Few decisions at first freeholder meeting

"The first meeting of the Kitsap County Board of Freeholders demonstrated that the road toward a new county charter will be long and involved.The freeholders, who were elected in the Nov. 7 general election to write a county charter, met Monday, Nov. 27, to lay the foundation for how the board will operate and how it will ensure the public is involved in the process. The freeholders were sworn in by Superior Court Judge Jay Roof, who said they were about to embark on a historic and challenging task. Roof lightheartedly encouraged the board take what is happening in Florida to heart as they start their decision making process.Do not have an Electoral College, Roof said.The freeholders are charged with writing a new charter, essentially a constitution for Kitsap County, and will have wide-ranging authority to reform county government. Among the reforms proposed before the election were expanding the board of county commissioners and creating a new elected or appointed county executive.The divisive nature of the group was evident, however, from its very first vote. With one member of the 21-person board absent, the freeholders split evenly on a motion of whether a quorum was to consist of 11 or 12 members. After some wrangling, it was established that 12 freeholders would be required to constitute a quorum.The freeholders also were unable to agree upon a permanent chair (Mary Ellen Madison of Poulsbo, who earned the most votes of all freeholders, served as interim chair).The board agreed, though, to use as many resources as possible to make decisions. Board members suggested consulting lawyers as well as former freeholders from Kitsap and other counties to discuss what works and what doesn't while writing a county charter.The board broke into two groups - one to discuss rules and operating procedures, one to determine when the board would meet next. The subcommittees will discuss election of officers, meeting locations and staffing levels.Members also stressed the importance of public input. Future meetings likely will take place outside of Bremerton after some members raised concerns about the accessibility of Monday's meeting, which took place at the Bremerton School District headquarters on North Marion Avenue.Board members discussed scheduling a retreat in January in order to speak more freely of their ideas for board operation. Whatever they come up with will ultimately be at the mercy of the voters. After the board writes the new charter, it will be presented to voters for a final thumbs up or thumbs down. We may write a charter but if the public doesn't approve it, it's all for nothing, said North Kitsap representative Sherry Appleton. "

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