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Vote nears on Village Green parks district

KINGSTON — The fate of a future Kingston community center will be decided by an Aug. 17 ballot measure.

The measure would create a metropolitan park district to raise money for the maintenance and operations of the building planned for the Village Green property off West Kingston Road. Five residents from within the proposed district will be elected in the Aug. 17 primary to oversee how the levy money is spent.

The park district would have the authority to tax 75 cents per $1,000 assessed value of each home within the district. The Village Green Foundation, the group of volunteers behind the ballot measure, is intent on taxing only 15 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, said foundation Executive Director Bobbie Moore. Foundation members estimate the operating costs of the future community center to be $200,000 annually.

The money is needed to secure grants for the building’s construction and pay for maintenance and programs at the center after it is built.

Though the Village Green property is owned by Kitsap County, the Parks and Recreation department doesn’t have the money to support a new center.

Kingston resident John Henthorn is among the measure’s skeptics. Henthorn would like to see a new community center, but said it’s more expense than Kingston can afford and he’s not convinced the levy would stay low.

“Everybody in the government says they intend to stay below cost but there’s always budget overruns regardless of what you do,” Henthorn said.

Moore said the state requires the $0.75 per $1,000 of assessed value to be included in the ballot measure language because it’s the maximum amount the district could legally levy.

“We have no intention of taxing $0.75 per $1,000.”

In planning the Kingston community center and its projected budget, foundation members drew on their own expertise in accounting and construction and consulted with other community center groups from around the state.

The foundation considered user fees to pay for upkeep but determined the fees wouldn’t raise enough money, Moore said.

The foundation needs to secure a source of operation money before the center can be built. The foundation is competing for large state and federal construction grants, but grant makers are not likely to award money for new buildings unless there is a plan to pay for maintenance and operations, Moore said.

Miles Yanick and Co. of Bainbridge Island completed the plans for the 25,000 square-foot community center, which would house a Kitsap Regional Library branch, a senior center and serve as a permanent home for the Boys and Girls Club.

Volunteers gathered 1,250 signatures this spring to support the inclusion of the measure on the primary ballot.

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