City, county reach prosecutor deal

POULSBO — After hearing Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge’s explanation for a proposed increase in prosecutor services, council members agreed to the new proposal, but only until 2007.

Bainbridge Island had already signed the contract in 2004, while Poulsbo and Port Orchard had raised issues with the annual increase from $64,000 to $79,000.

Because Bainbridge Island currently has a contract with the county, any decision made by the other two cities could result in that contract being renegotiated to ensure that the three smaller cities in the county receive equal treatment, Hauge said.

“I’ll be willing to extend it out two years a bit grudgingly but next time we should be thinking about this in our budget cycle,” Councilman Dale Rudolph said before the council reached consensus on the $15,000 increase over the city’s current contract.

The city’s use of the services on the low end of the county but its fees aren’t, which creates an awkward situation, Rudolph said.

“My feeling is, OK, we’ll go with this to end when Bainbridge Island does but we don’t want to be here again in 2007,” added Councilman Jim Henry.

The city is pleased with the quality and level of services it receives from the county but would like to see another model developed to share the costs of prosecutor services more equitably among the four cities in the county, said Councilman Ed Stern.

“The perception was there was a cost shift going on where we in Poulsbo would be subsidizing what’s going on in Bremerton,” Stern said. “My concern is how do we make sure it’s a fairer share.”

Hauge told the council that while he understands and shares its concerns about the new contract structure, it’s the best solution his office could find to satisfy all the cities involved.

“Quite frankly, this is the fairest way I can think to do it,” Hauge said.

If the county were to go to a pay-as-you-use contract, then Hauge said he isn’t sure that he would be able to come up with numbers the city would like.

Councilwoman Connie Lord asked Hauge what would happen if the city were to pull out of its contract with the county and contract with another attorney for its prosecutor services.

“I would have to lay off one lawyer and if we lost two cities, I would lay off one legal assistant as well,” Hauge responded, noting that the prosecutor’s office is comfortable with its staffing level for the next few years.

Finance Director Nanci Lien then recommended that the council try to get the three smaller cities in the county on the same contract cycle.

“This is probably something the four cities should approach together,” Hauge said. “That’s the only way this will work out.”

Even though Port Orchard, Bainbridge Island and Poulsbo will pay the same amount, Bremerton should be included in the discussion as well since it could be affected by any possible changes in the contract structure, he said.

“It’s a great idea and I think the coordinating council is the best place to take a whack at this,” Hauge said.

With the council’s consensus, the details of the new contract will be hammered out by both sides before final approval by the council at a later date.

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