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Group effort saved Kitsap bases

Kitsap County’s success in avoiding the base closure hatchet last week is attributable to a coordinated effort between 13 community members who prepared material about the area’s strengths with regard to their respective expertise.

Among these, Bremerton Mayor Cary Bozeman wrote about urban areas, Poulsbo City Council member Ed Stern wrote about broadband infrastructure, Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer covered law enforcement and Kitsap County Treasurer (and former United Way Chairman) Barbara Stephenson discussed human services.

Stern said he had heard from a source within the Washington governor’s office that the Kitsap BRAC submission was “hands down, the single best document of is kind that came from the state.”

The 232-page document, the key part of the Kitsap strategy, was not widely publicized in order to avoid tipping off the competition, according to county spokesperson and BRAC commission member Terrie Battuello.

Now that it has served its purpose, the document is viewable on the county’s Web site (go to www.kitsapgov.com/news.htm#BRAC_congrat and select BRAC Commission assessment to download).

Kitsap County has three bases that could have fallen under the BRAC knife — the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Subase Bangor and Keyport. BRAC chairman Will Lent felt the first two were always safe, since they contain unique and important strategic functions.

Keyport’s escape was a pleasant surprise.

“The military value of our bases is sufficient to keep them open,” Lent said.

“The whole community worked with the BRAC task force and prepared a good study. We delivered it early on, when they were making the initial lists.”

“I was very pleased with the results of the recommendations,” said Olympic College president Dr. David Mitchell, who authored the workforce development section. “Our program at the shipyard has built some very strong partnerships. It’s a model program. I don’t know what role it played in the decision, but anyone reading the report can’t help being impressed with the strong relationship between Olympic College and the bases.”

North Kitsap Commissioner Chris Endresen said she was “surprised and happy” about the decision, and the possibility of bringing 1,400 new family-wage jobs in the county.

“We don’t know how that will shake out, because it will happen over the next five or six years,” said Gene Straw, a realtor with John L. Scott in Bremerton who worked on the committee. “Right now, the housing market is very hot and we are building mostly high-end homes. If this trend continues, it will still be a problem.”

So the job isn’t over. While BRAC committee members, elected officials and citizens rejoiced in the results, Lent is continuing his involvement in the process. He is sending copies of the BRAC report to all members of the current committee on the rare chance it moves to change the list.

“We’re pretty much in the clear,” he said, “But I didn’t want to sit here and do nothing.”

In order to change the list, seven of nine BRAC commissioners must vote to do so, according to Lent.

The Kitsap BRAC committee was subsidized by a $10,000 state grant along with an additional $10,000 when it separated from the Puget Sound Naval Bases Association and moved under the auspices of the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners.

“The county commissioners did a great job on this,” Lent said.

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