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Kitsap Transit delays vote on cuts, calls for public meetings

After discussing service policies and potential cuts for two meetings, the Kitsap Transit Board of Commissioners tabled a vote on service reductions again Tuesday, saying that no public meetings have been held to present the plan.

“We have had quite a thorough discussion of policies, but there has not been adequate public input,” said North Kitsap Commissioner Steve Bauer. “I think that these are fundamental changes, and it seems inappropriate to adopt them without a process of public outreach.”

Poulsbo Mayor Kathryn Quade agreed, saying it would be a “disservice” to the public to not discuss the changes with them.

“I really do believe we need to hear from these people who ride the buses,” Quade said. “We owe it these people to talk to them.”

South Kitsap Commissioner Charlotte Garrido said she agreed with Bauer, and Bainbridge Island Mayor Christopher Snow, the board’s chairman, said that the “public process was neglected.”

Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola said he was concerned about any cuts to ACCESS service.

“ACCESS is a lifeline to many people,” Coppola said. “I think it should be the last thing to be cut, and the first thing to be restored.”

Rita DiIenno, a Kitsap Transit driver and president of the Amalgamated Transit Union No. 1384, praised the board for creating the policies, calling them a “great step forward.”

However, she said implementing cuts in December would be “premature,” and that the public was not well-informed.

“Port Orchard is the biggest concern for me,” DiIenno said. “This is a whole new style of transit service that has not been discussed with the public. People are asking, ‘What does that mean? Where will (the buses) run?’”

DiIenno was referring to one of the service reduction recommendations that included running more frequent services on a “spine that will serve high density areas.”

In the Port Orchard area, this recommendation involves “restructuring” five routes — 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 — into only three routes. Also, Route 23 would be eliminated, and “replaced with feeder service to a spine as new plan is developed.”

Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown said he was concerned about further delaying the vote.

“We’re already living off borrowed money,” Brown said. “If we (table it again), could we still put reductions in by December?”

Kitsap Transit Executive Director Dick Hayes said the agency had “an internal process that takes a couple of months,” and asked Ellen Gustafson, Operations Director, to expand on his answer.

“The reductions represent some awfully substantial changes to the workforce, and we would have to bargain those out,” Gustafson said. “I can’t say absolutely that they would happen (by December), but staff will do everything it can.”

Bauer made a motion to defer voting on both the set of policies and service reductions, and to “ask staff to create a public engagement process that includes at least one public hearing.”

“We are a public agency, so public outreach is really critical,” Bauer said. “Government is messy, and the public process is messy, but that’s what we signed up for.”

The motion passed unanimously.

• Also at the meeting, the board passed a resolution “expressing appreciation to former Transit Board member Darlene Kordonowy, who was lost her seat as Bainbridge Island mayor earlier this year.

Kordonowy served seven years on the agency’s board, and many of the board’s current members praised her for helping re-establish its three sub-committees: Finance, Planning and Personnel.

“You brought a sense of accomplishment, and I’m sorry to see you go,” said Coppola.

Snow, who replaced Kordonowy as Bainbridge Island’s mayor, said, “Darlene is a tough act to follow.”

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