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Poulsbo courting Bainbridge with City Hall space

BAINBRIDGE – With a long road ahead, Bainbridge Island and Poulsbo are studying the possibility of joint court services. If the consolidation comes to fruition, it would likely save money, but a projected savings hasn’t yet been determined for both cities.

The topic was discussed at a joint city council meeting between Bainbridge and Poulsbo on Wednesday.

Dave McCoy, the lead analyst for the Bainbridge side of the study, presented the projected timeline for merging Bainbridge and Poulsbo municipal courts. The hope is to begin a joint or shared court system effective Jan. 1, 2011.

“It is an aggressive schedule and if we intend on executing anything by Jan.1, one of the things that we need to have done is have a clear understanding of the costs and revenues and staffing requirements and that needs to be done mid-September,” McCoy said.

Council members and citizens alike have voiced concerns about both the stringent timeline and how it will affect the public.

The Kitsap County Domestic Violence Task Force office is located in the Bainbridge Island Courthouse. Barbara Chandler Young, a member of the task force, said if the court were to move to Poulsbo, it would limit the accessibility for people who need those services.

As for the nitty gritty details, like paperwork and process, a task force with representatives from both councils will take on those tasks. The group will report regularly to both city councils.

A meeting of the joint task force will begin in May. Councilmembers can provide input thoroughout the process.

McCoy reminded the electeds that the community members who will be affected by the change should also be involved in the study process.

Community members, too, should be allowed to address their grievances, which should be taken into account before any decision is made, he said.

The journey to get to this point wasn’t easy, Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson said.

“I first started talking about consolidating services between Poulsbo and Bainbridge during my first year on the City Council,” said Erickson, who served on the Council from 2007 to 2009. “As revenues decline and labor costs increase, we need to be smarter about how we provide city services to our citizens. If we can share courts, Bainbridge saves money, and we get additional cash flow to help defray the costs of the new City Hall. Through consolidation of services, we might be able to achieve economies of scale and reduce costs to both Poulsbo and Bainbridge.”

Poulsbo’s new $15.8 million City Hall is under construction at Third Avenue and Moe Street. Construction is slated for completion in the late summer with the move-in date in early September.

The joint councils discussed the eventual possibility of eventually sharing more than their municipal courts.

“We share many things of the same interests and share many of the same issues,” Bainbridge Mayor Bob Scales said.

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