News

Bremerton has banner year

By CHARLES MELTON

Editor

First it was the fountains at the Harborside Park, then it was the tunnel, then it was the Naval Museum of the Pacific, then it was the Harborside Condominiums and there was also the Bremerton marina’s new breakwater.

Get the picture?

2007 was a year of numerous grand celebrations throughout the city of Bremerton as many dreams came true and even more took flight as the strong winds of progress continued blowing through the city as years of hard work paid off with highly visible results.

The fountain park makes

its debut

This past weekend Bremerton rewrote the travel books.

It went from having nothing mentioned to having one of the most impressive open spaces in the Northwest.

Its Harborside Fountain Park opened to crowds, many of who got their first look at the destination park.

Mayor Cary Bozeman called the more than two-acre park, which is nestled between the Bremerton ferry terminal and the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, a “place of joy and a place of rest downtown.”

“This is the latest and far from the last successful project for Bremerton,” Council President Will Maupin said.

The “man behind the park” Gary Sexton, the city’s director for economic development, also addressed the crowd gathered at the refurbished Building 50. He credited US. Congressman Norm Dicks (D-Belfair) and State Rep. Frank Chopp (D-Seattle), both Bremerton natives, for securing funding for the park.

Bremerton tunnel

starts in July

After many years of heated discussions and debate about its necessity, the Bremerton tunnel project finally got underway in mid-July.

Congressman Norm Dicks and then-acting Washington State Department of Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond were among the dignitaries who gathered to watch the first buildings along Burwell Street come crashing down.

The more than $30-million project remained on schedule despite torrential rains in early December and is expected to be completed in early 2009.

Bremerton marina project takes shape

As the loud clangs from the driving of piles for the Port of Bremerton’s marina expansion echoed throughout Sinclair Inlet in August, port officials said the best is yet to come.

“By September you should see the breakwater,” said Port of Bremerton director of marine facilities Steve Slaton. “It will be beautiful.”

The existing slips in the marina will be upgraded in place to match the new 308 slips, which will bring the marina’s capacity to 352 slips, he said.

The USS Turner Joy will be rotated 30 degrees to the north of its current position to allow for easier access for boaters entering the new marina, and the port has also found a way to address the Washington State Ferries’ security concerns as part of the project as well, he said.

“Everything has been taken care of and we should have it open by March 2008,” Slaton said.

Building 50 becomes home to naval museum in August

A dream more than 50 years in the making burst forth into reality on Aug. 24 as the Puget Sound Navy Museum opened in historic Building 50 at the Bremerton Harborside.

Among the many dignitaries in attendance was Lyle Nelson, president of the Naval Memorial Museum of the Pacific, who was part of the team of city, county, state and federal leaders responsible for the completion of the project.

“This will be the fifth location in 52 years, and I hope it will be the last,” Nelson told the crowd of more than 50 people who basked in the warmth of an unseasonably sunny day.

The museum began in November 1954 as the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard Museum, Nelson said.

In subsequent years the city of Bremerton and the Kitsap County Historical Society took responsibility for maintaining the museum’s operation before the Naval Memorial Museum of the Pacific’s volunteers took the reins, he said.

Capt. Daniel Peters, commander of the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility, called the grand opening “a truly historic day.”

The idea of using Building 50 as a museum isn’t a new one, and now it will finally be able to tell the story of the Puget Sound’s naval history, Capt. Peters said.

“After 111 years it is in its final location, where I hope it will stay for another 100 years,” he said.

During one of his early assignments to PSNS, Capt. Peters said he remembers having an office in the historic building, but now the rest of the world can enjoy the historic location.

For Mayor Cary Bozeman, the event marked the culmination of a team effort to bring all of the pieces together to make it happen.

Roy Runyon wins District 4 primary

With 371 votes counted, Bremerton City Council District 4 candidate Roy Runyon had 139 votes or 37 percent of the vote, while Jara was a distant second with 98 votes or 26 percent of the vote. England was a close third with 90 votes, for 24 percent and Virginia Starr received 39 votes for 11 percent.

After seeing the initial results, Runyon said he felt good going into Tuesday’s night election.

“I received a pretty positive response from my doorbelling, and I’ve lived in the district for more than two years, so I know the issues,” he said.

The hard work before the primary election paid off, but more work remains before the Nov. 6 general election, he said.

As Runyon’s most likely challenger in the Nov. 6 general election, Jara said he feels pretty good about the results.

“I’m thankful to the people who voted for me, and I look forward to continuing to meet people,” Jara said.

Although the election results won’t be certified until Sept. 5 Jara said he is moving ahead in his preparations to challenge Runyon.

“I think people will see Roy and I are very different,” Jara said. “I’m more of an optimist and I think a lot of people will connect with that.”

In the only other local election, residents in West Hills sharply voted against being annexed into the city as 147 votes were cast against, while only 22 were cast in favor.

Harborside condos make fall debut

The days of vendors hocking T-shirts sarcastically proclaiming “Bremerton: America’s finest waterfront parking” officially came to an end Oct. 5 as the Harborside Condominiums marked the city’s transformation into one of the nation’s most beautiful waterfronts.

“This is a great day for our city,” Mayor Cary Bozeman proclaimed as the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority’s 78-unit condominium project was unveiled to the public during a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

When the idea for the condos was first floated, it drew no interest from the private sector until the housing authority stepped in and found a way to make it happen, Bozeman said.

“It took tremendous courage to build and the belief in a lot of Bremerton that this would happen,” he said.

That courage and belief has been rewarded as the condos are but one piece of the revitalization of Bremerton, he said.

KCCHA executive director Norm McLaughlin thanked the housing authority’s board of directors for having a firm belief in the project and making it a reality.

“It’s very difficult to do condos, but we work very hard at it and we’re very good at it,” McLaughlin said.

Another one of the key players in the condos’ success was Reid Real Estate agent Janice Haynes, who passed away earlier this year, he said.

“She was the leader, and she was an inspiration to us all,” he said.

While several other people deserve credit for the success of the project, McLaughlin said the most important people are those who have purchased the condos.

“The owners are the true urban pioneers,” McLaughlin said.

City parks levy soundly rejected by voters

Bremerton Mayor Cary Bozeman stood before the Bremerton City Council Nov. 8 and offered a mea culpa for the failure of the city’s Proposition No. 1, which would have raised property taxes to provide funding for parks maintenance and capital projects.

“I take full responsibility for this issue,” Bozeman said. “I think the buck stops here with me.”

Before the measure was put to the voters, Bozeman said he and the city staff recommended it to the council based upon three criteria that included the impact it would have, its affordability, the people’s desires for their city, and their willingness to support it with their taxes.

“I believe we met those criteria, but the people have spoken against it,” he said.

However, that doesn’t change the fact that the city’s parks system is still in dire need of an infusion of capital funding to limit the deterioration of facilities citywide, he said.

“Things happened that were beyond our control,” he said, pointing to the overall uneasiness about the national economy, the increase in property values across the city and the Port of Bremerton’s decision to raise property taxes without going to the voters first.

While Bozeman wasn’t quick to single out any particular group, Council President Will Maupin said during his doorbelling efforts before the election, many residents in his district voiced their displeasure with the port’s decision which created a backlash against any new tax increase.

“They felt like they had money taken from them that didn’t go to the voters,” Maupin said. “They wanted it to stop.”

Like Bozeman, Maupin agreed that something has to be done to improve the city’s parks and the next step will be for the council, city staff and mayor to come up with another possible solution.

Runyon, Maupin, Robinson win council races

Three Bremerton City Council seats were also up for grabs Tuesday night as Bremerton City Council President Will Maupin edged out his challenger Eric Younger.

“With the preliminary results in, it looks like I’m going to win,” Maupin said. “I look forward to working with everyone in the community.”

City Councilwoman Dianne Robinson won a second term on the council in the District 6 race as she defeated political newcomer Cassandra Helmrick.

“My results were good and I’m really thankful that I get four more years to work with the community,” Robinson said.

In the Aug. 21 primary, Roy Runyon topped Carlos Jara, Trent England and Virginia Starr with 141 out of the 373 votes cast in the election.

Once the final results were announced Runyon was tabbed to succeed outgoing Bremerton City Councilwoman Wendy Priest, who represented the district for four years.

t Sher takes control of old JC Penney’s building

The adage “Good things come to those wait” was probably never more true in Bremerton than on Nov. 30 when the Bremer Trust celebrated the sale of the old JC Penney’s building to Bellevue-based developer Ron Sher.

Sher is probably best known for his redevelopment of the Crossroads Mall in Bellevue, where Bremerton Mayor Cary Bozeman served as mayor during the 1980s, so at least in some people’s minds it was only a matter of time before Sher landed in Bremerton.

“I feel like I’ve been preparing for this project for 30 years,” Sher said.

Although the wait for deciding what to do with the building hasn’t been quite 30 years, Bremer trustee Betty Sheldon said it took a long time for the trust to find the right person to redevelop the building.

“We are so glad he is the person who is going to see the redevelopment of the JC Penney’s building,” Sheldon said.

The sale of the building represents an important real estate transaction for the continued redevelopment of downtown and Sher could see the possibilities for the historic structure, Sheldon said.

“Not too many things have energized me as much as getting into this project,” Sher said. “We’re here and we’re excited.”

The project has the potential to a cornerstone for transportation-based development because of its proximity to the Bremerton ferry terminal, which is something Sher said he sees as becoming increasingly important in the future.

“I’m going to do the best I can to guarantee what I make is going to be an asset to the community,” he said.

t Stennis returns to Bremerton

Addison Carter came along way to see her father Aug. 31 as he was one of the more than 3,000 sailors aboard the USS John C. Stennis as it finally arrived at its homeport in Bremerton.

“We’re going to Sea World,” the five-year-old said. “It’s fun.”

For Carter’s girlfriend Kristine Smith from Arizona, the Stennis’ arrival at around 9:30 a.m. was a welcomed end to seven-and-a-half months of waiting.

“It’s really exciting and I just can’t wait to see him and for him to see his daughter,” Smith said.

Along with those waiting for their sons and daughters to return home, several sailors got to see their newborn children for the first time as 22 new babies were scattered throughout the crowd.

“It’s very emotional,” said sailor Matthew Gossett as he held his three-and-a-half-month old daughter Charlie Mae for the first time. “She’s so beautiful. It’s been a long wait.”

Gossett’s wife, Kristen said she was just happy to finally have her husband home after the long deployment.

Among the many local leaders in the crowd waiting for the ship’s arrival was Kitsap County Commissioner Josh Brown.

“I’m very excited to be here,” Brown said. “This is the first time I’ve got to see a carrier come and go.”

As the son of a shipyard worker Brown said he has been around ships all of his life, but being in the crowd as the ship came in gave him a different perspective.

“It’s great to see the Stennis coming home,” Brown said.

While there were plenty of hugs and kisses to go around during the homecoming festivities, Rear Admiral Kevin Quinn, commander of the USS John C. Stennis Strike Force, said he is proud of the way his sailors and Marines performed admirably throughout the seven-and-a-half-month deployment.

“We left here seven-and-a-half months ago and sailed straight into the Persian Gulf,” Quinn said. “We performed intense combat operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

Victory Park honors all veterans

Voices from the past were carried by the winds Nov. 2 as local, state and national leaders joined veterans in dedicating the Path of Freedom at Bremerton High School’s Memorial Stadium.

The names of the 437 Kitsap County servicemen and women who gave their lives for freedom from World War II to the present are engraved on granite slabs in the flag plaza.

Among the dignitaries gathered at the event were Congressman Norm Dicks, Kitsap County Commissioner Josh Brown and BSD Superintendent Bette Hyde.

Washington state Department of Veterans Affairs deputy director Lourdes Alvarado-Ramos was one of the speakers at Saturday’s event.

While there is a veterans memorial in Olympia, Bremerton’s memorial is a sign of the community’s commitment to its veterans, Alvarado-Ramos said.

“That speaks volumes for your dedication,” Alvarado-Ramos said.

Among the many veterans in attendance was Don Green, president of the Washington state Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.

“This is a wonderful place, and it honors those who have gone on before,” Green said.

The memorial rivals the great revitalization effort that is occurring in the city and adds to it, Green said.

Although Bremerton’s only Medal of Honor recipient John “Bud” Hawk was unable to speak at the event, a letter from him to those gathered at the stadium was read by VFW Post No. 239 Commander Fred Green.

“Courage is not the lack of fear,” Hawk wrote. “Courage is how you react to that fear and how you accept your purpose.”

He was a citizen-draftee who served with the 3rd Infantry Division during World War II, and few people can imagine the difficulties of fighting in a modern war, Hawk wrote.

“Hang in there, soldier,” Hawk concluded.

t Two Bremerton soldiers give their all

Charles Hester and Johnny C. Walls may have come from different backgrounds, but both hailed from Bremerton.

Both brave men also gave their lives in the War on Terror. Hester was killed in Baghdad, Iraq in May and Walls was killed on Nov. 2 in Afghanistan, a day before Hester was memorialized with a Gold Star banner at the intersection of Farragut Avenue and Navy City Highway.

They were the only Bremerton servicemen to give their lives in 2007.

YWCA Arts ALIVE a success

More than 200 people made their way through the doors of the Norm Dicks Government Center to take part in the Kitsap County YWCA’s Arts ALIVE art auction which took place Oct. 26 and raised the $20,000 goal for the organization’s ALIVE (Alternative to Living In a Violent Environment) shelter which houses women and children who have been victims of domestic violence.

YWCA executive director Linda Joyce said the event was a definite success and exceeded her expectations.

“The response was just extraordinary,” Joyce said. “The combined energies of the YWCA board, staff and advisory committee resulted in a successful event.”

Tracy McConaughy, a YWCA board member and chair of the auction was also pleased with the event.

“We are thrilled with the outcome and overwhelmed at the support of the artists and the community,” McConaughy said.

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