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Fishing for answers about new city hall

POULSBO — Mike Regis’ fishing trip for answers on the proposed Poulsbo municipal campus ended up at the wrong lake last Wednesday night and he managed to catch little more than ill feelings between himself, city staff and fellow council members.

Regis took a wrong turn early when he started asking questions about a project study which will be conducted by the architectural firm Merritt and Pardini. The answers to the majority of his concerns, he was repeatedly informed both by staff and council, would be determined during the study process.

Nonetheless, he spent a good portion of the evening grilling the city engineer on the supplemental amendment, which will set forth the scope of work and a budget for the campus. The trip somehow ended up with a 7-0 vote to support the $76,400 contract but not before tempers flared and politics once again took a back seat to personalities.

“My personal feeling is we’re going a little too fast,” Regis said, despite the fact that council had previously directed City Engineer John Stephenson to keep the project moving forward.

Initially, Regis urged council to postpone decision on the survey until the group held its first retreat of the year on March 8 but the consensus was that issues could be addressed Wednesday.

They were half right.

“I feel we’re really charging ahead and we haven’t, as a council, really discussed this,” councilwoman Jackie Aitchison agreed.

While others on council also agreed that the project did seemed a bit rushed, few supported Regis’ line of questioning.

“I’m just trying to keep this on schedule as city council said Jan. 16,” Stephenson remarked, adding that he hadn’t received Regis’ comments and concerns until just before the Wednesday session and therefore had very little time to review the councilman’s questions.

“What I’m looking at is that the consultant isn’t doing work we’ve already done,” Regis said, citing an earlier traffic study which Poulsbo had created.

“We were very careful to use existing information,” Stephenson replied. “We’re not going to redo anything we don’t have to — it’s too expensive.”

Responding to Regis’ questions concerning parking options at the Iverson Way site, the city engineer remarked, “We don’t know enough to talk about this (right now). The study will indicate alternative parking options.”

The city council, he added, would be involved in the process but first they had to allow Merritt and Pardini to proceed by sealing the campus agreement.

“Because this is our first big public building in quite a while we need to make sure to do it right,” Regis asserted before questioning costs — related to a State Environmental Protection Act evaluation — which staff was planning to absorb by doing the review in house.

At this point councilman Dale Rudolph entered the fray, stating, “Staff knows what (the state’s) expectations are for this project.”

“We do this all the time,” Stephenson echoed, noting that the city was no stranger to the highly-involved SEPA process.

“Staff is just trying to save the city money by doing it in house,” councilman Jeff McGinty chimed in.

But Regis remained unmoved and quickly pointed out that he would feel more comfortable if an “honest effort” was made to see if environmental review could be completed for less than its $6,240 price tag. Rudolph defended the engineer’s estimated cost and things between he and Regis began to get heated until councilman Jim Henry urged the two to “stop right there.”

They did and with most of the concerns addressed council voted 5-2 against doing the SEPA review in house and unanimously to enter the agreement with Merritt and Pardini concerning scope, site study, permitting and phasing of the Poulsbo municipal campus.

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