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UPDATE: Port Orchard paint party gains steam

Plans to spiff up downtown Port Orchard with a paint party and street fair are moving ahead, with the event tentatively scheduled for the weekend of August 1.

“We want to make the town as bright and as clean as possible in time for (Debbie Macomber's) Cedar Cove Days,” said radio personality and Port Orchard resident Delilah Rene on Thursday. “We want to turn the town into something pretty, since the better it looks the more people will come to visit.”

Delilah said the project’s purpose is an extension of what mothers tell their children: “We're having company so we better clean up the house.”

The idea grew from discussions between Delilah and Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola, and is motivated by a desire to buff up the downtown area and attract business — both in the short term, for Cedar Cove Days, and the foreseeable future.

The paint idea does not require any official action or approval, as it does not involve public property or policy. The city and Coppola are acting as facilitators between Delilah, the property owners, and the labor needed to complete the task.

Other involved parties are the Cedar Cove Days executive committee, comprised of Jerry Childs and Cindy Lucarelli, and local hardware store owner Scott McLendon who, according to Delilah, is “approaching all his sources to get us a good deal on the paint.”

As a result, there has been no official notification process, and several merchants have heard about the idea as a rumor. This has caused some distress among downtown merchants, who feel that closing the street on a Saturday would damage their business.

In response, Delilah said Thursday that the closure would most likely occur on Sunday. She also expects there will be a public meeting in the Port Orchard City Council chambers, where public input about all levels of the project will be solicited.

Two merchants, Tim Waibel of Sugardaddy’s Salon and Puget Sound Wine Company’s John Ready suggested that the street closes on Sunday and Monday because, according to Ready, “no one down here is open on Monday, and they will have to reroute traffic anyway.”

Along the way, there are some official obstacles to be cleared, including the proper insurance and the prospect of closing Bay Street for business during the weekend.

This will require permission from the city’s insurance carrier and the Department of Transportation.

Coppola said that both these requests are in the works, and he expected they would be approved.

The preparation of the surfaces and the project’s planning are also to be determined prior to the project, but Coppola said there is plenty of time to make these arrangements.

He said that the downtown area has been divided into quadrants, bisected by Sidney Avenue and Bay Street. Four painting contractors, recruited as volunteers, will each take responsibility for the surface preparation and painting completion.

Delilah said she has not imposed a spending limit on the paint, saying that she will “work the cost out” with McLendon. One estimate guessed that it would take at least 100 gallons to complete the task, with a per-gallon cost of $20. Delilah, who hopes to recruit other sponsors to take part, said that she expected the cost of the paint to be far less.

Delilah has characterized the downtown paint scheme as “butt ugly,” and repeated this opinion at Friday’s art walk. She has expressed the desire to be involved in color selection and intends to develop a color palette with the help of McLendon and downtown landowner Mansour Samadpour, with landlords and the public contributing to the process.

“Anyone who doesn’t want their building painted won’t have to participate,” she said. “But if someone came over and said they were going to paint my house and they were going to pay for the paint and brought volunteer labor, I would welcome them.”

“This is on track,” Coppola said, “I think that most people will jump at the chance to get their building painted for free.”

But Rudy Swensen, who owns and operates Rings and Things, isn’t jumping. Swensen vacated his building last year and moved to temporary quarters across the street with the intention of building a new structure on Bay Street.

His plans have changed due to the economy, and he now expects to remodel the original space.

Swensen doesn’t oppose the idea of repainting the town, but resents how the process has unfolded.

“I don’t think anyone has the right to tell anyone else what to do with their own property,” he said. “If they want to tell me what to do with my property, they can start paying my bills.”

“Everyone wants what’s best for the town,” said Jeannie Swensen, who runs the business with her husband, “but they could have done a better job at communicating what they wanted to do with the downtown area.”

“I’m not opposed to the idea,” said Ron Rider, who owns the building that holds Moondogs Too. “I need to see what they have in mind. If they want to paint my building hot pink, it’s not going to happen.”

Both Rider and Swensen plan to erect new fronts for their building this year, so they would be open to allowing a temporary resurfacing.

“It’s going to take more than just a paint job to make downtown look any better,” Rider said, adding that it could be similar to “putting duct tape on a ferry with a cracked hull.”

Delilah, meanwhile, is optimistic about the project, and will not accept its failure. She is also surprised that the proposal has generated any controversy or opposition.

“I just want to clean up the town and make it look better,” she said. “Where’s the controversy in that?

“For years, people have complained about the condition of the downtown buildings,” she said. “They have said they wanted to paint downtown but didn’t have the money for the paint. Now, I have offered to buy the paint so there is no excuse to not do this.”

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