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Henden, Endresen face off again

The green and white Henden signs and the black, red and white Endresen signs that speckle the shoulders of Kitsap’s highways should be a familiar sight to residents by now.

The two candidates battling for Position 1 on the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners first dug in four years ago when they fought for the same slot. Incumbent Chris Endresen won the 2000 vote by a narrow margin of 53 percent to challenger Scott Henden’s 47 percent.

Last time, the primary issues were property taxes and the Endangered Species Act. This year, they are housing, budgets and parks.

The only matter both candidates seem to agree on is there is very little affordable housing in Kitsap County, however, each has different ideas on how to change that.

Endresen said the county is attempting to remedy the situation by reviewing and revising zoning codes, installing infrastructure, such as the Kingston Sewer Treatment Plant and implementing sub-area plans that allow for the creation of smaller lots.

“It will be more affordable for someone to come in and do subdivisions,” she said, noting that Kingston Meadows is a good example of affordable housing and she expects Arborwood will offer a good variety of housing opportunities for residents.

“I think there needs to be a mix of housing,” she said. “It’s just a matter of infrastructure.”

Henden believes communities that do not have Urban Growth Area plans yet — such as Keyport and Suquamish — should be inspected more closely because they already have sewer and water. While Henden gave the county credit for improving the permitting process, he said it could be much better.

“I think we should do something like guaranteed permitting,” he explained. “If we don’t get it out just like a business, then there is a penalty for the county.”

He also said the county has too many “division rules,” which make it more difficult for residents to divide existing lots.

“What we’ve done is eliminate the option of creating lots in areas where we could get more out of them,” he said.

However, with development comes impact fees — of which both candidates have opposing views.

Henden is a firm believer that these fees are not paid for by the builders as they should be. Instead, they are passed on to homeowners through increased housing costs.

“I believe growth needs to pay for growth,” said Endresen, who has voted to retain the fees. Since a state tax isn’t going to pay for schools, roads and infrastructure, there must be a balance to help pay for development, she said.

One of the main focuses in Henden’s campaign has been to revamp the county budget.

“I think the county budget is the most important thing county commissioners can spend their time on,” he said, admitting that he hasn’t been to any of the current budget meetings recently, but if elected, he will work on it diligently.

Henden said he believes the county needs to re-prioritize its spending and pointed out that under Endresen WHEN?? $300,000 has been spent on art work, $500,000 for association dues and $100,000 on a remodel of the downtown Bremerton Library.

“Maybe (the library remodel is) a good thing, but what I’m saying is these are trade offs,” he said. “I think if we can begin to say, ‘Are we spending our money wisely?’ We’re going to find areas, where we are spending some money here that isn’t reaching the goals we need and we can afford to do things that we believe that are important.”

Endresen said the county’s books will be in the black for next year. Unanticipated revenue will be coming in 2005, the economy has been doing better, housing permits are up and there will be money to hire additional personnel, she explained.

“We make budget assumptions based on history and what we think (is) going to happen,” she said, noting the board likes to keep 5-7.5 percent of the budget in the county reserves. The county also has a AAA credit rating, which means when it borrows money, a good interest rate is assured.

“It’s a matter of trying to pick priorities and be correct on the revenue and being as accurate on the revenue without overstating,” Endresen said. “I’ve never worked on a budget where we didn’t have enough money or where we didn’t end the year with more than we thought.”

Henden is also pushing for performance audits to take a look at how departments are performing and if they are efficient.

“It’s going to cost some money to do that,” Henden said. “But I think that in the long run, probably in the short run, the returns are going to be a lot more than what it cost to have somebody look at it.”

Endresen said the county currently has performance measures (in which the state auditor makes sure the money is being spent legally) conducted at a cost of $125,000 a year. Performance audits would cost at least double that, which is equivalent to the cost of a few more Sheriff’s deputies on the street, she said.

“I think performances audits can be a really good tool but if we’re going to have to choose between a deputy and a performance audit, I’m going to take the deputy,” she said.

Another hot topic in District 1 has been the number and types of active use areas and open space in the county.

Nearly $20 million has been spent on skateparks, new and improved ballfields, improved community centers, tennis courts and trails, Endresen countered.

The first phase of development of the North End’s Heritage Park will include ballfields because the soils are perfect for it, she added.

“I want to do continue to do that,” she said about acquiring more open space. “As we grow, it’s really important that we provide not only active recreation for people who live here now but also look to the future.”

Henden is a strong supporter for more ballfields. While he acknowledges the county has purchased much open space in the past 10 years, he said there isn’t enough focus on active uses.

“Our parks are not where they should be,” he said. “We spent $40 million in the last 10 years on open space, a lot of which I support. But we’ve spent too much and haven’t spent enough on getting Little League fields and things we can use for a day.”

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