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School board backs away from building project

As the tide of redevelopment swings through the downtown core of Bremerton, one area in east Bremerton is being eyed as another location for a turnaround of its own.

The Anderson Cove housing area, near the water just west of Bremerton High School, has long been the site of rundown housing.

It has also been the subject of a $35,000 redevelopment study paid for by the Bremerton Housing Authority, Bremerton School Board and City Council for the last three months.

Each agency has put in an equal share to the study of about $11,600.

Currently, the study is at its midway point.

At a meeting Monday amongst the three entities, about 25 city residents showed up to hear the chief designers, Bill Isley and Dana Webber of Bainbridge Architects Collaborative, present their findings so far.

Although the feasibility study is far from complete, Bremerton School Board president Margaret Kirk and school board member DeWayne Boyd announced that the school district will not proceed with the idea of planting a middle school in the area.

The initial plan was to build a middle school surrounded by a new crop of mixed-use housing and a large pedestrian-oriented slip.

However, the school board will not make a decision about whether or not they will put a school on the site, because they are concerned that current downward enrollment trends will not justify creating a new middle school. To receive funding for such a project, the school board must ask voters for money in 2004.

“We have seen a slight decline in enrollment for several years, about 100 students a year,” said Joan Dingfield, community services director for the Bremerton School District. Dingfield referenced information from a recently completed facilities study. The facilities committee recommended to the school board not to proceed with a 2004 school ballot issue.

Dingfield says it would take a consistent enrollment to justify building a new school, even though two schools in Bremerton — Bremerton Junior High and Olympic View Elementary — are so old that they are costing the school district extra money just to keep them working.

“The cost of maintaining those buildings takes away from the classroom,” Dingfield said.

Although she said there is an urgency to provide students with adequate facilities, the school district representatives must make a very careful decision about when and where to erect a new building.

“We are just not right there right now,” Dingfield said. “Right now it would be too great of a cost for the Bremerton property tax payers to pay for.”

Currently, Bremerton tax payers pay for school construction bonds passed in 1987 and 1991. Those bonds have gone to the construction of schools such as Bremerton High School and West Hills Elementary.

David Farr from the Bremerton Housing Authority attended the meeting and said he was frustrated that the architects had already spent three months designing a potential site with the school in mind before the school board announced their decision to hold off on committing.

“I can understand the school district’s point of view, but it was really unfortunate, the timing.”

Farr was a District 6 Bremerton City Council member for seven years, from 1994 to 2001. Because his former district covered the Anderson Cove area, he is well aware of the crime and landlord problems in the area. He is also very excited about the chance to add a new crop of housing there.

He imagines a mix of market rate housing as well as low income options.

City Council president Carol Arends also attended the meeting on Monday. She said she did not feel any of the city’s money was wasted in the design.

“I would say it is well spent because we learned a lot,” she said. “It certainly looks like somebody has done a great deal of work to come up with this design. There’s a great potential there.”

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