Givens shakeup blamed on county budget woes

The Kitsap County Parks and Recreation Department is looking to consolidate its staff at the Kitsap Fairgrounds office in Central Kitsap after the new year — leaving no on-site employees at the Givens Community Center in Port Orchard.

The proposal has touched off a ripple of dismay among some recreational enthusiasts, although the idea hasn’t yet been officially OKed by the Kitsap County Commissioners.

Now continued availability next year is in question for some agencies and residents who have made occasional use of the space at the Givens facility located, just south of the Kitsap County Courthouse in Port Orchard.

“It is difficult and cumbersome to have staff split in two, at the Fairgrounds and at Givens,” said Parks Director Cris Gears. “We’ve been brainstorming for months on how to consolidate resources and look for efficiencies.”

Debby Baker of Parks and Recreation issued a letter days ago informing infrequent users of the Givens Center of the potential staff changes.

The plan is dovetailed by a growing demand for efficiencies in government departments and for Kitsap County’s need for more office space outside the courthouse.

Last month, Kitsap County department heads, including parks, were directed to plan on trimming their budgets by 10 percent next year and by another 5 percent in 2004.

Talks of consolidating parks staff predated the county’s budget woes, but ended up on a parallel path, Gears said.

Also at issue is the county’s ongoing and critical need for more office space for employees cramped in courthouse quarters. With the move, space at Givens could be tapped by the county while planners look at constructing an additional administrative building across the street from, and to the north of, the existing courthouse.

Several county offices are already located at Givens, including the elections department of the Auditor’s Office, the county Board of Equalization, the county’s Division on Aging and other agencies such as the Senior Center and a Kitsap County Health District satellite office.

Other non-county agencies considered regular tenants didn’t receive the parks-issued letter more than a week ago and should be able to remain, officials say.

Those offices include the Holly Ridge Center, the Olympic Education Service District, the Head Start ECAP program and the Discovery Montessori program.

Even so, the agencies and groups that received the letter and who have rented space at Givens in the past are vast in number and varied in origin.

They range from Kitsap Transit to the Kitsap Regional Library. Other groups include South Kitsap youth athletic teams, South Kitsap schools, the Washington Health Care Association, Weight Watchers, Calvary Chapel, the county bar association, West Sound Quilters, Jazzexercise, Edward Jones Investments and the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce — to name a few.

Other organizations or events often try to book space at Givens, but now availability for that purpose is in question as well.

The message is not to make any long-term plans to use the building next year, although there is some reassurance.

The parks letter indicated the county will honor existing commitments to regular users of Givens through the end of the year.

And, as the end of the year approaches, the county “will work closely...for the smoothest transition possible, including offering month-to-month extensions to regular users until a firm plan is established...,” according to the letter.

But the document has done little so far to allay the fears of concerned citizens in the south end of Kitsap County.

A petition is reportedly in the works, and it asks the City of Port Orchard to subsidize activities at the Givens Center.

Over the last decade, the recreation program has been located at Givens Center in Port Orchard.

Baker manages that division, as well as the administrative services division at the Fairgrounds. Consolidation in itself doesn’t spell the end of recreational opportunities at Givens in South Kitsap, parks officials say.

“We didn’t think it made sense to notify peple in December of changes that could occur in January,” Gears said, explaining the reason for the letter.

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