Bainbridge court move to Poulsbo City Hall stalled

Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson toured the city
Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson toured the city's new court space last year. Bainbridge Island leaders are considering moving their municipal court into a portion of the space.
— image credit: File photo

Poulsbo officials are fine-tuning terms of a lease with the City of Bainbridge Island in an effort to relocate the island's municipal court to Poulsbo's new City Hall.

Originally anticipated to relocate this month, Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson said if the move does occur, it isn't likely to happen until spring.

"It's taking a little longer than we anticipated because of concerns and requirements that have been expressed by both sides," Erickson said. "We want to make sure the pieces are in place so both communities are well-represented."

Last year the City of Poulsbo offered to rent a portion of its new City Hall court space to Bainbridge for $42,000 a year. Formal negotiations began after a 4-3 vote of approval by the Bainbridge City Council in October, but the move has since faced heavy opposition.

A grassroots island group started Keep our Municipal Court on Bainbridge Island, an online petition that has so far collected more than 800 signatures. Bainbridge Judge Kate Carruthers spoke out against the move, and the owner of the Rolling Bay building where the court is currently located has offered to make building improvements and lower the rent.

Poulsbo Councilman Ed Stern, who serves on a joint task force of leaders from both cities, said the relocation isn't critical to Poulsbo.

"We remain flexible and we'll proceed either way," Stern said. "What it was, was an effort at collaboration and sharing for the purposes of saving the taxpayer money and making things more convenient."

The joint task force is scheduled to meet later this month to discuss the issue. Erickson said she is hopeful the meeting will produce a lease both cities and the county can approve.

If the move were to fall through it would leave Poulsbo with fewer resources to pay off its debts, but would keep the city's downtown parking, which many say is already insufficient, from having an influx of new users, Stern said.

Stern added a more important element to the city's debt payments are the selling of its surplus properties, including the old city hall property on Jensen Way.

City Hall has administrative and chamber space to accommodate Poulsbo's municipal court, Bainbridge's court and a satellite district court, which was withdrawn last year after county budget cuts.

The City of Bainbridge has also suffered major budget shortfalls, and its current court facility has long been deemed inadequate.

"Really it's a question of Bainbridge politics," said Stern. "If nothing else, Poulsbo's already done Bainbridge a good favor by providing them credible leverage to save them money and upgrade the (Rolling Bay) facility."

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