Court could decide governance center issue

"Responding to a City of Port Orchard request, Kitsap County commissioners on June agreed to pursue an independent court ruling about the $33 million government center currently proposed for downtown Bremerton.At issue is whether Port Orchard's status as the Kitsap County seat is threatened because of the county's proposed expansion plans. Among other proposals, the plan calls for relocating 254 county employees and some county administrative offices from Port Orchard to a new building in Bremerton. We agree that a declaratory action concerning the location of county offices and activities could be useful, said Kitsap County Commissioner and board chair Chris Endresen in a letter issued to the city of Port Orchard for review. However, to accomplish our mutual purposes, several conditions need to be included in our agreement to seek such a declaration.Also in the letter to the city, the commissioners laid out four conditions that could guide the efforts toward a potential court ruling. Port Orchard Mayor Jay Weatherill and Port Orchard city councilmembers were scheduled to discuss whether to adhere to these four conditions at a council meeting on Monday, although the city can wait as late as Friday, June 29, before making a decision. Under the first condition, the commissioners say they will participate in the process only if the city and county agree to abide by a judge's or arbiter's decision on the matter. The idea is to avoid an appeals process, which could consume huge amounts of time and resources.The other three conditions, according to the letter crafted by county officials, are as follows:* The city and county should work jointly to clarify what questions a judge or arbiter should answer. And since the government center proposal is not yet definite, the county plans within the next 30 days to develop a concrete proposal to guide the discussions. * The city and county should agree on a time frame, which should take no more than 90 days, in which to complete the joint work and submit questions to a judge.* The city and county should also move quickly to find a judge for the task, since securing a court calendar date can be time consuming.County Commissioner Jan Angel, who represents both Port Orchard and parts of Bremerton, has publicly stated she can't fully support the project without answering the very legal question currently under consideration: Will this plan constitute a de facto move of the county seat from Port Orchard to Bremerton?Perhaps more than that, the county commissioners want to maintain a good relationship with the city in which they work. We want to work with Port Orchard and keep the lines of communication open, said Endresen, saying the effort could also prevent future lawsuits.Included in a study that details the economic impact the expansion would have on Port Orchard, is a list of county offices that could be moved during the process. Those offices included the county commissioners office, auditor, assessor, treasurer and prosecutor's office. "

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