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Top stories for 2013

Hugs filled with tears of joy were a common sight this pasty May when the John C. Stennis returned to Naval Base Kitsap - Bremerton following an eight-month deployment overseas. - Kevan Moore
Hugs filled with tears of joy were a common sight this pasty May when the John C. Stennis returned to Naval Base Kitsap - Bremerton following an eight-month deployment overseas.
— image credit: Kevan Moore

To celebrate the holiday season, we thought we’d look back at the past year by reviewing a few of our favorite stories.

Some are news stories. Some are events we covered. And others … well … they’re just some of the memories we want to share with you, our readers.

Incorporation vote

The year started out with a campaign to make Silverdale a city. After much talk and several community forums, voters in the affected area said “no.”

On Feb. 12, voters rejected a measure to incorporate the Silverdale area in almost a 70 to 30 percent majority. Of the 9,696 registered voters in the incorporation area, 3,891 votes were cast and tallied by Kitsap County election officials. Those voting not to incorporate totaled 2,718, (69.85 percent) while the “Yes” votes were 1,173 (30.15 percent).

Rob MacDermid, a member of Citizens United for Silverdale, the group backing the “Yes” campaign, wasn’t that surprised.

“I’m not particularly surprised that it lost, but I am surprised by the margin,” he said. “In talking to people over the last few weeks, I talked to people opposed to it. It seemed like the percentages were against us.”

Across town, Edward Berg was with those opposed to incorporation. They gathered to watch results election night and he said it was a matter of not wanting to pay more.

“People didn’t want more taxes,” Berg said. He has been a resident of the Silverdale area for 64 years. “And no matter what anybody says, it would be inevitable. Becoming a city would cost us more.”

Incorporation has been a hot issue in Silverdale for the last few decades. Beginning in the mid 1980s, efforts surfaced to make the Silverdale area its own city. The last time the issue was before voters was 1999, when it passed by less than 10 votes. That election, however, was thrown out when it became apparent there were ballot irregularities and the following February, when the vote was re-done, the issue failed by a larger percentage.

Off to Paris

Headlines were made by the Port of Bremerton when just one month after its commission voted to eliminate five positions and tighten its budget, commissioners voted to send its CEO Tim Thomson to Paris for the Paris Air Show. After the restructuring and downsizing move, commissioners chose to send the port’s CEO to the Paris Air Show in June.

In an agreement reached at the port meeting in March, CEO Tim Thomson was given the go-ahead to attend the air show on June 17-23 at an estimated cost of $5,600. Thomson attended with County Commissioner Josh Brown, and John Powers, executive director of the Kitsap Aerospace and Defense Alliance (KADA), which is a public-private consortium aimed at bringing aerospace business to the port’s properties and Kitsap County.

Larry Stokes, chairman of the port’s board of commissioners said he had conversations with Thomson about attending the show at the request of Powers. He said while Thomson told him he thought he shouldn’t because of the current belt-tightening taking place in the port’s operations, Stokes wanted Thomson to attend.

“I feel he needs to sell our airport,” Stokes said. “He needs to go there and show our stuff.”

Bombings felt locally

Several Kitsap County residents participated in the Boston Marathon in April, but  none were injured in the bombings. Nonetheless, the bomb blasts sent shockwaves across the country and hit close to home for a tight-knit group in the local running community.

About 100 folks got together in Silverdale the day after the bombings to take part in a worldwide event called Runners United to Remember.

One of the night’s participants, Silverdale resident Renee Partsch, tracked her mom’s movements online as she made her way through the marathon.

“She crossed at 4:04:50,” Partsch said of her mom, former Silverdale resident Eileen Glenn. “I left the house to go to Costco and everybody started messaging me ‘explosion at the finishing area’ and I’m thinking that’s where she is, she’s right there. And she was. She had just grabbed her bottle of water and hadn’t even gotten her medal yet. My step-dad (Lee Glenn) was right off to the side near the bleachers and it was about 30 minutes before I heard from them.”

Glenn and all of Kitsap County’s participants in the marathon were not injured by the blasts.

Stennis returns home

A big moment for many was the sight of the USS Stennis coming around the corner to dock in its homeport of Bremerton. It arrived home May 8 after eight months at sea.

Cassandra Jorgensen stood at the front of the massive crowd of families ready to meet their loved ones as they came off the USS John C. Stennis at Naval Base Kitsap - Bremerton.

Jorgensen was there to meet her fiancé, Petty Officer 2nd Class Timothy Allen. Jorgensen had won the special honor of “first kiss” among those waiting for loved ones to return from the carrier’s eight-month deployment.

Jorgensen met Allen in the Navy. Not only that, they met on the Stennis during its last deployment while working in the same field. She left the Navy after that deployment, but Allen stayed in.

Having been on both sides of a deployment, Jorgensen said staying at home can be much harder.

“It’s bad being on board — but the women who do this, it’s ten times harder,” Jorgensen said. “But this moment right here makes it all worth it.”

For several young and growing families, the Stennis’ return marked the first chance for children to meet their fathers and vice versa.

Justin Baty, a nuclear engineer on the John C. Stennis, got to hold his son, Maximus, for the first time.

“I’m very overwhelmed and very excited,” Baty said shortly after seeing his wife, Victoria, and their son. “It was pretty tough because he was born right at the beginning of the deployment so I didn’t get a chance to see him. This is my first chance. I’m really happy.”

When its airing is onboard, there are more than 5,000 sailors serving on the USS Stennis.

With some 3,000 Sailors aboard, the aircraft carrier covered 66,000 miles in the western Pacific. The Navy reported that aircraft flew more than 1,300 missions from the flight deck in direct support of operations in Afghanistan. Prior to last year’s deployment, the Stennis had only been in port for five months following a seventh-month deployment to the Middle East.

Harrison chooses to affiliate with Franciscan

What was a major news story from 2012, continued to 2013 as Harrison Medical Center looked to affiliate with the Franciscan Health Care System of Tacoma. In August, the proposed affiliation moved forward when without further study by the state or additional comments from the public.

The Washington State Department of Health issued a decision that the affiliation would not require a certificate of need process.

A certificate of need is a lengthy process that potentially would have cost millions of dollars and would have required more public comment.

“We’re pleased and excited,” said Harrison CEO Scott Bosch. “This is the culmination of nearly 10 months of discussion and hard work and will improve the quality of health care in Kitsap County, and will reduce the cost and give more access to care for residents in the county.”

Officials with Franciscan echoed Bosch’s comments.

“We are extremely pleased,” said Joe Wilczek, Franciscan Health System CEO. “It’s a real opportunity to expand health care for those who live in the area. They’ll be able to get their health care needs met close to home and won’t have to travel anywhere for services.”

The hospitals had requested a “determination of non-reviewability” from the Department of Health which in essence says the certificate of need process was not required because the affiliation is not a merger or a purchase. The proposed affiliation was first announced in October 2012.

The affiliation was final within a week and did not delay the opening of Harrison’s new Orthopaedic Center Sept. 13.

For Ella Samuelson of Silverdale, that opening was like a dress rehearsal.

Samuelson, in her 80s, and her husband, W. Bruce Samuelson, were among those who got to take a first-look at The Orthopaedic Center at Harrison Medical Center during a public open house.

“I’m going to be here in January for a knee replacement,” said Samuelson. “And I just wanted to see what the place is like.”

Samuelson got the grand tour, just as did more than 500 people, said Jacquie Goodwill, director of marketing and communications for Harrison. Another 500 VIP guests toured the center that evening during a wine reception.

As Samuelson told, she was suppose to have her surgery last year, but another medical need had to come first.

“I’m glad I had to put it off,” she said. “Because now I get to have it in this brand new place.”

Indeed she does. The center is a state-of-the-art surgical center where all orthopedic needs will be cared for. Among the surgeries that will be offered are knee and hip replacements, spinal surgeries, shoulder repair and replacements, hand surgeries including carpal tunnel and care for broken bones.

Teams of more than 100 orthopedic specialists from surgeons, nurses, and rehabilitation therapists work using the latest technology to diagnose and treat patients, according to the hospital’s website.

The $29 million facility is an expansion of Harrison’s Myhre Road campus. Bremerton architectural firm Rice Fergus Miller designed the building and it meets the standards of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification for green building practices. Construction of the 54,000 square foot building began in May 2012.

 

 

Retail changes in and around Silverdale

There were plenty of changes for the retail market in and around Silverdale in 2013.

In June, the Starwood Capital Group, a private investment firm from Connecticut, purchased the Kitsap Mall and some surrounding properties.

The sale was announced in early June by Starwood and its partner company Starwood Retail Partners.

Officials of the company did not disclose terms of the sale, but records at the Kitsap County Assessor’s office indicate the mall was sold for $111 million.

The Macerich Company of California, a national mall developer and owner,  had owned the mall. Macerich announced in February that the mall was for sale.

Along with the mall, Kitsap Place, which houses T.J.Maxx, Michael’s and some other smaller stores, was sold to Starwood for $9.5 million. Four buildings across from the mall to the north on Randall Way, called North Point at Kitsap, were sold for $6.5 million.

Kitsap Mall is the only regional mall on the Kitsap Peninsula and contains 700,000 square feet of retail space. The mall opened in 1985 and Macerich has owned it since 1999 when they paid $70 million for the property.

Within view, another retail development is in the making, it was announced in September.

The California-based CenterCal Properties has plans to develop a new shopping center at NW Greaves Way and Highway 3, on the western side of Silverdale’s retail center.

At it’s current state, the property under consideration is about 17 and a half acres filed with shrubs, trees and tall grasses. There’s isn’t much there right now except a “For Sale” sign and lots of wetlands. But the property is considered to be a great place for retail.

In an application filed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Washington State Department of Ecology, the developer said he plans 200,000 square feet of building space that could include a movie theater, restaurants, grocery store and retail outlets.

Fred Bruning, CenterCal’s CEO, said the company is thrilled to be coming the Silverdale.

“We truly love the Pacific Northwest and we’re excited about coming to Silverdale,” Bruning said.

Bruning, who was the real estate director of Sears when the Kitsap Mall opened, knows the area well and said his company looks for places where it’s hard to get zoning for retail when they consider a project.

“That means that retail won’t be over built,” he said. “Kitsap County is very strategic when it comes to where they want retail to go and that’s good.”

For residents of Kitsap County, another retailer’s decision to locate here was met with delight in 2013. The new Silverdale REI opened Oct. 4.

Store manager Greta Eaton Caulfield summed it up well.

“We’re just so excited,” she said. “It’s a really big thing for REI to be in Silverdale - our first store on the Kitsap Peninsula.”

Caulfield was chosen to manage the store after a 20 year career with REI. In that time she’s been a store manager Grand Junction, Colo., and Sandy, Utah, just outside Salt Lake City.

But this, the third store she’s opened and been manager of from day one, is special to her. She’s coming home.

“I grew up in Forks,” she said. “I remember driving through Silverdale when it was just a road with a gas station and a market. When I was in high school, the (Kitsap) mall went in and that was where we always went to shop for new school clothes.”

Her first task was to oversee hiring of 50 employees. REI received more than 800 applications and those who were hired range in age from 16 to 66. They come from all around the peninsula, including Bainbridge Island, Poulsbo, and Port Orchard, and are students, professional sports enthusiasts and some who have come out of retirement to work at REI.

This is the ninth store for REI in the Puget Sound and the company, which began in 1938, has more than 20,000 members who live on the Kitsap Peninsula.

“Finally there is a store here so that our members don’t have to go to Seattle or Tacoma to shop,” Caulfield said. “We’ve wanted to have a store over here for some time, but until now, we just couldn’t find the right location.”

The store, at 10903 NW Myhre Place, is where the former Kitsap Sports was located. REI is leasing the building from the owner of that business. There is 15,000 square feet of space, about 3,000 more than the typical REI store, Caulfield said.

 

 

Kitsap County has its own hoarding cat woman

It’s been seen and talked about other places, but it happened here this year.

Kitsap Humane Society’s Animal Rescue and Enforcement (KARE) rescued 46 cats and kittens from a couple that were hoarding them in a camping trailer in Bremerton.

Up to 30 more cats were surrendered to Kitsap Humane Society within the next ten days. Bremerton ordinance dictates that residents own no more than four animals. In mid-February, the Bremerton Police Department received an anonymous complaint about many cats housed in a camping trailer.

KARE made multiple efforts to contact the owners, and on March 1, with the owners’ compliance, officers rescued the 46 cats from the trailer, with another 30 cats estimated to remain. KARE could not take all of the 70-plus cats at once because of capacity limits at the KHS shelter.

Dr. Jen Stonequist, director of shelter medicine at KHS, examined the cats.

“Most of the cats are in relatively good condition and sociable,” he said. “Some had minor, medical issues which are being addressed.”

KHS officials said the couple originally had only a few cats, but did not get them altered and found themselves in a situation that got out of hand. They were well-meaning people, officials said, but didn’t know what to do once they had so many cats.

“They thought they were doing the right thing by caring for the cats,” said kelly Michaels, of KHS. “But they weren’t spaying or neutering any of them and this is what happened.”

“It’s a case of kittens having kittens because that’s what they do,” said Robin Simons, director of animal welfare at the shelter.

Commission approved mental health sales tax

After months of study and debate, in September Kitsap County Commissioners unanimously voted to institute a .01 percent sales tax for mental health and substance abuse programs.

The ordinance went into effect Jan. 1 and is expected to raise about $3 million per year. The commissioners’ approval of the tax increase followed a pair of public hearings and many months of legwork by supporters.

At the time of the vote, Commissioner Rob Gelder, talked about a public hearing in Poulsbo that left him more emotional than he thought he would be. He noted that nearly every speaker shared a personal connection to mental health and mental illness.

“They were willing to sort of put themselves on the line to really truly bare their souls for all the public inspection and that takes a lot of guts,”  he said.

Gelder said that he did a lot of deliberative soul searching before reaching his decision to vote for the tax.

“What it boils down to is everyone’s lives have been touched in some way, shape or form by mental health or mental illness,” he said. “It may not be ourselves personally. It may be a family member, a friend and acquaintance or somebody down the road from us. But our lives are touched. Our community is touched by this issue and I think this is a really important step to take moving forward to try to really begin to turn the tide on this particular topic.”

Gelder also said he will remain committed to making sure that the new funds are spent wisely.

Kitsap 9/11 Memorial dedicated in Bremerton

After years of fundraising, design and re-design work and the installation of a pair of steel beams from the World Trade Center, the Kitsap 9/11 memorial was dedicated on Sept. 11.

Dave Fergus, who designed the memorial and was the lead architect on the project, spoke at the dedication.

“9/11 is a story of people. It’s a story about those who survived and those who perished,” said Fergus. “Stories of human toll and sacrifice.”

Fergus directly recounted several personal stories of those who were in the towers, at the Pentagon and on Flight 93 on 9/11. He recalled last phone conversations, children who would never see their parents again, faithful friends who stayed behind, and the workers who pushed past those escaping.

Audience members sat quietly, some silently wiping tears away, others with their hands covering their face in disbelief as Fergus spoke of the final moments of helpless Americans across four various locations on September 11, 2001.

The architect also offered detailed perspectives of the memorial, including if a visitor looks at the beams from one angle, it seems as though the metal is curled; from various other angles, the beams look straight, as the buildings did before falling.

“The Kitsap 9/11 Memorial is intended not simply to be viewed, but to be experienced,” he said. “You may touch the steel beams. Through touch, we are connected to each other. And we are connected to everyone who was touched by 9/11. Through touch, we are all connected and we are all united.”

CK Fire & Rescue looks at bridge and culvert policy

No more taking CK Fire & Rescue vehicles across privately maintained bridges and culverts without the proper inspection.

In September, fire commissioners in that district unanimously passed the “limited access roadways, bridges and culverts policy” that has been debated for two months.

The policy calls for private property owners with bridges and culverts that are more than 24 inches in diameter to have them inspected to determine that they can hold the weight of large department vehicles, including trucks up to 60,000 pounds. If they are deemed secure by a licensed structural engineer,  the fire department will post that and trucks will cross when emergencies happen. If not, fire department officials will do their best to fight fires and respond to emergencies on foot or with lighter weight vehicles.

The district had identified 91 bridges and 44 culverts that need inspecting. More than 200 property owners were affected.

Fire Chief Scott Weninger said the need for the policy is to protect equipment and employees.

“We can’t afford to risk equipment or personnel,” he said. “And it just not right to ask our crews to make a decision on whether to cross at the time of an emergency out in the field.”

While there has not been any incidents of private bridges falling in under the weight of a fire vehicle in the district, Weninger said it has happened in Gig Harbor and other places across the nation. He said the matter has been a safety concern in the Central Kitsap district for years.

Commissioner Dick West said he’d been aware of the concern for more than 30 years.

“It’s been a issue for a long time,” West said, after voting for the policy. “We just can’t afford to lose apparatus or personnel for that matter.”

Weninger said the district will now begin the process of notifying affected property owners. The policy officially goes into affect Jan. 1.

The fire district prepared letters and information that was mailed to the roughly 400 households affected by the new policy. The packets had information about the new policy and a check list for engineers to use when inspecting structures. It also will include an explanation to homeowners about the policy.

The district is now beginning to place the prier signage on those bridges that have been inspected.

New superintendents at Bremerton and CK districts

This year, two local school districts got a makeover in the superintendent department. Central Kitsap School District welcomed Hazel Bauman as the new face for the district, and Bremerton schools brought on native Aaron Leavell.

“My role is to improve teaching and learning,” said Bauman, who began her interim work with CKSD in early July. “Children come to school each day to learn and there is so much to learn. We have to make sure that we present that in an engaging and exciting way so that they are turned on to learning.”

Bauman came to the Central Kitsap district with nearly 40 years in education, the last 29 in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where she was superintendent for the past five years. She replaced Greg Lynch, who took a superintendent position with the Olympic Educational Service District 114. Bauman recently told the school board she’ll stay on an additional year while the board searches for a permanent superintendent. She also is committed to helping the district find it’s next superintendent.

Leavell replaced Lester “Flip” Herndon who announced with little notice he’d be leaving by Aug. 31, just in time for the new school year.

“I’m looking forward to the upcoming year,” said Leavell at the time he took the job. “I’m elated. This is a very exciting time for me and the Bremerton School District.”

Leavell first started his teaching career in 1997 in the Bremerton School District, and he was born and raised in Kitsap County.

City expands conference center  on waterfront

After substantial debate, the city council decided to forge ahead with a $1.1 million, 6,750-foot expansion of the Kitsap Conference Center at the Bremerton Harborside District.

Using a $400,000 grant from the Kitsap Public Facilities District and borrowing $500,000 from its own Equipment Rental and Revolving Fund, the city negotiated a $15-per-square-foot lease with Kitsap Transit for third floor space that had sat vacant for ten years.

Kitsap Transit also agreed to forego four years worth of rent in lieu of tenant improvements by the city. In addition, the agreed to contribute $200,000 worth of improvements for the project, most of which entails elevator improvements to the site.

Supporters of the expansion said that conservative estimates show that the expanded conference center will bring in an additional $500,000 in revenue every year through larger and longer conferences.

Government shutdown hits Kitsap County hard

The Oct. 1 to 17 shutdown of the federal government hit Kitsap County particularly hard.

Approximately 3,500 workers at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility were furloughed, but the shutdowns affects were felt beyond the yard.

At Naval Base Kitsap, 97 of 453 civilian employees were furloughed and at Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest, “137 employees will be receiving a furlough letter sometime today,” public affairs officer Leslie Yuenger said on the day of the shutdown.

Congressman Derek Kilmer bemoaned the shutdown and announced he would give up his pay for the duration of the shutdown.

“The fact that some in Congress would risk a shutdown in order to score political points demonstrates why Congress is currently held in lower regard than head lice,” Kilmer said. “I’m voluntarily giving up my own pay during this shutdown because I believe in leading by example. Unfortunately, many federal employees in our region unfortunately won’t have a say about losing theirs. They’ll be furloughed and lose pay through no fault of their own. These employees and the folks who depend on their work deserve better.”

School board candidate faced theft charge

When Wendy Stevens announced her candidacy for the Bremerton school board, it was clear she had a lot of strong support. Despite disappearing from her home in the middle of the campaign, spending a weekend in jail and facing a first-degree theft charge, that support remained strong.

Even though she ultimately lost the race to Ally Rotter, Stevens earned 3,092 votes, or 36.3 percent, compared to Rotter’s 5,318 votes, or 62.5 percent. In a probable cause statement, Bremerton police laid out 14 findings, alleging that Stevens forged several checks and stole $8,061.27 from the Naval Avenue Elementary PTA while serving as its president. Several of the checks appeared to have the signature of Stevens’ husband, Jason, but he denied signing them or having any knowledge of them.

A friend of Stevens’ told investigators that Stevens estimated she had embezzled between $9,000 and $10,000 to make mortgage payments and buy things for her children. Police laid out 8,061.27 in documented thefts.

Stevens, though, ultimately made a deal with prosecutors for deferred prosecution. As part of the deal, Stevens had to repay the money and will perform community service. Stevens also did not have to admit any guilt.

Bremerton mayor cruised to re-election

In November, Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent cruised to re-election to a second term this year, earning 5,015 votes, or 66.3 percent of the total. That was nearly a two-to-one margin over her opponent, political newcomer Todd Best, who earned 2,496 votes, or 33 percent of the total.

Lent described her win in an election night victory speech  as a landslide, but acknowledged that she had been nervous ever since Best signed up as a candidate just 25 minutes before the filing deadline back in May.

“Because I didn’t know why he registered,” Lent said. “But it forced me to be on my game and do even more representation. That’s where I’ve been all these last few months.”

Lent thanked her supporters and promised bigger and better things to come in her second term.

“With all the things we’ve done from day one, this is more than those numbers reflect,” she said of her win. “This means we’ve got a bright future and we’ve got exciting things that you will not believe are going to happen in the next four years.”

 

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