Independent report boosts city/county building

"Kitsap County residents and officials alike crowded expectantly into the county commissioners chambers Monday, May 14, to discover the results of two government center economic impact studies — one from Bremerton’s perspective, the other on behalf of Port Orchard.While most citizens walked away still concerned over the potential construction of a new government center in downtown Bremerton, others left feeling more positive.“I think the county should move to Bremerton, not merely because doing so would help revitalize the downtown area ... but to fulfill the county’s conscience regarding serving the population,” Central Kitsap resident Robert Dietz said. Dietz said existing county offices are cluttered, and most people would admit that obtaining service from the courts is a difficult “adventure.” Catherine Broome worried about such a moveand said government officials should work toward solving the lack of parking available in downtown Bremerton before considering construction of a government center and moving 254 government jobs. Broome said she quit shopping in Bremerton years ago because of parking constraints. “I also wonder whether there are cities that successfully moved forward with downtown revitalization plans that didn’t require the construction of a government center,” Broome said, noting that the Bremerton impact study didn’t address that particular question.Representatives of Robert Charles Lesser and Co., the California firm that studied the impact on Bremerton and the county if the $30 million government center is constructed presented their findings via conference call. The study found the government center would have a positive impact on revitalization efforts there. The impact on the rest of the county, however, would be minimal.The firm’s study focused on two cities that have attempted similar projects to spur downtown growth. Both Suisun, Calif., and Smyrna, Ga., successfully stimulated growth by constructing government centers, Lesser and Co. reported.The California firm studied these two cities after formulating a list of candidate towns based on criteria provided by county officials. The county commissioners, however, didn’t have a final say in which cities were studied.Like Bremerton, both cities were in the throes of a 15-year or longer economic decline and located at least 50 miles from a thriving metropolitan center. Suisan is in the Bay Area and Smyrna is near Atlanta.Greg Easton of Property Counselors, the Seattle-based firm company tasked with determining the economic impact of such a move on Port Orchard, also attending the meeting. Easton said his firm found that moving 254 county jobs moved from Port Orchard to Bremerton would cost Port Orchard less than 1 percent of the city’s gross total sales.One more public hearing on the matter has been scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight, May 16, at Port Orchard City Hall. After that, the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners could decide to move forward with the government center plans.The commissioners could approve a contract allowing the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority to spend up to $400,000 on land acquisition, feasibility and design studies as soon as May 21, according to Commissioner Chris Endresen.City of Bremerton officials already have approved the contract. "

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