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Supporters fear for Sidney Museum’s future

Port Orchard
Port Orchard's Sidney Museum.
— image credit: Charlie Bermant

The future of the Sidney Museum and how it fits into Port Orchard’s redevelopment was clarified on Tuesday night, when Mayor Lary Coppola stated that the city has no plans to tear down the building and replace it with the new library campus.

“I’m delighted to hear that,” said museum board president Jud Turner. “This is the first time that he has stated this outright.”

Coppola, however, said the city has always expressed a desire to preserve the building. He said that he and members of the council have stated they do not intend to tear down the building at least a dozen times since the subject has come up.

Coppola made the public statement after public testimony from Robert Ulsh, a Bremerton artist who said he did not want to see the historical building replaced “by a big gray structure.”

After Ulsh’s statement, Coppola showed clear irritation, saying, “I don’t know what we have to do to get you people to understand that we have no plans to do this. If you look at the drawings you don’t see anything that’s gray.”

“For them to say this is the first time we have said this is not accurate,” Coppola said.

Ulsh said that he had heard the city planned to destroy the building, but could not identify the source.

According to Turner, Ulsh later apologized for being misinformed.

Coppola, however, maintains that the city has never said it would demolish the building or committed itself to any single course.

Rather, at this stage of the planning process it is premature to decide to follow any path, especially since funding sources have not been determined.

The city and the museum has gone back and forth about the subject, with the city supplying half a dozen possibilities. The museum responded with an evaluation of four options, responding to Development Director James Weaver. Coppola had not read that response when he was interviewed for this piece, but did so on Thursday.

A report in the printed version of The Port Orchard Independent saying Weaver did not notify Coppola of that particular communication was incorrect.

As far as the four possibilities, the museum regards them in the following order of preference:

• To move the building temporarily, excavate the parking garage, build a foundation and move the house back. “We have always favored the redevelopment project and want to be a participant,” Turner said.

• Leave the building where it is and build the project outside of its boundaries.

• Move the building to another location. “This is not acceptable to us,” Turner said. “When you move a historic building it is no longer historical.”

• Declare eminent domain and knock down the structure.

In each case there are variables, such as whether the city would lease the land below the building.

Despite Turner’s statement, neither Coppola nor any other city employee has publicly favored the fourth option.

Still, several of the artist renderings on the Web site show a downtown with a library or a park where the building now stands.

While city employees have stressed that these drawings are preliminary, their presence has implied the city plans to destroy or move the museum.

“I think their conceptual drawings have led some people to think the city has made up their minds,” said museum board member Sally Shuster, “and the fact that they’re looking for funding makes it uncertain.”

“Their literature makes it look like they are going to knock down the building,” Ulsh said. “I testified in front of the council because somebody told me this could be a problem.”

For his part, Coppola wishes that “somebody” would get their facts straight.

“We have no intention to displace the museum,” he said. “That people haven’t heard this message is a source of frustration.”

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