The Bainbridge Island City Council plans to put new city manager Blair King in the hot seat right away.
The council is going to ask him to research the controversial $20 million police-court facility that has been in the works for years once he comes on board May 17.
Deputy Mayor Kirsten Hytopoulos said at the Zoom council meeting Tuesday night that the city should “take advantage of a third-party expert” to make a recommendation before the council makes a decision.
“He’s going to want to dig in and get the entire background,” Councilmember Leslie Schneider said, adding it’s like having an outsider come in to help them move forward. “We’re going to come out of this with a lot of confidence.”
Many community members have questioned the process of the most-recent plan to use the former Harrison Medical Center as the police-court facility, saying the city spent too much and didn’t look at other options. With King reviewing contracts, etc., the community will get answers, the council said.
Councilmember Joe Deets said King will look at three real estate sites the city owns – Harrison, the existing police site and the Suzuki property – to see which of the three could get the project done at the best price in the quickest amount of time.
“We don’t have to have a long, drawn-out review,” Deets said. “We have to do our due diligence and check off some boxes.”
Deets said while he wants to move the project forward, King will “do what we ask him to do. We need to give him direction.”
Interim city manager Ellen Schroer said BI had planned to put the project out to bid, but decided waiting for King would be the best move. She said after that the community would feel better about communication and accountability regarding the project’s history. “There’ll be a shared understanding of how we got where we are, and where we want to go next,” she said.
Since fall of 2020, there has been significant community and council conversations about the police-court facility. Staff and the council have reviewed many of the decisions about location and budget made in prior years.
“It may be prudent to wait until the new city manager arrives and has ample opportunity to fully review and understand the project so that he can lead the city through the final decision making and project delivery,” city documents say.
During this time, staff and consultants will continue to work to finalize the bid documents and building permit, so the project will be ready to proceed, the documents add. “We believe that this will put the city in the best position for accountability and successful project delivery.”
Information about the project is available at www.bainbridgewa.gov/528/Police-Station-and-Municipal-Court-Build