Kitsap commissioners say retreat was a success

An offsite retreat during which the Kitsap County commissioners studied their interaction habits was deemed a success by those who attended even though yielded few specific solutions.

“We discussed a lot of themes and issues,” said North Kitsap Commissioner Steve Bauer, at a study session where the retreat was evaluated, “but we didn’t come away with any firm ideas about specific projects.”

This wasn’t determined to be a negative consequence, since the commissioners argued that strengthening team-building skills was a better use of the retreat’s time then listing individual priorities.

Bauer advised the board to choose the projects that are most important and make a commitment to their completion.

“We have to be clear about this,” he said, “and send a message to the outside world about what we intend to accomplish.”

Following this thread, Central Kitsap Josh Brown said it was important to let the public know about the county’s positive accomplishments, since these aren’t always properly communicated.

This was seconded by South Kitsap Commissioner Charlotte Garrido, who said, “We should be celebrating our successes. We need to talk about our pride in the county.”

Brown, specifically, wants the public to know about improvements to Waaga Way in Silverdale, one of the few major road projects to be completed in the state.

The three commissioners met on Jan. 22 at the Quilcene home of consultants Richard and Anna Linzer.

While the meeting was properly advertised and open to the public, it drew criticism that it was not accessible enough and did not easily accommodate large groups.

The commissioners were also criticized for the cost of the retreat, and that the $2,900 paid to the Linzers could have been better allocated.

They responded that several cost-saving measures would arise from the meeting, which would make the event worthwhile.

A four-page memo (viewable below) that enumerated the retreat’s accomplishments first centered on the issue of a practical image for the future of Kitsap County, segueing into a discussion about sustainability — how to move into the future while maintaining the present quality of life.

One of the major themes of the memo is to clarify expectations and define responsibilities. This process, which has already been discussed at several meetings, is to include increased input from elected officials and department heads.

Some of the conclusions have been stated before, for several years.

For example, it should surprise no one that, “We need to strengthen our infrastructure with regard to our people and the services we provide” or that “The current 1 percent limit on property taxes is a constraint on our ability to provide needed services.”

The commissioners hope to write down and disseminate all of the county’s positive accomplishments, to be presented online or in an annual report — something the county did regularly for several years.

Such a report would outline actual progress while informing residents exactly which services they should expect the county to provide in the future.

If the county is to accomplish this, or any significant public interaction task, it will need to stretch the job description of an existing staff member or recruit a volunteer to assemble the project.

While Public Works and Parks and Recreation have a public information officer on staff, the county let its PIO go as one of its first job reductions in late 2007.

Since then, each department has individually handled interaction with the press and public.

While conceding that having a full-time PIO in place would be an advantage, Bauer does not regret cutting that position.

“I think that the public has made it clear they would rather have someone working behind a desk and providing services than in that type of position,” he said.

Kitsap County commissioners retreat

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