Poulsbo hires PR expert for projects

POULSBO — The information superhighway will precede actual infrastructure.

This seemed to be the concept Wednesday night when the public works committee unanimously agreed to hire Leslie Demich of Olympia as the primary public information source for two huge projects that will snare Poulsbo’s Front Street traffic for the majority of the spring and summer.

Demich, principal of the Olympia-based Demich Group, will be tackling two tough plans in the coming months when she acts as the city liaison during construction of the new Lindvig Bridge and widening extensive work on Front Street.

“Leslie’s going to make our summer a lot easier,” city engineer John Stephenson told members of the public works committee Wednesday. “Leslie can write a news release that says, ‘Your summer is going to be a disaster,’ and make people happy.”

Originally, Demich was hired by the firms Entranco and Berger-Abam, which designed the road and bridge respectively.

However, with design work in its final stages and her contracts coming to a close, Stephenson took advantage of the unique opportunity and took steps to consolidate the position to serve the immediate needs of Poulsbo. “We need to have quick access to her,” the city engineer said. “Basically, we’ll get the job done for less money.”

Stephenson said he and Demich whittled down her original “potluck of items” from a total cost of $17,800 to about $6,800. The lesser figure does have contingency which could quickly elevate the sum to over $11,200.

Demich gave a brief presentation to the committee, outlining her second draft of the public information plan for Front Street (A proposal for the bridge is forthcoming).

Minimizing confusion, building an understanding of project benefits, improving safety during construction, and creating a two-way discussion between the city and the public while maintaining a good relationship were the subcontractor’s primary goals. In order to be effective, Demich said, the plan must be “tailor made” and serve all audiences from local and non-local motorists to residents, business owners and patrons.

“We really need to focus on what the public needs are so we can address them quickly,” Demich said.

According to Stephenson, who worked with her during a stint at the Department of Transportation, Demich will also spearhead meetings with concerned citizens and serve as a liaison of sorts for the city during both projects. “One of her focuses will be to get the word out, not just to the general public but downtown merchants as well,” he explained. “Leslie did this job for the DOT. She was best public information person they’ve ever had.”

The city expects bid both projects during the next few months and hopes to begin construction on both by May 1, Stephenson said.

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