After two years of responding to challenges of COVID-19, we are grateful for Kitsap County’s resilient communities – and to everyone who has stepped up to help one another. We remain focused on ensuring and improving your health, safety and quality of life, and offer you this preview of 2022.
The 2020 U.S. Census showed an increase of about 25,000 people in Kitsap since 2010. The influx of newcomers, along with impacts of the pandemic and a major upswing in property values, underscore the urgent necessity for more affordable housing. New residential construction is well behind the number of housing units projected to be needed in the next 15 years.
In response to this shortage, we implemented a 1/10th of 1% sales tax increase to be enacted April 1. The funds will be used for the construction and acquisition of affordable housing, essential to our diverse population, especially families, veterans and seniors.
Last fall, Kitsap County purchased a building in South Kitsap to provide temporary housing and supportive services for people living homeless so they can transition to stable permanent housing. The building is undergoing renovations.
We’re thrilled to see progress made on Pendleton Place, a new supportive housing apartment complex in Bremerton expected to open this spring. This project received funding through the county’s HOME Investment Partnerships and Mental Health, Chemical Dependency and Therapeutic Court programs. We continue to look for other opportunities and partnerships to ensure a diverse range of housing.
Multiple projects to maintain, improve and expand road, stormwater and sewer infrastructure ensure that investments of the past meet future growth needs. These crucial upgrades help protect the verdant ecosystem that makes Kitsap so special.
Construction begins this spring on a new Silverdale Transit Center across from St. Michael Medical Center. The project includes road and pedestrian safety improvements, bike lanes and a stormwater management facility, in addition to Kitsap Transit bus bays and parking. The new center improves access to public transportation for people living in nearby housing developments and enhances all of Kitsap by better connecting people and expanding accessibility.
Our parks department is focused on maintaining and improving parking areas, playgrounds and public access with the help of hundreds of volunteers who contributed over 35,000 hours in 2021.
A master plan project is in progress at the 3,500-acre Port Gamble Forest Heritage Park to develop amenities for active and passive recreation. A mountain bike park there will encompass 160 acres and attract riders from throughout the region who will contribute to the local economy.
Other 2022 priorities
• Law enforcement and public safety: The ambiguity of recent state legislation has serious impacts on how law enforcement can respond and operate. We joined with Kitsap County Sheriff John Gese to send a letter to local legislators asking for support of Senate Bill 5919. It provides practical modifications to police reform laws to allow law enforcement to carry out their mission while still being held to high standards and accountability.
• American Rescue Plan: The federal government awarded Kitsap $53 million through the American Rescue Plan. Funds need to be spent by the end of 2024. We are carefully considering strategic use of these dollars for the best benefits to our community and committing financial support to childcare and youth programs, low-income residents, small businesses, broadband infrastructure and public health, among others. Further funding may be available later this year.
• Kitsap County Comprehensive Plan: An update to this 20-year guide for future action that includes long-range goals and objectives and implementation strategies gets underway this year. It requires we reassess and refocus our vision for Kitsap County. Significant public input will be essential.
• Ensuring equity and inclusion: This year, a diversity, equity and inclusion program is being created at the county to guide the review of internal policies, hiring practices, staff training and community engagement. We’ll look at where we can do better with the help of a group of county employees and a committee of members of the public to guide improvements.
• County Courthouse expansion: We continue planning for a major expansion of the Kitsap County Courthouse. The pandemic caused us to look at changes in public interactions and how those may drive design revisions. We’re still in the early stages of this capital project and continue to forge ahead.
Stay informed and connected. Sign up to receive important information at the link on our website at www.kitsapgov.com and email us at email@example.com.
The Kitsap County Board of Commissioners consists of Edward E. Wolfe, chair; Charlotte Garrido and Robert Gelder