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$30,000 to repair vandalized Kitsap fairgrounds no bargain

It's little consolation to Jim Dunwiddie that the estimate to repair the Kitsap County Fairgrounds field lights is about $50,000 less than expected.

The new estimate, finished Friday after county parks employees realized the sports field lights had been vandalized sometime late last month, is about $30,000.

That doesn't mean a $50,000 savings for the cash-strapped county, the new director of the parks department director said Monday.

The county's insurance policy has a $30,000 deductible, so he would have had to come up with the same amount regardless.

"I still have to find it," he said, noting youth baseball starts in about a month, and he hopes the repairs will be finished by then.

The latest spate of vandalism at the fairgrounds was noticed Jan. 25, when a youth soccer team took the field in the dark and employees realized the lights weren't working.

Vandals damaged fences and broke into light pole boxes and cut wires. Officials initially believed the wiring had been stolen, which was the reason the initial repair estimate was $80,000. But Dunwiddie said Monday the vandals apparently snipped wires but didn't take them.

"It almost looks like they got stopped in the middle of what they were doing," Dunwiddie said.

Despite the lower repair cost, it will still hurt the department, which lost $325,000 from its budget this year, according to a statement from the county last week.

And after two years of deep cuts and involuntary furloughs, Dunwiddie said coming up with the money is the problem and right now he's short on ideas.

"A lot of bake sales, I don't know," Dunwiddie said.

If repairing the vandalized lights means more cuts, he's not sure if there is anything left to cut.

"I don't know where I could cut," said Dunwiddie, the county parks chief since November. He added that on top of the 10 percent pay cut parks employees have endured — Dunwiddie is currently the only 40-hour-a-week employee in the department — he has to find $46,000 to cut in the year's first quarter.

Coincidently, that is the same amount the county paid to repair vandalized and stolen property last year.

The damage to the lighting system at the fairgrounds follows another incident earlier this month when barns at the fairgrounds were invaded and looted. In 2006 an adult and a juvenile were arrested after being caught in the act of rampaging inside the Kitsap Pavilion days before graduation ceremonies.

Sheriff's deputies and detectives plan to focus on the fairgrounds, but Scott Wilson, spokesman for the office, said law enforcement faces challenges even in better economic times.

"We can't be everywhere," Wilson said.

Suspicious or illegal activity at county parks can be reported to 911. Observations can be sent to the sheriff’s office online at www.kitsap911.org/report.htm or by phone during office hours at (360) 377-7101. Kitsap County Parks & Recreation can be contacted by email at parks@co.kitsap.wa.us or by phone during office hours at (360) 337-5350.

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