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‘He does tell it the way it is’

About 100 people showed up March 12, for a mayoral town hall meeting.

Mayor Cary Bozeman opened the meeting and discussed all the problems Bremerton is facing, such as low revenue growth and a low number of police officers.

“These are very tough times for public institutions,” said Bozeman.

He said if the economic climate of Bremerton didn’t change they would have to lay off 25 city employees in the next four to five years, including police officers and firefighters.

Bozeman discussed solutions to the economic problems of Bremerton. He said the city’s biggest plan for improvement is the revitalization of downtown Bremerton.

“I have one mission in my life right now and that’s to bring back downtown Bremerton,” Bozeman said.

A few solutions mentioned include the conference center/hotel complex, a restaurant, 200 condominiums and the maritime park the city has planned for downtown Bremerton. The new $20 to $25 million government center at Sixth Street and Pacific Avenue that Bozeman is pushing to replace the current City Hall is another solution.

“City Hall is a crummy, crummy building,” said Bozeman. “We think in two years we’ll be able to be in this new building.”

Community members then asked Bozeman questions and also to several city department heads, including Police Chief Rob Forbes and Fire Chief Al Duke.

The questions ranged from finances to crime.

Julie Wasserburger, a Bremerton resident, asked about the crime in the area by Garguile’s Red Apple Market. She said she didn’t feel safe allowing her children to walk to the store.

Forbes said the area wasn’t particularly high in crime, but if it’s perceived as a crime-filled area, then it’s a problem.

Bozeman said it was an issue of economics and not enough police officers or patrol cars.

“Children should be able to walk to the store,” he said.

One resident asked how community members could help in the plans to stimulate Bremerton’s economy.

Bozeman’s deputy, Sherril Huff-Menees, said the city has a variety of boards and commissions residents can apply for. She said applications could be obtained from the mayor’s office. She also said that participation in public meetings helped the city to know what problems citizens are having.

Betty Pilling, also a Bremerton resident, asked if the city could restore some of the existing historic buildings in Bremerton.

Bozeman said that would be the case with a few significant buildings downtown, but, he added, the city has to change to improve, even though there are many people that don’t want anything to change.

After the meeting, Bozeman said that for the first effort by the city to reconnect with the citizens, the meeting went well.

“We need to hear what the public wants and how they feel,” said Bozeman.

Police Chief Forbes said he thought the meeting went well although he wished he had more opportunity to discuss block watch and crime prevention programs that citizens could get involved in.

“I think he (Bozeman) did a pretty good job,” said District 2 City Councilman Cecil McConnell. “He does tell it the way it is.”

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