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Woods brings residents out of the dark

HANSVILLE — Representative Beverly Woods, R-Poulsbo, was forthright and direct with the constituency of the 23rd District last weekend.

During an informal town hall meeting at the Hansville Community Center March 22, she emphasized how the government needs to prioritize spending within its tight budget. Woods also covered a variety of other issues, including gambling, education, liquor stores, jobs and growth. Residents were especially responsive to her remarks on health care and transportation.

Woods said she recently spent time with a group of medical personnel at Harrison Hospital to talk about the state of health care.

“The basic health plan is like a Cadillac plan,” she explained, noting that the state’s plan should be scaled down so it will be available to more people.

With more people receiving regular care, trips to the emergency room — which cost taxpayer’s money — will be lessened, she said.

Woods suggested a “catastrophic plan” for major insurance, then a medical savings plan for smaller problems such as colds.

“We need to have a plan that meets the majority of the people, without the mandates,” she said.

As a small business owner, Woods said she was having problems keeping health insurance costs down for her employees. She noted that one reason for high health care costs is the decreasing number of doctors and amount of health care insurance in the state. Liability insurance is also high and insurance companies are having difficulty dealing with the state’s rules on insurance, she added.

Woods said the current “Oregon Plan” isn’t working very well and there is a big debate in Olympia whether Washington should adopt Canada’s system.

As for transportation issues, residents vocalized their opinions about the ferry system, including the lack of customer service on the ferries and the condition of the docks and the boats. One resident informed Woods of mold growing in one of the bathrooms on the MV Puyallup.

“I haven’t heard these types of complaints before,” Woods said after the barrage of comments from the audience. “I will follow through on these complaints.”

Woods supported the idea to put ads on the ferry boats and try a public-private partnership on improvements at Colman dock.

“Put something in there that is attractive for commuters and tourists,” she said, also suggesting the installation of a Smart Card system. The system would allow commuters to would purchase cash cards that could be used to ride the ferry, Seattle Metro and Kitsap Transit.

“There is no reason why we can’t do it,” she said, noting the technology is available and it would save the state $6 million to install such a system.

As for passenger-only ferries (POF), Woods said she wants the Washington State Ferry system to retain the service by finding a way to cut costs. WSF is planning to discontinue passenger-only services from its system this June.

The WSF cost reductions could include changing workers’ schedules and having commuter-only runs at Southworth, Kingston and Vashon, she said.

But there is a bill moving in the house that would let Kitsap Transit go into the passenger-only business and allow passenger-only ferries to be a private industry, using WSF ferry docks while not interfering with auto services, Woods explained.

“I’m to the point of fish or cut bait,” she said. “WSF is in the POF business or private business comes in.”

Residents who sat through Wood’s hour and a half discussion were impressed with her response to the issues.

“Most everything she said I hadn’t heard before — details,” said Vern Swanson of Hansville. “I learned a lot about the ferries.”

Becky Ellison of Hansville, who is new to the area, came to learn about the local issues and was also impressed with Woods.

“She spoke very well to the questions,” Ellison said, noting the wide variety of issues that were addressed. “I was impressed with her forthrightness to questions.”

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