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Local legislators ready for ferry fuss

Rep. Christine Rolfes - Courtesy photo
Rep. Christine Rolfes
— image credit: Courtesy photo

By CHARLES MELTON

Editor

Although state Rep. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island) isn’t sure how many people will attend today’s town hall meeting at the Norm Dicks Government Center, one thing is certain.

“We’re going to hear about the ferries,” Rolfes said, as she will be joined by fellow 23rd District Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo) for the meeting, which is slated to run from 1-2:30 p.m.

Bremerton was just the latest ferry community impacted by the Washington State Ferries System’s boat crisis, which Rolfes said stems from the system’s lack of a capital project funding program.

The ferry issue has been one of the hotter topics on local Internet bulletin boards and in local chat groups and blogs.

“This session we have approved funding that will be able to take care of some of the boat issues,” she said.

Boat issues first appeared in the San Juan Islands, then subsequently hit Port Townsend/Keystone and Southworth before coming home to Bremerton after the first of the year.

Although the ferries system reached a breaking point this year, Rolfes said legislators had begun working on the issues during last year’s legislative session.

“We still have a lot of things to work on, but we have made progress,” she said.

While remedying the boat situation was paramount during this legislative session, much work remains to be done in examining the system’s overall efficiencies and its responsiveness to the needs of its riders, she said.

Support for the changes and funding required to fix the aging system has come not only from across party lines but across the mountains as well, she said.

“We have good support from Eastern Washington, because everyone understands it’s a marine highway,” Rolfes said of the ferries system.

Even though the ferries system is expected to be the topic of discussion at today’s meeting, other issues could be addressed as well, she said.

The Bremerton School District’s free all-day kindergarten program and its early childhood learning efforts have gained statewide attention, she said.

“We are fighting to be able to allocate more funding to that program,” she said. “That’s a budget issue.”

The hope is that eventually free all-day kindergarten will be available not only countywide but statewide as well, she said.

As with every town hall meeting, Rolfes said she and Appleton will be available to listen to whatever complaints their constituents might have, but Rolfes added one slight caveat, “We’re always open to constructive ideas as well.”

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