'Paint the town’ effort rolls on, seeks volunteers

As the volunteer-driven effort to rehabilitate downtown Port Orchard with a fresh coat of paint forges ahead, its rapid pace has given many of those involved no time to absorb the process.

“It’s moving quickly,” said design consultant Heather Cole, who is helping to develop a proposed color palette. “But I think we are OK on time, and will be able to do everything we need.”

The idea to paint the town originated from radio personality and Port Orchard resident Delilah Rene, who wanted to spiff up the town for the upcoming Cedar Cove Days, and beyond. Cole and Rene have spent this week approaching building owners individually and presenting them with a color palette and a painting proposal.

As of Wednesday, a plurality of building owners had agreed to the idea, which would theoretically cost them nothing. The day before Cole finally connected with movie theater owner and former Port Orchard City Councilman Bob Geiger, who owns one of the most visible buildings downtown.

“He really likes the idea,” Cole said. “He was waiting to be asked. We have some special things planned for that building, including a theme that resembles an old theater.”

Geiger was more agreeable than some property owners, who first opposed the idea on principle. They are now falling in line, according to Cole. Even so, the notification process has been shaky.

“Communication about this has been nonexistent,” said downtown merchant Mallory Jackson. “We get our news from each other and from the newspapers, which each tell a different story.”

As this is a private effort based on contracts between individuals, there is little official involvement. The Port Orchard City Council approved the idea at their July 14 meeting, but its only responsibility is to secure the closure of Bay Street and provide environmental advice. Supporters, both public and private, insist that the rehabilitation will not cost the city anything.

The pace, where the project could move from concept to completion in under 90 days, is unprecedented for government work. There is no law regulating how one person offers a service — such as painting a building for a certain price — as long as public safety is preserved.

Even so, the schedule is frantic. The painting itself is scheduled for Aug. 2, just nine days away. During this time, the sponsors need to secure permission from all the property owners, choosing color scheme that satisfies both the owner’s taste and the sponsors’ grand plan.

According to Rene and Cole, they have recruited Mansour Samadpour and the Mentor Company, downtown’s two largest landowners. Ken Kalberg, who said he would only allow his building (between Olympic Bike & Skate and Moondogs Too) to be painted if it were done in a black-and-white motif is also onboard, according to Cole, after she agreed to follow his pattern.

“We want to work with property owners whenever we can,” she said.

Holdouts include Morningside Bakery (which was recently re-surfaced) and others that Cole has been unable to contact, like the brick building at the east end of town that houses Jawapas and Sugardaddy’s Salon.

Tim Waibel, owner of Sugardaddy’s, has consistently voiced his apprehensions about the project. Waibel accused the sponsors of a “lack of transparency” and has raised questions about liability and environmental impact. Two of his worst-case scenarios involve an untrained volunteer falling through a window, or lead-based paint flushing into the sound.

“The main focus is on sprucing up the town for Cedar Cove Days (on August 26),” Waibel said. “The timeline, no matter how many buildings involved, does not lend itself to a quality job.”

Waibel was especially concerned about the paint issue, noting that prep work is scheduled to begin next week. Environmental testing would need to occur concurrently. Since lead paint should be painted over rather than pressure washed this could affect the schedule.

On Tuesday Rene said she had secured insurance through an acquaintance, and that testing of paint for lead content would continue. In the meantime, the city of Port Orchard imposed requirements on the painters to install “socks” on every drain during the paint project. Lead based or not, the purpose is to keep any paint out of Puget Sound.

As of Wednesday no official testing had occurred.

Barring the discovery of a toxic substance, the event is likely to take place on schedule. Hundreds of volunteers have been recruited, according to Rene, which will be assembled into supervised ”teams” during the event. And the paint is to be purchased — or donated —next week.

Even so, the unresolved issues loom large for some. Jackson, who has worked on downtown beautification for several years, is feeling the effects.

“I had a dream, where one of the buildings had been painted a bright blue,” she said. “The owner was crying and I didn’t know what to do. Everything in town had been turned into teal, cobalt and dark blue. It was awful.”

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