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Park Board and county’s horns still locked

It’s been a tough year for the commissioners of the South Kitsap Parks and Recreation District, but as their annual retreat approaches, Board Chair Larry Walker continues to look on the bright side — at the board still exists and has a good lawyer.

“Right now, we’re just letting the lawyers duke it out,” Walker said of Kitsap County’s ongoing lawsuit against the board for unpaid election debt and the board’s subsequent countersuit.

The Kitsap County commissioners filed a suit in August 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 or until it is able to pay the cost.

This decision was made after the district rejected a request from the 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.

The South Kitsap Parks and Recreation Board of Commissioners filed a counter-claim against Kitsap County denying the board is insolvent and alleging the county commissioners had no right to deny them an election in November.

Since the matter was still pending in November, the district elected three new commissioners, adding approximately $20,000 to their overall debt to the county.

Kitsap County Facilities, Parks and Recreation Director Mark Mauren said there have been no significant changes in the status of the either lawsuit nor any decisions yet made in favor of, or against, the county or the board since August, when the original suit was filed.

The board’s attorney, Anthony Otto, is equally tightlipped, but more optimistic.

“There’s been some talk about resolution of the suit, but it has not been resolved,” Otto said.

As far as a timeline for the resolution, Otto said, “Nothing has been set in stone.”

Meanwhile, Walker is moving the board forward into the new year. Regardless of what decisions are made in the future regarding the status of the district and the board, “We’re still here, ” he said, “and we have a job to do.

“We’re getting ready for this coming fourth Thursday, our annual retreat,” Walker said. “We’re going to be bringing the new commissioners up to speed on our goals as a board for the coming years.”

A new Master Plan mapping out the future of South Kitsap Community Parks was passed in December after years of revisions and changing hands.

“That being said, we’re looking at revising it,” Walker said. “We have the structure now and we’re looking to put it back together in a better way.”

Walker reports that continued planning, extending partnerships and increasing programs in the park are also on Thursday’s agenda.

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