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Task force to probe livability issues

The proposed Kitsap County NASCAR racetrack has moved into an enhanced scrutiny phase over the past few months.

The proposal submitted by International Speedway Corp. (ISC) requested enough public money to cause an anti-track backlash.

While any bond action requires legislative approval, at the moment no legislator has announced their intention to introduce the necessary bill.

In the meantime, Kitsap County officials are preparing for the track’s possibility by learning as much as possible about its potential impact on the community.

The latest such effort is the creation of a citizens’ panel to determine the livability issues surrounding the proposed 85,000-seat facility, with 12 members and two alternates being selected to help in the preparation of a report.

The Kitsap County commissioners signed an action creating the task force at their final 2005 meeting. Terrie Battuello, who served for several years as the county’s public information officer, is facilitating the project.

“We worked hard getting the right people,” Battuello said, “those without any preconceived notions.”

The panel, selected from a group of 29 applicants, is staffed by volunteers who have all made good faith promises regarding their undecided status about the track’s construction.

The task force will hold regular meetings on Thursdays and Saturdays beginning Jan. 12, with a final report scheduled for presentation to the county commissioners on Feb. 6.

Batttuello said the task force would supply summaries for each meeting, with each member auditing the notes to make sure each nuance was correct.

In staffing the committee, Battuello strove for regional diversity, differing with other advisory boards by not linking participants to a specific commissioner district.

Still, the makeup included six people from Port Orchard, four from Bremerton, three from Poulsbo and one from Silverdale.

While the commissioners approved the 14 names to serve on the task force, there are still a few speed bumps to be negotiated. Nick Jewett, a Kingston Web developer recommended by incoming Poulsbo Mayor Kathryn Quade, was lost in the shuffle after his paperwork was misplaced.

Battuello said she would like to find some way to include him, since it is important to have people from the Kingston area.

“I am really interested in public-private partnerships and how they work, or whether they work,” said Jewett. “We have to do some serious listening in the community. We need to maintain an economic culture that is conducive to new ventures, but whether or not the racetrack is the right animal, I don’t really know.”

There were no volunteers or recommendations from Bainbridge Island.

Organizers want to be sure of participants’ objectivity, and are not taking their word about this. Battuello said the selection committee is poring over public records to make sure no prospective panelists have taken a stand one way or the other.

During the orientation session the applicants were broken into small groups, with the organizers observing their personal interaction. Subsequently, participants were asked to list the other members with whom they had the easiest rapport in order to select a harmonious group.

Battuello said the task force will split up into smaller groups and conduct phone interviews with people who live near existing racetrack facilities. The interviews and data will center around livability issues and how the opening of a track changed the community for better or for worse.

Battuello said the task force would use random sampling of local residents to gather this data.

The task force has 12 permanent positions and two alternates, who are also required to attend all meetings. Alternates will be made permanent in the event a regular member becomes too ill to serve or decides he or she can no longer be objective.

“There are many unknowns that have yet to be answered,” said task force member Don Diehl, a retired rocket scientist from Bremerton. “I want to be as informed as I can before making up my mind. The more I hear, the more it seems like a pre-ordained sell job, and that’s not the case.”

Diehl, then, will use the information gathered during the task force’s research phase to make up his own mind.

Aside from Diehl, task force members include Dain Nysoe, Gary Nelson, Roger Gay and Fred Depee of Port Orchard; James Sommerhauser, Dalene Mills and Tim Brorson of Bremerton; Allan Breitmayer, William Crews and Kent Lord of Poulsbo and Anna Padia of Silverdale.

The alternates are John Kincl and Larry Taylor, both from Port Orchard.

All meetings will be open to the public, with times and places announced at a later date.

Battuello said the first few meetings would probably be held in the Parametrix conference room in Bremerton, but they could move if they draw a larger crowd.

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