Commissioners mull annexation, incorporation

Because annexation and growth are certain to change the face of Kitsap County in the near future, the county commissioners are hoping to ease these transitions by gathering as much advance information as possible.

“Silverdale will be incorporated,” said Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown. “We don’t know what that will mean. It is critical that we find out what this means and get accurate data as soon as possible.

“We need to put the facts out there,” he said, “so people can make up their own mind as to whether they want to support annexation or not.”

The county commissioners directed Special Projects Coordinator Eric Baker to assemble preliminary information about infrastructure requirements.

“We expect about 100,000 new people in the county over the next few years,” Brown said. “We need to think about what this growth will be like. We need to build the right projects.”

The idea of Silverdale incorporating is the elephant in the room during current budget discussions. One possibility is a negative effect on the county, because Silverdale generates a healthy share of the sales tax generated in the county.

On the other hand, if the county is no longer responsible for providing services to the Silverdale area, it may require a smaller total budget.

“We’re flying blind when we’re dealing with a lot of incorporation and annexation issues,” Brown said. “We have some ‘guesstimates,’ but we need to develop an accurate analysis based on collaboration with the cities. A lot of these are infrastructure issues that need to be resolved.”

As an example, Brown mentioned Bond Road in North Kitsap, which links Poulsbo and Kingston.

“That road needs additional capacity, and its improvement isn’t on any of their plans,” he said.

The discussion of the annexation possibility took place during a retreat earlier this week at Island Lake in Poulsbo.

While boundaries are uncertain, the annexation will most likely follow the lines of the established Urban Growth Areas (UGAs). Silverdale, then, would go as far south as Chico Way.

The Central Kitsap UGA, which includes a large portion of East Bremerton north of the Warren Avenue bridge, would most likely be annexed by Bremerton.

UGAs also are located adjacent to current Port Orchard and Poulsbo city limits.

North Kitsap Commissioner Steve Bauer said cities and unincorporated portions of the county generally offer different service levels. The promise of such services will be the deciding factor for many voters in their support or opposition of annexation.

After Baker completes his infrastructure report, which he will begin in the next few weeks, the commissioners will start scheduling public meetings about the topic.

Bauer suggested hiring an outside expert to run the process instead of trying to stretch existing county and city staff members to accomplish the project’s completion.

South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel said she thought the current board of commissioners were more collaborative than in the past, and noted how the discussion about annexation will play to individual strengths.

Bauer is strong on conservation, while Brown has a strong interest in transportation.

“And I am perfectly willing to be the sewer queen,” Angel said.

The retreat began with a discussion of the county’s mission and vision statements, which have not been revised since 2003. Bauer said it was important such statements are clearly defined, and should be easily recalled by any county employee.

The current mission statement reads, “Kitsap County government exists to protect and promote the safety, health and welfare of our citizens in an efficient, accessible and effective manner.”

The vision statements state support for safe and healthy communities, protected natural resources and systems, a thriving local economy, inclusive government and effective and efficient county services.

Bauer, who later admitted the mission and vision proclamations were “pretty good,” criticized the omission of any ecological support and a certain vagueness in many of the statements.

Sharon Wylie, who is a legislative lobbyist for the county, said county government has evolved to become responsible for services that were added on after the creation of the original tax system.

“You should never miss a chance to educate people about the things you have no choice,” she said.

While deciding the current mission and vision statements are acceptable, the commissioners decided to give other elected officials input for any additional revision.

“If people have input into the mission

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