Closed meeting generates few answers

POULSBO — Less than 48 hours after being broadsided by a barrage of criticism about the proposed $14.6 million municipal campus project, city officials held a closed door meeting in an attempt to alleviate those concerns.

The meeting lasted three hours Friday as former Public Works Director Jeff Lincoln, former Mayor Donna Jean Bruce, Councilman Ed Stern, Planning Director Barry Berezowksy and Mayor Kathryn Quade worked to explain the city’s position to several community leaders.

Courtesy Auto Group President John Hern, Ardis Morrow, Dan Ryan from Tim Ryan Construction and Hugh Nelson from Brenda Prowse Real Estate were among those asked to attend the meeting.

Morrow and Nelson expressed their concerns about the municipal campus proposal to an unresponsive city council Wednesday night.

Hern was unavailable for comment Monday, but Morrow said the meeting was excellent.

“The staff was on hand to defend their position and explained the due diligence they did,” she said.

While the city staff is in favor of the 10th Avenue location, a growing number of people in the community aren’t, she said, noting that she is participating in the petition drive, asking the council to consider alternate locations.

“The town is absolutely against the 10th Avenue site,” Morrow said. “I think signing on the petition will convince them.”

Nelson said while the meeting answered some of his questions about the proposal, it didn’t answer all of them.

City officials have compared the project to Bainbridge Island’s and Gig Harbor’s city hall projects, but that isn’t a fair comparison, he said.

“We are doing something communities three times our size are doing,” he said.

Poulsbo has a greater commercial real estate value than Bainbridge Island but its residential real estate value is significantly lower, Nelson said.

At the meeting, there was quite a bit of discussion about the site, he said.

“I can’t see a person even being able to walk there,” he said. “If you have to go to city hall, you’re going to have to drive.”

The potential costs of remodeling the Creekside Center were also raised during the meeting and Dan Ryan put them at $100 per square foot if the building had to be totally gutted and refinished, Nelson said.

For his part, Ryan said the meeting provided a great forum for discussion, which often doesn’t occur at city council meetings due to time constraints.

“I think it was a good way to find out what the hot button issues are and what the council needs to do to address them,” he said.

The Creekside Center was discussed, but until an actual evaluation of it is done, the final remodeling costs are unknown, Ryan said.

Councilman Stern, who helped coordinate the meeting, said it was organized by Mayor Quade to address the community’s concerns.

It was important for two reasons, he added.

“It was an opportunity for people to feel heard and No. 2 we were able to come up with something of substance so that we can come with our own opinions,” Stern said.

The meeting resulted in an apples-to-apples comparison set of criteria for the municipal campus project and other alternative sites, Stern said.

One of the problems with the Creekside Center is that the general public and police need separate entrances that the building doesn’t currently provide, he said.

“We can’t have the police department and the criminal element going in and out of the same doors as the general public,” Stern said.

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