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Council to make city hall call

POULSBO — City council will meet tonight for a special session concerning the construction of a new city hall, and hopes are high a decision will finally be made.

After months of debate, Poulsbo Mayor Kathryn Quade on July 18 asked the two final proposal agencies — Pioneer Property Group and the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority — to attempt to blend their plans into something the entire council could agree on. Tonight’s special session was then set, but so far, no presentations have been made on the desired merger.

“We’ve met with the housing authority on two different occasions,” said Sean Hallissey of PPG. “There’s a lot of discussion, but there’s really nothing specific ... it feels like we’re going in slightly different directions.”

Hallissey said while the meetings with KCCHA were amicable, the two agencies did not find any resolution, and he looks forward to meeting with the council again as the July 18 discussion provided Pioneer only a “broad suggestion.”

KCCHA director of urban development Gary Tusberg said the two agencies have met and discussed the viability of the current city hall site as an advantageous location for possible retail development, or a site suited best for a new city hall.

“We’re fairly certain from what we’re hearing the community center (10th Avenue) won’t be city hall,” he said.

Councilman Dale Rudolph said he’s looking forward to seeing a unanimous resolution, but will also stand his ground when it comes to building city hall downtown.

“We’re willing to consider any other alternative that’s downtown,” he said speaking for himself and Councilwoman Connie Lord, also a downtown advocate. “Anything from the intersection of Sunset (Street and Front Street) to the bottom of the hill is OK with us. I personally have always favored somewhere downtown, somewhere in that basic corridor.”

Rudolph said the mayor has researched other possible location options, which he expects to be presented along with information from PPG and the KCCHA. The two original proposals are still viable options, however.

“All that still has some possibility right down until we make a decision,” he said. “If there is no other alternative then we’re going to have to choose between them.”

Rudolph said he hopes it doesn’t come down to a split decision because “none of us really wants to go there.”

“We all badly want to move forward Wednesday night,” he said.

Councilman Ed Stern said he isn’t overly concerned about the building’s location, but feels instead it’s time for the city to step up and make a choice so further delay does not waste taxpayers’ money.

“It’s decision time,” he said. “Enough time has gone by.”

Stern said economic development is key to consider, and may be best approached not with the city hall, but with a new parking garage, hotel and conference center that could become part of the overall plan. These institutions, he said, will best utilize the old city hall location, and have enough time to be perfected.

“A decision needs to be made,” he said. “We’re just building an office building ... Good is good enough.”

Councilman Mike Regis said putting city hall downtown could disrupt the business core, and incur further financial and infrastructure difficulties as the city also faces necessary stormwater system upgrades that would make downtown construction much more complex. Because of his concerns with building downtown, Regis said it is 10th Avenue he has always felt most comfortable with.

“I’ve always been an advocate of 10th Avenue,” he said.

The issue will be discussed in the council chambers tonight at 7 p.m. in Poulsbo’s current city hall.

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