Commish Lent reviews first year

Kitsap County Commissioner Patty Lent spoke to a luncheon meeting of the Silverdale Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Nov. 27. - Photo by Kelly Everett
Kitsap County Commissioner Patty Lent spoke to a luncheon meeting of the Silverdale Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Nov. 27.
— image credit: Photo by Kelly Everett

County Commissioner Patty Lent listed her favorite projects — schools, the proposed Silverdale Campus, fixing the SR 3/SR 303 interchange — during her State-of-the-County address to members of the Silverdale Chamber of Commerce, Wednesday, Nov. 27.

She also frankly listed her weaknesses and some not-so-favorite subjects — her steep learning curve as a first-time elected official, the tight economy, the unpopularity of impact fees and past problems with Tracyton Port.

In her review of her first year in office, other topics she touched on included roads, parks and capital projects, Silverdale Port and getting federal dollars for traffic problems.

Lent said she had high ideals when she took office and was trying to think outside the box.

“I was trying to find different revenue sources for (Kitsap) County, trying to be creative,” said Lent. “I was a little inexperienced when I started ... and the papers reported this with gusto.”

“I didn’t think I’d inherit Tracyton Port,” she said. The port went through a year or more of controversy as board members fought among themselves. With all new elected port commissioners now, it appears the small port can move forward.

She also worked with the Silverdale Port. Many wanted to dissolve it. But Lent said she found more people attending the monthly meetings of the port than meetings of county commissioners.

And there’s the ever-unpopular impact fees:

“The fees are not equitable in the county,” she said, adding there should be some kind of graduated-scale fee-structure to allow taxpayers to pay for roads, parks and capital projects.

She emphasized schools are the state’s top priority — as well as the county’s top priority. She said the state is on-point with this dilemma.

“I feel the state should step up. Legislators should address educational needs.”

The Republican commissioner added that Realtors and home builders, as well as homeowners, will oppose more fees.

She spoke warmly about the recently acquired Severson property as the site for the Community Campus — a kind of modernized town center.

“The task force working on this see an art center, performing arts venue, new expanded library, senior center,” Lent said. “Hopefully, the rent from the few homes on the property will pay for their demolition when we’re ready to develop later. We’re trying to save you money.”

Most of the Severson property is brush and a few trees.

Lent said there are 24 population centers in the state, where population and retail concentrations are large enough to be treated as if they were incorporated cities.

Silverdale is one of these, she said, and this designation should free-up funds from the federal government to fix major road problems, such as the SR 3/SR 303 interchange, in which traffic often uses narrow surface streets and parking lots to get from one route to another.

She said the county has enough money to do all the top-tier local road projects over the next six years.

Lent is also lobbying for the training of caregivers, who will be needed more and more as baby boomers — and their parents — age. At the other end of the spectrum, she cited the opening of the new, expanded Martha and Mary Center in Silverdale, for taking care of children, infants and toddlers, while parents work.

During a question and answer session, Lent was asked how she handles criticism. She said she’d rather have it said to her face than read about in the letters-to-the-editor section of newspapers.

She spoke about the Clear Creek Task Force and one of its spearheads, retired Navy officer Tex Lewis.

“Tex (who heads the task force) has made trails on property that was ... stagnant,” Lent said. She added she’d work for a signal across Bucklin Hill Road to connect Old Town and Clear Creek.

Lewis was in the audience and told the 30 people at the event “As a volunteer I’d like to thank you (Lent) for listening and responding. It’s nice to know we’ve got the ear of a commissioner.”

Emcee and Silverdale Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sam Granato, said: “I’ve worked in five states at the executive level. I’ve worked with the White House and Congress. I’ve had a lot of contact with politicians — Republicans and Democrats. I have observed our speaker today (Lent) over the past year, and seen her in action, and frankly, I’ve been blown away.”

Granato said it’s easy to be a politician during good times, but not so easy during adverse economic times. Granato said Lent has made a good start on a commissioner job that still has lots of work ahead.

“She says what she thinks and acts on what she believes,” Granato said.

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