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Kitsap Transit to host budget meetings

Helen Wilson, shown boarding a bus on Thursday morning, relies on Kitsap Transit for transportation to and from doctor’s appointments. Wilson is just one county resident who stands to lose out if Kitsap Transit cuts services. - Brad Camp/ Staff Photo
Helen Wilson, shown boarding a bus on Thursday morning, relies on Kitsap Transit for transportation to and from doctor’s appointments. Wilson is just one county resident who stands to lose out if Kitsap Transit cuts services.
— image credit: Brad Camp/ Staff Photo

Based on the number of people who showed up to speak at Kitsap Transit’s presentation of its draft 2009 budget last week, a lot of county residents are concerned about bus service being cut.

“They had 60 people signed up to speak,” said Kathleen Seamans, a Bremerton resident who attended the Nov. 18 meeting during which the proposed budget was discussed.

Seamans said many of the people who spoke were disabled and concerned about the agency cutting back on Access service, while others didn’t want to lose their bus rides to church on Sunday.

The draft budget seeks to cut $4.8 million, since the agency predicts it will have a deficit hovering around $4 million. Service reductions such as dropping Sunday and holidays, certain ferry commuter runs and restricting ACCESS service in outlying areas would slice $2 million of that.

Beginning next week, residents will have more opportunities to voice their opinions about the draft budget as Kitsap Transit officials hold several community meetings throughout the county.

“We will be sharing all this information with the various communities,” said John Clauson, the agency’s service development director, explaining that Nov. 18 was only the “first reading of the budget,” and it will not be voted on until December.

Clauson said the agency understands that service cuts will affect many residents, but “we have to cover these shortfalls somehow. We are between a rock and a hard place.”

The agency estimates the proposed weekday route cuts would affect more than 240 daily commuters, while cutting Sunday service affects 3,300 passengers.

If Saturday service is also cut, 4,300 passengers would likely be affected.

By March of next year, a peak-hour surcharge would cost passengers an additional 50 cents. For outlying areas, ACCESS service charge doubles to $3 per passenger fare.

When asked about one South Kitsap resident’s suggestion that Kitsap Transit collect fares from employees of the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, which he alleged ride for free, Clauson said the agency does already.

“The shipyard pays $70 a month per worker that rides on our Worker Driver Bus Program,” he said, adding any company utilizing the program would pay the same amount, which is twice what a standard rider pays for a monthly pass — $36.50.

When asked whether any changes would be made to the proposed budget cuts, Kitsap Transit Executive Director Dick Hayes said “there will be changes (to the proposed budget cuts) but I don’t know which changes,” said Dick Hayes, executive director of Kitsap Transit. “We have a long way to get to reach what I would call a sustainable budget.”

Hayes said he hopes to have last-minute changes made and adopt the 2009 budget during the next board meeting scheduled Dec. 16 at the Norm Dicks Government Center in Bremerton beginning at 9:45 a.m.

“There will be no special meetings, just the meeting we’ve promised,” he said in regard to a rumor that the 2009 budget was initially due Dec. 15. “I’ve asked people to look into the Dec. 15 deadline and I don’t think it exists.”

Kitsap Transit will hold two community meetings in South Kitsap, the first

Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. at the Harper Free Evangelical Church in Southworth, located at Sedgwick and Wilson Creek Road.

The second will be Dec. 9 at 2 p.m. in the Olympic Room of Port Orchard’s Givens Center, located at 1026 Sidney Avenue.

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