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Going forward | Mayor Matthes outlines his plans
Sitting behind his desk in the big corner office, Tim Matthes frowns.
In front of him lays a packet from Allen Martin, Port Orchard’s treasurer, showing first quarter sales tax revenue down 4.1 percent.
“A lot of my big plans have to shrink a bit right now,” Matthes said. “Realistically, I don’t have much money to work with.”
Another packet shows the looming Bethel Corridor North annexation, which the first-term mayor said won’t bring in as much revenue early on as previously thought.
Matthes, 65, said he had high hopes for big changes and downtown renovations when he took office on Jan. 1. Now, he views his best method for spurring growth and action in the city is to encourage business owners to invest.
Rejuvenation on Bay Street and elsewhere in the city has to come from people like Don Ryan, the owner of the One Ten Lounge, and Mansour Samadpour, a downtown property owner, Matthes said. Their plans for a Port Orchard Public Market are what will bring dollars into a city that is already struggling to meet it’s 2012 revenue projections.
Matthes will try to help the pair by easing permit applications, sending letters to other businesses owners and trying to make sure the city council is on board when it comes to fast approval for businesses.
Matthes acknowledged that his “cheerleading” wasn’t exactly a grand plan for Port Orchard. But that’s what he needs to do in the midst of budget struggles.
“We are challenged right now,” he said. “I’m going to search out and help the small businesses. I’m looking for every conceivable Don Ryan I can find.”
Matthes’ campaign promises
A Bremerton native who has lived in Port Orchard for more than 40 years, Matthes said he first encouraged two other individuals, including Port Orchard Planning Commission member Gil Michael, to run for mayor. But the former chair of the Kitsap County Board of Equalization and the city’s Planning Commission decided to file for himself about a month before the deadline.
One of the tenants of Matthes’ campaign was transparency and public input to the city’s government.
Matthes said he hoped to bring Bremerton-Kitsap Access Television in to city council chambers to broadcast live council meetings. But he said the council didn’t seem too excited to pay the $12,000 a year to bring BKAT to the chambers, especially since the meetings are already broadcast over the web a day later.
He also said being transparent in his plans has been more difficult than he originally thought.
“I’m taking my knocks with the council,” he said. “I haven’t been very good at communicating what we are up to. I’m going to work on that.”
In March, council members were slow to approve Matthes’ city clerk appointment, Brandy Rinearson. Council members said they were confused on the appointment because in a prior finance committee meeting, Matthes had proposed combining the city clerk and city treasurer into one department to save money. But Matthes scrapped those plans and decided to appoint Rinearson instead, confusing the council.
Council member Jerry Childs, a member of the finance committee, said he learned hours before the March 13 council meeting that the mayor was going to make a clerk appointment.
“It was confusing,” Childs said. “We asked for more information on his plan, and then he changed direction.”
Childs said otherwise Matthes has done an O.K. job at communicating with the council. He said it takes time for a mayor and a council to get on the same page. In the future, he said, he hopes Matthes will chat with council members ahead of time.
“The longer we go, the better we’ll get at this,” Childs said.
Matthes also preached the necessity of an ethics manual during his campaign. He said that idea may have offended some council members at an early work study session, but that he still thinks one should be adopted moving forward. He said a handbook could set rules when it comes to dealing with council members recusing themselves from meetings.
“It would set things in writing,” Matthes said.
City treasurer Allen Martin said sales tax revenue from the first three months of the year are down $27,486 from projected. The dip in sales tax, which makes up about one-third of the city’s annual tax revenue, is an alarming trend, Martin said. And with March down 7.8 percent from projected, it’s hard to see sales tax receiving anytime soon.
“We are down year over year,” Martin said. “Is this going to continue? We’ll see.”
The city may have to look at cutting from this year’s budget, Matthes said. And with grants drying up in hard times, budget restrictions make it even harder to find ways to pump money into the city.
“I sure don’t see a way to spend money on things like a $40 million parking garage,” he said.
But Matthes said he doesn’t wan’t to be entirely bleak.
“I have a lot of little visions right now,” he said. “We have some exciting stuff.”
Matthes said ongoing projects like the public boat launch east of the DeKalb Street Pier and the Mosquito Fleet Trail will continue to progress. He said an overlay project on Kitsap Boulevard will make coming to Port Orchard easier. So too will his plans for increased signage from the highway, he said.
“We need to make sure people can see that historic Port Orchard is not far off the freeway,” he said.
The Bethel Corridor North annexation coming later this month is something to look forward to, he said. While the finance issues and public works side of the annexation can cause a headache, Bethel is an exciting addition, he said.
The mayor said he still has a lot to learn. His job is trial by fire sometimes, he said. But maintaing a happy and productive staff was one of his biggest accomplishments in the short time he’s been in office.
“I want to help them excel,” he said.