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Marquee repair work set to get underway

The much talked-about, much argued-over project to remove the picket fences from the city’s downtown marquee will finally get underway this month after the Port Orchard City Council approved a bid to begin work at its meeting on Tuesday.

Many local business owners applauded council’s approval of a bid from Kingston-based TEC Construction to renovate the three-block-long sidewalk cover on both sides of Bay Street for $112,078.

Four bids had been submitted on the $115,000 project.

“Whatever they do to the outside to improve the appearance, I’m all for it,” said Bobbie Stewart, owner of Olde Central Antique Mall, one of many businesses that would be affected.

Mayor Kim Abel hailed the project as positive for Port Orchard, though she acknowledged it marked an “interim step” in the redevelopment of the downtown.

Critics had harsher words for the long-debated attempt to beautify a high-profile area of downtown they say is long overdue for a total overhaul.

“It’s just a Band-aid fix on a major problem,” said Ron Rider, former Port Orchard councilman who saw several attempts to fix the marquee during his four years in office. “What’s so frustrating to me is that council has had four revitalization plans. Each time, it used up a lot of time.”

In addition to removing the blue picket fencing, TEC will replace rotten boards, paint and reattach the marquee to the main building to ensure proper drainage.

New signs eventually will have to be discussed, though nothing there has been decided, Abel said.

The project could begin in June, but likely won’t hit full stride until after the Fathoms o’Fun Festival and carnival ends on July 5.

“I think this is excellent. We’ve been pushing for it for a year,” said Brenda Kruse, owner of Brenda K’s Home Gallery. “Our next goal is to get the buildings improved and encourage building owners to paint the buildings.”

Abel agreed the City Council would have to work with local merchants to find a longer-term solution and to look at what steps must be taken to lure new businesses to the city.

But the mayor said councilmembers wanted to get revitalization moving forward, and that upgrading the marquee was a necessary first step.

Don Atkinson, president of the Port Orchard Merchant’s Association agreed.

“We’re pretty anxious to see it happen,” Atkinson said. “The city has taken a very deliberate approach on it. We’ve offered to be of help wherever we could, although we haven’t necessarily found a way to do that as of yet. We hope to pick up the ball and run with it once the improvements are done.”

Some still wonder how city officials plan to convince building owners to spend money to upgrade their buildings — and how plans to build new buildings will fit into the downtown revitalization plan.

“There’s been a variety of opinions of what should be done regarding the value of downtown,” Atkinson said. “Once this is resolved, we’ll try to chart a course” for further improvements.

Money to pay for the project comes from the $154,279 left over from the city’s 2005 Street Fund and $24,344 remaining from the 2006 Street Fund.

The city already spent $25,000 from this year’s fund for a structural analysis.

Renovation of the marquee likely will temporarily eliminate parking along the street at various places while the project is ongoing, Abel said.

Work should be completed by the end of summer.

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