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Seabeck group meets; county, school district chime in

Neighbors for a Greater Seabeck Community Center, spearheading a project to replace the town’s shutdown elementary school with a community center, met Thursday at the Emel House at Scenic Beach State Park, welcoming representatives from the Port of Bremerton, Central Kitsap School District (CKSD) and Kitsap County Board of Commissioners.

All key players in the process, those representatives addressed the town’s needs, the school district’s surplus process and how — and if — the county can jump on board.

“What I’ve really been focusing on is trying to make a case for this project,” Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown said, speaking to the attendees. “I need to be able to make the argument (to the board of commissioners) that making investments out here is in the best interest of the county.”

While Brown himself appears keen on the idea, he said the county’s budget is tight, meaning it probably can’t invest in Seabeck in the immediate future.

“It may not mean you’re breaking ground on a community center tomorrow,” he said. “It’s a difficult time for our board, right now the economy has slowed down a significant level.”

Brown said he doesn’t want the county’s economic strap to leave Seabeck citizens “pessimistic.” He recognized the community’s needs, but emphasized the importance of finding a “viable option.”

“I get, 100 percent, that the closure of the Seabeck (elementary) school has had an effect here, you’ve lost a sense of place,” he said.

The central piece to the puzzle, however, is securing the property.

Owned by the school district, which will hold a study session Sept. 24 to discuss the surplus process, the three-parcel piece of land has yet to become available.

David McVicker, CKSD Executive Director of Business and Operations, said the district has three legal surplus options: put the property up for bid, hire a real estate agent, or negotiate with another agency, like the county.

The district, McVicker added, also could combine any or all three of those options.

“These are the three legal ways to surplus,” he said.

The Sept. 24 study session is open to the public, he said, and Seabeck community members are encouraged to attend. Following the session, the Central Kitsap School Board will review its options.

McVicker said he doesn’t know what the board will do, though district officials have said the decision must be “revenue positive.”

Community member Joseph Coppo presented a “draft need statement,” based off the findings of a June 18 meeting when the community was asked to prioritize its needs.

The drafts lists a gathering place, meeting space, neighborhood park, connection to the wider community and innovative solutions as the top concerns.

“What was really important to people was a small, flexible meeting space,” Coppo said. “With a connection to the wider community.”

The draft describes the needed gathering space as “a flexible outdoor space ... large enough to accommodate community events and festivals.”

Coppo recognized the project’s timetable.

“We need to first get the property, that’s the crucial part,” he said. “Turning dirt is years from now.”

Loanna Day, who administered the meeting and has been instrumental in the group’s movement, said Thursday’s talks were productive.

“To me, it’s just an awesome visual of how (well) people can work together,” she said. “Basically, in a nutshell, it’s not dead. We’re moving ahead and we’ve got people engaged.”

Day said the next meeting is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 2.

For more information about Neighbors for a Greater Seabeck Community Center, visit www.seabeckneighbors.com and click on “Seabeck News & Neighborhood Message Board” or e-mail seabeckneighbor@yahoo.com.

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