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Governance center gets green light
"The Kitsap County Commissioners' May 21 decision to move into Phase II of the governance center project found a tepid reception from Port Orchard city officials. But they said they appreciated Commissioner Tim Botkin's nod to city concerns by postponing for 30 days any acquisition of land.By moving into Phase II, the county committed to covering up to $320,000 for studies and design work by the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority. Commissioner Jan Angel voted against moving forward with the project, citing questions surrounding the legality of the center and traffic and congestion problems, but Botkin said those concerns were scheduled to be addressed in Phase II.Bryan Petro, of the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce, congratulated commissioners on the action. I'm glad that you so wisely chose to put off buying property, he said. I'm surprised and pleased that you agreed to the 30-day wait.Port Orchard Mayor Jay Weatherill issued a letter asking commissioners to delay their decision for 30 days to give city officials more time to review two studies analyzing the impact of the project on Bremerton and Port Orchard.While commissioners decided to go ahead with Phase II, Botkin suggested the county not commit to purchasing land, at least for a month, to allow commissioners to continue working with city officials. The decision will allow the housing authority to pursue answers to questions without committing significant sums of money to land acquisition, he said.City Councilwoman Carolyn Powers said she was pleased to see the commissioners' willingness to work with the city. I think there's merit to the fact that they're not willing to purchase land at this point, she said. At least commissioners are willing to step back. They've compromised, and that's always a good sign.Phil McCormick and Ron Rider, president and vice president of the Bay Street Association, were less amenable to the decision. I'm not happy. I think that was just a stall technique, McCormick said. Tim (Botkin) might have been trying to appease some people, maybe to take some of the heat off ... but I still think it's a bad idea, he said.The two said commissioners Botkin and Chris Endresen are not fully realizing the potential negative impact to the downtown business owners. McCormick owns Rewind Music and Coffee and Rider owns the Harborside Bar and Grill.Tim does not understand the ramifications to business - it's obvious from his 1 percent thing. He has no consideration for business. Chris understands, but not fully, McCormick said.Of course, I'm not happy at all, Rider said. It's just really irritating that they're not listening to what people are saying, or even weighing other options. My biggest thing is Tim has made some comments about it's only 1 percent, but if that loss of 1 percent causes me to lose my business, who's going to cough up the money to reimburse me for my investment? I've got a half-a-million-dollar investment here.Botkin said he does understand, but maintains moving the county workers to Bremerton wouldn't be an insurmountable challenge to downtown Port Orchard business owners. I think the study shows in terms of the dollar amount that it's not really a huge issue, at least overall, he said. I very much recognize - I've had two small businesses before. A couple thousand dollars can be very significant to a small business. Sometimes that extra thousand bucks is the difference between making money or not.(But) I do have to look out for the overall welfare of the county, he said. What we're scrounging to work through is to see if there are remedies or options so those relatively small impacts don't occur.Port Orchard City Councilman John Clauson said he was disappointed commissioners didn't agree to hold off moving into Phase II. They seem to be rushing in, he said. Thirty days is not that big a deal. I think there needs to be an awful lot of discussion.Powers said the decision, though not an easy one, at least threw some concession to city officials. It's kind of like, 'Is a half-a-loaf better than none?' We got half a loaf, she said.McCormick and Rider said they are willing to pursue legal action if that would stop the project. If push comes to shove and I need to go find an attorney ... that's what I will do, because I still think it's a bad idea, McCormick said. I'm by no means finished. "