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Sound Works Job Center gets two-month reprieve

Bob Middlebrook and Sound Works Job Center has an additional two months to find another home. It has been located at 8th Avenue and Iverson Street since 1997.        - Herald / File photo
Bob Middlebrook and Sound Works Job Center has an additional two months to find another home. It has been located at 8th Avenue and Iverson Street since 1997.
— image credit: Herald / File photo

POULSBO — The Poulsbo City Council gave Sound Works Job Center a two-month extension to find another home.

Sound Works was expected to move out by June 30, when Coffee Oasis moved into an adjoining space in December.

“I personally am disappointed,” Sound Works board member Janetmarie Valiga said. “It still leaves [Bob] Middlebrook back in limbo. In 10 days or two months, he still has to deal with the whole move.”

Bob Middlebrook is executive director of Sound Works, a nonprofit employment agency at the corner of 8th Avenue and Iverson Road.

“We really appreciate the two month extension, it gives us time to find another place,” Middlebrook said. “Cause we’re up against the wall.”

Board President Roger Fritz said he thanks the city for their years of assistance, but the reprieve didn’t solve their problem.

“Why we are moving is still a question in my mind,” Fritz said. “The work [and client needs] are not going to go away.”

The city has allowed Sound Works to use a small office in the former public works building rent-free since 1997, and gives a grant for its operations every year. In the 2013 budget, the city granted $2,500, but with a condition: the nonprofit can only use the money to transition to a new location by June 30.

“I think we need employment services in this town,” Mayor Becky Erickson said after the council meeting June 12. “I think Bob provides some of those services. [The city] can’t afford to support him anymore.”

The city previously offered Sound Works space in the Parks and Recreation building on Front Street, but Middlebrook said it lacked handicapped accessibility and electrical plugs.

Erickson also suggested teaming up with Fishline Food Bank. The two agencies share mutual goals, Executive Director Mary Nadar said in a previous interview; however, she cannot commit to the idea while Fishline looks into its own expansion.

“We don’t want to dispossess him [but] it’s time for another group to step up and help support [Sound Works],” Erickson said.

In the last few months, many people have come forward to offer space for Sound Works, but for a higher rent than Sound Works is able to afford, Valiga said.

Sound Works operates on less than $50,000 a year, Middlebrook said.

Fritz said their “fluid” situation — not knowing where they can set up in a few months — is causing problems in searching for grant funding. Sound Works operates primarily on grants from community groups like Bainbridge Community Foundation and  United Way, and from Tribal governments.

“We don’t send a check every month to the city, but we have put millions of dollars into this community” through employment, Valiga said.

Sound Works is a partner of WorkSource in Bremerton, but Middlebrook said previously that agency has not offered assistance in finding a new location. He said there is no other employment assistance in North Kitsap. Some of Sound Work’s clients are homeless and most get around by bus.

“It takes all day to get [to Bremerton] by bus” to get help from WorkSource, Middlebrook said.

Sound Works saw a 10 percent increase in client visits last year when the county jobless rate peaked at 8.3 percent, according to a Sound Works press release.

More than 98 percent of the organization’s funding goes back into operation of the program. Middlebrook estimates Sound Works connects clients with an average of 200 jobs a year.

“It’s kind of like going a little bit in a tornado: we don’t know how we’re going to land, or where we’re going to land,” Fritz said.For more information or to contact Sound Works, call (360) 779-1160.

— Sound Works was the subject of a North Kitsap Herald video report in 2009. To watch the video, go to www.northkitsapherald.com/news/61467017.html

 

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