County to sue park district

The Kitsap County commissioners voted on Monday to file a lawsuit against the South Kitsap Parks and Recreation District asking for payment of an accumulated election debt and seeking an injunction barring the district from holding further elections unless it is able to pay the cost.

This decision was made after the district rejected a request from the parks commissioners to place a measure on the fall ballot asking South Kitsap voters to approve a levy to cover the costs of the district’s current election debt of $27,500 and to fund the district’s continued operations.

Had the district allowed the measure to be placed on the November ballot, the voters of South Kitsap would have been asked to pay 1.2 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for repayment of the election debt. In other words, the cost for a home with an assessed value of $200,000 would be $2.40.

The commissioners offered to absorb the cost of this levy election and asked the district to dissolve if voters turned down the measure.

“This election debt is money owed to the citizens of Kitsap County,” said Kitsap County Commissioner Jan Angel. “It is regrettable that we may have to take legal action, but we have no other choice. I want a viable, active park for the citizens of South Kitsap. Solvency for the district has been a problem since before I was elected. I had hopes they could work this out.”

According to the county commissioners’ office, the district currently owes Kitsap County for the cost of holding the previous two board member elections. Three of the five board positions are up for re-election in November, which would add another $20,000 to $25,000 to the tab.

This debt affects the county’s General Fund, which has an impact on the entire county, not just the south end.

“It is unfortunate to have to do this,” said Commissioner Chris Endresen. “But if the South Kitsap Parks and Recreation District wants to continue to be in business, it has to have a viable funding source and pay its bills on time.”

“There’s nothing that I really have to say right now,” said Larry Walker, who chairs the park district’s board of commissioners. “I have to discuss this development with the rest of the board.”

The parks board has been paying the debt in $1,000-per-month increments for a disputed amount of time.

The South Kitsap Parks and Recreation District was established in 1979 to manage the 200-acre South Kitsap Community Park, of which the county owns nearly half, located at the corner of Jackson and Lund, in Port Orchard.

The park was purchased as a result of a three-year community-driven campaign to save the property from development.

Although ballfields and other amenities were built, the district has been faced with funding challenges since its creation.

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