McCormick Woods provides public connection model

The city of Port Orchard is hoping a previously existing citizen’s group will evolve into a model for a series of community councils that will keep it connected to public opinion.

“This community has a history of being well-organized,” Mayor Lary Coppola said at a special city council work session held at McCormick Woods on Tuesday night. “I’d like to use this community as a test vehicle to determine the interest in establishing community councils throughout the city.”

The city annexed the McCormick Woods subdivision this year and, over a two-year period, a well-established annexation committee tracked the process, gathering signatures and providing information to residents about the benefits and drawbacks of annexation.

City officials have called the McCormick annexation the smoothest in the city’s history.

The annexation committee still exists, and the city expects to use it as a communications channel to its new constituents.

In this way, the committee helped to draw about 30 people to the evening work session.

Council members were impressed by the number of attendees.

“It’s always a challenge to get people to get folks to come to a meeting like this,” said Councilman John Clauson. “This turnout is overwhelming.”

Annexation Committee President Dick Davis said the group has a 200-member e-mail list, to which it disseminates information about interacting with the city.

He hopes to keep these lines of communication open, but on an informal, ad hoc basis.

“We want to continue to attend the city council meetings so all the residents don’t have to,” Davis said. “But we want to stay away from ‘barking dog’ issues. If someone has that kind of problem, we will advise them of the law, but they will need to take action on their own.”

Davis said state law’s requirement that neighborhood groups stay out of politics provides another reason to keep it informal.

Clauson said that community councils will open two-way communication that will allow the city council to act more quickly.

Councilman Jerry Childs added that neighborhood councils could advise the city of issues before they cause problems, saying “We’d like to hear about things before they turn into a crisis.”

“We always hear a lot from the downtown merchants,” Coppola said. “But a lof of people throughout the city have different issues that we don’t hear about. Creating a network of neighborhood councils will help keep us in the loop.”

In addition to the council idea, city staff advised the group about snow removal, septic and utility cost issues.

“This was great,” Davis said after the meeting. “Everyone who was here tonight will go home knowing more about the city and how it works.”

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