and topping the trees would be another option, but not as cost-effective in the long run.

Deputy city manager Ellen Schroer said two-thirds of the two city parcels would be left undisturbed. The 100 feet buffer zone would be replanted with trees that won’t grow over 30 feet tall.

Looking at the bigger picture, Deets said the city needs to look at what to do with the properties in the long term, such as for parks, forestry or agriculture. He asked that the issue be put on a future agenda.

Police report

Police chief Joe Clark gave an update on public safety at the midpoint of the year.

He said crime against properties is “where we’re seeing the challenge.” He said the 289 incidents is a 95 percent increase over last year. “Theft is driving that number,” he said, adding there have been 14 vehicle thefts, when a normal year would have three at this time. The majority have been recovered off-island, he added. There have also been 38 thefts from vehicles.

Calls for service are up 14 percent, and there have been 47 crimes against persons. He said there has been an increase in traffic citations and collisions, along with an increase in impaired driving with 12 arrests.

Clark said there have been seven complaints made against his department, including five for use of force, although there have been no injuries. Staff shortage is still an issue, but a few officers will be joining the force soon, still leaving two vacancies.

During public comments, Cindy Anderson asked that the city allow citizens to ask Clark questions during his quarterly reports, as it had said it would years ago.

While Fantroy-Johnson said she didn’t have a problem with that Moriwaki said it would disrupt the meeting and not set a good precedent. Deets ruled against the idea since there already is a time set weekly for public comments, and it’s not allowed for other topics, other than public hearings.

Equity training

Peggi Erickson of the city’s Racial Equity Advisory Committee talked about training it recommended for councilmembers. She said one of the benefits of training is to have a shared understanding of terms, which results in fewer conflicts.

Councilmember Michael Pollock asked if the recommended courses have any metrics to judge how effective they are. He said he has taken similar courses before and wondered how good they were.

Fantroy-Johnson said some terms evoke emotions in people, and that needs to change so conversations can take place without conflict. “No animosity, shame or blame; we’re just talking about it.” Even more important than the training, she said more can be learned when they sit down and talk about it afterward. That will give them a benchmark on how to move forward.

Lodging tax

The council decided to spend the money as it has in the past, with one exception. Nonprofits that encourage tourists to come to BI without their vehicles will get extra credit.

King said the funds can be used for affordable housing within half a mile of a transit stop. But there are no developments that qualify right now. But there has been talk of such developments at the current police station site, and also near the senior center.

Public comments

Rick Chandler asked what is going to happen with the old police station near the ferry dock. He said some folks are interested in putting a museum there.

Jonathan Borovsky asked the city to put a speed hump on a road being repaved west of Highway 305. He said his daughter has an intellectual disability and is still learning to understand danger. Because the road now is bumpy cars don’t normally speed, but with paving they are more likely to — which could mean the difference between life and death for his daughter. He said a speed-control device was planned, but now it’s not. Borovsky said without traffic calming, his daughter won’t be able to learn independence by doing things like getting mail. He said such a device would not interfere with driving unless someone is speeding.

Marsha Cutting agreed. She argued it would be safer for all children. As for the disabled, she said they learn best in the least-restrictive environment, making them feel like valued members of the community.

“How would you like to be treated if you become disabled?” she asked, adding anyone “could become one of us at any time.”