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Hard financial times came to roost in ’08

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Fuel, food costs send more clients toward Fishline.

It was the need for medicine that brought first-time North Kitsap Fishline client Susan through the establishment’s doors in July.

She said she’d taken her resources as far as they could go, and finally just couldn’t “stretch it anymore.”

At 53, Susan had been unemployed for the last three years, and was living with family in Poulsbo.

After seeing a flyer about the agency’s services, asking the non-profit for help for the first time was a step she said was hard to take, but an easier one than facing no help at all.

“I wasn’t expecting to get hit this hard. I always thought that I had more time to build that nest egg,” she said.

Susan wasn’t the only one leaning on Fishline for a helping hand. Before the doors even opened for morning business a dozen kids and adults waited on the steps. In 2008, the food bank and resource center saw a 38 percent increase in clientele. Executive Director Karen Timken said it’s an increase that’s complicating operations, but is easy to explain.

“It’s pretty basic,” Timken said. “It’s the economy.”

Facing numerous first-time clients, Fishline tightened its operations belt. Monetary support comes from just two resources: its thrift store sales and community contributions.

And while donations didn’t wane in the face of economic hardship — “God bless Poulsbo and North Kitsap, they are so wonderful” Timken said — the increase in clients made stretching generosities a harder task.

“We’re seeing a bigger increase of clients who’ve never used the services before,” Timken explained. “There are so many people that right now are hanging by a thread. The minute you talk to them and say ‘we can help you,’ they just burst into tears.”

Slightly more than halfway through the year, 32 families had received rent assistance and 60 had received gasoline assistance from Fishline; at 2007’s end those numbers were 12 and zero, respectively.

Survey says: Poulsbo’s a leader of the pack

The 2008 Washington State Retail Survey detailed some promising figures for the city of Poulsbo in August. Published annually by the Eureka Group, the WSRS listed Poulsbo as having the sixth highest annual retail sales growth rate in the state over the past five years. The survey takes into account the 50 largest Washington markets; Poulsbo clocked in with a 10.6 percent growth rate, due in large part to the 2006 opening of the College Marketplace. Taking the top spot was Seatac, with an average growth of 20.3 percent.

Often compared in size and character with the Viking City, Gig Harbor took the 20th spot with a 6.8 percent annual sales tax growth; Bremerton rounded out the list with 2 percent average growth.

Poulsbo City Council Member Ed Stern made note and said the effort to keep Poulsbo in good economic health has been one a decade in the making. The growth rate figures, which he called “breathtaking,” are part of a system he says works to ensure the city thrives and its services are available to citizens.

Poulsbo’s first Freedom Walk attracts nearly 60 participants

An unplanned moment of silence occurred in downtown Poulsbo on Sept. 11, as traffic came to a halt while nearly 60 Freedom Walk marchers crossed the intersection of Front Street and Jensen Way. North Kitsap and Poulsbo fire engines and crew members lined the road as the First Lutheran church bells chimed in the distance.

The walkers, part of American Legion Post 245’s first America Supports You event, gathered to remember the nearly 3,000 people killed during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as well as honor those who serve or have served in the military. Many in the march wore patriotic colors, uniforms and carried American flags.

Before advancing from the Poulsbo Parks and Recreation, from which the group eventually progressed to American Legion Park, Poulsbo Police Chief Dennis Swiney spoke about the significance of those who serve to keep others safe.

Building a network into the future

The Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council took a state-given charge to the next level, calling on businesses — especially those in Kitsap — to reap the benefits of a technological opportunity.

The council began what was termed the Telework Pilot Project recruitment phase, during which 75 businesses were sought to implement a six-month, government-sponsored telecommuting program.

KRCC and Poulsbo City Council Member Ed Stern heralded the local telework wave; Stern said in Kitsap, with 25-40 percent of its 123,800 workers currently commuting to King, Pierce and Snohomish counties daily, testing out systems for virtual employment makes plenty of sense.

“It’s a perfect lab rat for the metro corridor,” he said at the time.

Companies, from those of a large corporate nature to those with only a handful of employees, were being invited to a one-time-only chance: take part in a teleworking experiment that could, Stern said, lead the state and possibly the entire nation.

Poulsbo RV flagship store closes

A Viking City institution rolled out of town Sept. 30 after more than 20 years. Poulsbo RV, a business that helped put Little Norway on the map and spawned six other branches, closed its Poulsbo doors, citing a changing market and decreased buyer traffic for the decision.

“It’s been a really tough decision for us. We started there,” said Poulsbo RV corporate marketing manager Tony Labriola at the time.

Poulsbo RV was founded in 1986 with just a few cars and a travel trailer to its name. Its lots sidelined the east and west portion of Viking Way near Poulsbo’s city limits, and its television commercials made the city’s name well-known.

Poulsbo RV operates six other stores in Washington, in Everett, Auburn, Kent, Vancouver, Mt. Vernon and Chehalis. It also offers online shopping at its “eighth store,” www.poulsborv.com.

Beauty that’s not skin deep

An up and coming local non-profit got some launch assistance from Hollywood in November, all while taking a stand against the images the industry promotes.

Our Beauty Within (OBW), a Poulsbo-based organization that focuses on cultivating positive self-images and skills in 8- to 12-year-old girls, teamed with the maker of “America the Beautiful,” an award-winning documentary that poses the question: “Does America have an unhealthy obsession with beauty?”

The film screened at the Lynwood Theater on Bainbridge Island.

“The movie is a professionally done film that takes the top off the beauty industry,” said OBW founder Claudine McCormick. She and Darryl Roberts, the film’s writer, director and producer, hosted a question and answer session post-show. She said Roberts has opened the dialogue on image issues that permeate society.

“We all know that this exists, we all know it affects women and girls, but it’s been really nebulous till now.”

McCormick, owner of the Dance Within studio, began OBW after discussions with her students revealed the need for an abolishment of the go-to media measuring stick. Self-esteem, she found, is extremely low in many young girls and women, and it’s a trend she hopes to change.

Gregoire campaign hits Poulsbo’s Front Street

Gov. Christine Gregoire said she has a plan to fund the Poulsbo Marine Science Center, despite nixing it from the state’s general fund budget earlier in 2008. She said in October while touring Poulsbo’s downtown that she and 23rd Legislative District Rep. Sherry Appleton (D — Poulsbo) have their eye on getting the educational amenity into the capital budget, where it has a much better chance of surviving cuts and garnering its needed $100,000.

“We’re going to work together to get it into the capital budget, which is much, much easier to do,” she said. “I’m a big fan. It’s exactly what we’re trying to do, promote hands-on science education.”

Gregoire stopped through Poulsbo as a part of her Fighting for Working Families tour, a statewide re-election campaign centering on her work in education, health care and job creation.

She talked with local business owners, sampled goods from Sluys Bakery and chatted with a dozen supporters who greeted her at Poulsbo’s city hall, as well as more than 30 more waiting at her last stop, Hot Shots Java on Front Street.

She was met by several offering their support, many of them voicing “good luck,” “I really want you to win” or “I just cast my vote for you.” Gregoire eventually won the Nov. 4 election, beating out two-time challenger Dino Rossi.

A few Poulsbo city council members, Mayor Kathryn Quade and U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee joined the tour. Appleton, who eventually won her election against GOP challenger Larry Cooney, organized the visit.

Harrison: A welcome addition to Poulsbo

Harrison Medical Center is coming to the city of Poulsbo, announced Poulsbo Mayor Kathryn Quade in November. The two entities signed a purchase and sale agreement for land on the Viking City’s 10th Avenue to the tune of $2.8 million.

Harrison plans to begin construction this spring, with the first phase of its project opening in 2009. The full $25 million facility is expected to be complete in 2010. The 50,000-square-foot campus will include urgent and primary care facilities, as well as a 15,000-square-foot outpatient cancer care center. The land, originally purchased by the city in 2005 for $2.1 million, was first considered as a site for a new city hall until a November 2006 citizen advisory vote shifted that project to the downtown core. Proceeds from the sale are now earmarked to help offset the $16.9 million cost of a city hall at Moe Street and Third Avenue.

Harrison’s intentions to move into Poulsbo became public in August, though Quade said “heavy work” on behalf of the city and hospital began in 2005. She tipped her hat to Council Member Ed Stern for his strong involvement in the process.

Stern said Harrison’s move-in will have a transformative effect on the town, making it a regional medical hub and bringing a high caliber array of upper level and support jobs to the area.

“We should all be very proud,” he said.

Stern added the city continues to be fiscally conservative. In the past Stern noted Harrison’s arrival as the continued diversification of Poulsbo’s tax base, which has helped the city weather the current economic downtown.

Council tags new budget ceiling for city hall

The Poulsbo City Council drew a budgetary “line in the sand” in December, unanimously setting a not-to-exceed mark of $6.1 million in bonds to be taken for its new city hall project after a year full of landmark discussion and debate.

The allowance, put into motion by the council’s Finance Committee, also stipulates bonds to pay for the project must be at an interest rate of no more than 4.77 percent.

Originally the city planned to take out $9.5 million in bonds to pay a total $16.9 million on the downtown project, which will sit at the corner of Third Avenue and Moe Street.

The savings, said council and city hall project team member Dale Rudolph, aren’t just numbers from the sky. The new budget plan is in large part taking advantage of a competitive construction bidding climate.

“There’s not a miracle here, there’s a lot of hard work,” he said.

The decision came after what council and finance committee member Becky Erickson termed a “stalemate” of sorts; she and council member Linda Berry-Maraist had been most vocal in their concern over the city’s ability to pay for the building and its size.

The council’s approval stipulates the sales of three city properties, proceeds from the district court presence within city hall, savings and construction fees and sales tax will be dedicated to paying for the project.

Both the existing city hall pad and Mitchusson (or Klingle) properties will be sold; the third city property, land on 10th Avenue originally slated for the new city hall, was recently purchased for Harrison Medical Center’s new cancer care campus, with proceeds on the sale reaching $700,000.

Berry-Maraist said the budgetary plan addresses her concerns, and sets a true bottom line.

“This shows a compromise that I’m willing to support,” she said.

Council and Finance Committee member Ed Stern said the decision puts the city’s project on “a big diet and a stringent allowance,” and “limits the exposure” of taxpaying citizens.

“This is an attempt at a pathway to certainty for the city hall project,” he said.

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