Parks, Annapolis get down to basics

The South Kitsap Parks and Recreation Board of Commissioners and the Annapolis Water District Board of Commissioners have again opened the floodgates.

Both entities agreed last week to appoint representatives to a bargaining table that might result in an increase in the annual lease amount Annapolis pays the Parks Board for its access to water in South Kitsap Community Park.

“We’re going to get down to the nitty-gritty,” said Parks Board Chair Larry Walker. “(But) it’s going to be a professional nitty-gritty.”

Walker approached the Annapolis Water District’s Board of Commissioners Thursday with a letter prepared by the Parks Board and signed by Walker. In it, the Board explains “we...want to continue our discussions to re-evaluate the public resource provided to Annapolis Water District” and “iron out details of a new agreement.”

The current contract states that for the multiple millions of gallons of water pumped out of the park’s wells, Annapolis Water District must pay the South Kitsap Parks and Recreation Board of Commissioners $1 every five years -- in addition to the $16,000 paid to the Parks Board at the time the contract was signed. According to the letter distributed to Annapolis’ Board, the water pumped from the park has “more than compensated for the original $16,000.”

The Parks Board presented two methods of monetary re-negotiation it feels are more appropriate. The first is that Annapolis turn over a percentage of the value of the land currently under its control.

“We at SK Parks feel that Method 1 is excessive,” read the Park Board’s letter to Annapolis. “Since Annapolis Water District retains exclusive well drilling rights to all 200 acres of the park, basing the annual lease amount on the land values would result in a prohibitively large cost to AWD and does not serve the public interest.”

Instead, the Parks Board is suggesting Annapolis pay a portion of the profits for the sale of the water pumped from the wells. Walker is currently estimating a lease agreement that would bring the Parks Board at least $40,000 a year.

John Conte, a former Parks Commissioner who participated in discussions about the contract years ago, said he is hopeful negotiations will be successful and the Parks Board will finally have the money to make the park better.

“We could be finally on the cusp of breaking the cycle of bad years for this park,” Conte said. “This next year could bring a lot of change. It looks to me like it’s in favor of the park, instead of the reverse...The public needs to understand why the park hasn’t had any funding. It’s time for (Annapolis Water District) to join the community at the table instead of taking (the) resource and making a whole lot of extra money.”

According to Annapolis Board Commissioner Bill Huntington, however, Annapolis Water District makes no profit on the current arrangement.

“There are no profits,” Huntington said, “because we are not a private agency. We’re a government agency.”

There are no profits because we’re not a private agencies, government agencies

Huntington said the District can only collect what it takes to maintain the system. While he said rates would not automatically sky-rocket if the District started paying the Parks Board for the water, “obviously, if it’s so ferocious of an increase the rates will be affected.”

Conte said he remains optimistic about the future dealings between both boards.

“This is possibly a way for (Annapolis Water District) to become a major partner for the park,” Conte said. “The one thing that has caught me off guard is not being able to understand why the water district doesn’t see that there’s a seat open at the table.”

“I think it’s important to everyone that we work it out,” Huntington echoed. “I like parks. They’re quite an asset to a community and I’d hate to see (South Kitsap Community Park) go away.”

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