EDS saga has ended

POULSBO — In an unannounced change to the city council’s Wednesday agenda, Mayor Donna Jean Bruce moved her comments before the council’s and took issue with recent discussions about possible alternative municipal campus sites.

“It has always been our policy to discuss real estate in executive session,” Bruce told council members, reminding them that they gave unanimous approval to begin negotiations with Olympic Property Management on the proposed 10th Avenue site in July.

Recently, outside information has disrupted plans that have been years in the making, she said.

“I have instructed city staff to refrain from discussing real estate in public and I respectfully ask the city council to do the same,” Bruce said. “All final decisions will be made in public.”

Bruce then introduced city attorney Jim Haney, who gave the council a refresher course on executive sessions and real estate negotiations.

“The decision as where to locate any municipal campus and what properties and what negotiation parameters is a matter certainly within the power of the city council to decide,” Haney said.

Once those decisions are made, the mayor as the city’s executive has the authority to carry out those wishes and act on the city’s behalf, he said.

“My understanding is that the council made the decision to purchase property and authorized the mayor to act on its behalf,” Haney said.

State law specifically authorizes the council to enter executive sessions to discuss not only the potential sale and purchase of real estate but the selection of sites as well, he said.

The reasoning behind that law is the potential for open discussion of potential sites to drive up the purchase price, Haney added.

“Negotiations are tough but they’re even tougher when the person across the table knows your bottom line and theirs is a mystery,” he remarked, noting that in light of the recent discussions, the council needs to make a couple of decisions about the project.

“Are you looking at one site or are you interested in looking at other sites,” he queried. “You should have a discussion as to what any parameters are in executive session, not in public session.”

Haney recommended that the council move into executive session to answer those questions.

Bruce then informed the public that the council was adjourning into a 30-minute executive session to discuss real estate.

After 40 minutes of discussion, Bruce called the council meeting back into public session.

Councilman Ed Stern then announced that the council had reached an agreement on the direction of the municipal campus project.

“We believe that no existing building can compete with a newly built building based on current codes based on a 50-year life cycle,” Stern said.

However, the council’s desire to build a new building does not preclude alternative site selection, he said.

With the motion on the floor, the council unanimously voted to move forward with new construction, effectively eliminating the EDS site from future consideration.

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