Parks, schools look for lights solution

Bainbridge Islanders can be thankful this Thanksgiving that parks and schools leaders are talking about possibly working together to establish lighted athletic fields for the community.

BI Metro Parks and Recreation executive director Terry Lande said last week that they are very early in discussions. “Nothing’s been agreed to at all,” he emphasized.

Parks commissioner Jay Kinney said: “We need more lighted fields. We can’t put this off forever.”

Parks has discussed for years putting lights up at Battle Point Park fields. But there has been a lot of resistance from neighbors and the astronomy association there.

“We should wait and see what the school district does,” said Dawn Janow, chair of the parks board.

Lande likes the idea of working together. “They’re entertaining the idea of lights,” he said. “We could collaborate with the school district.”

Kinney likes the idea too. “They already have lights. It’s the best location. We could even help,” he said.

Janow said a lot depends on if something could be done in the new few years, “Not ten years out.” But she likes that they are “coming together to solve problems.”

Lande also emphasized that the school district’s top priority there is to put turf on the baseball and softball fields.

Kinney said if it doesn’t work out he has wanted for years to put a turf field at Strawberry Hill Park as there are already lights there. “The school option is number one but if that falls apart for some reason…”

He was told that there are time limits on the use of lights there, and any change would need to be renegotiated with those neighbors, who fought for the limits in the first place.

Budget talks

Money talk was a huge part of the meeting.

The parks board approved the general fund budget, with Janow saying it was impressive that they already have turned a profit at the Bainbridge Island Recreation Center.

Kinney added: “It’s amazing. It’s not easy bringing on something in short order. Nicely done.”

Parks expects to bring in almost $2 million in revenue and spend almost $1.7 million. Recreation and park services are expected to be in the red.

In passing the Capital Improvement fund, parks board members were told $130,000 had been added for a shelter at Williams Trail.

Kinney pointed out for “tennis fans in the audience” that $200,000 was in the budget for a new tennis court.

Other major expenses next year are $300,000 for pool upgrades; $100,000 for poll stairwell; and $100,000 for Strawberry Hill Dog Park.

Major expenses for 2023: $Another 950,000 for pool upgrades, with another $800,000 the following two years; and $400,000 for Eagle Harbor Sail Float.

Parks Commissioner Ken DeWitt pointed out that not everything always gets done in the year that funding is approved. Things like COVID-19, storms, “any number of things” can happen to delay a project.

The main cost in the Acquisition Fund is $500,000 for Rockaway Bluff.

Dan Hamlin said Turf and Field Replacement funding continues at Battle Point. He said when turf was originally put in around 2008 the district was told replacement would be needed in less than 10 years. But “it’s held up nicely,” he said of the turf, thanks to maintenance and annual “super cleaning” that have added to its longevity.

As for salaries, raises of 4% were approved, plus, of course, changes to allow for the increase in the minimum wage.

As for property taxes to help pay for all of that, the parks board approved the 1% allowed by state law without a vote of the people. Taxes would be 75 cents per $1,000 valuation to raise $7.785 million. Cost for the levy approved for Sakai property passed in 2015 is more than $517,000, with $285,000 in principal and $166,000 in interest.

Recreation Center

Recreation superintendent Bryan Garoutte gave an update on the newly acquired BIRC, saying there are just under 1,100 members, and it’s great seeing so many new people in the community using it. He said tennis is going really well with a tournament coming up next month. He also said there are new Zumba, Barr and pilates classes, along with 217 kids signed up for basketball and 72 in the chess club.

Other news

Hamlin said progress has been made on the Battle Point pond so it is ready to be filled back up.

Bids came in too high on the mountain bike facility at Strawberry Hill, so “we’re going to slow it down” and try again, Hamlin said. As for the additional skateboard park, bids did come in within budget so a project will be chosen for that.

The parks board also talked about starting to meet again in person Jan. 6, 2022.

Janow said they want to be sure not to overload the room, so if they are expecting a large crowd the meetings would be moved to the BIRC gym. Meetings will also be available for the public to attend virtually.

Park commissioner Asaph Glosser suggested doing like the school district does and asking public commenters to sign up by 4 p.m. That could give the board an idea how many people would be showing up.

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