The marque in downtown Port Orchard has been among the city's most contentious issues for about as long as I can remember — and I've been here since 1975. Some people want to tear it down, while others just want it fixed and updated. If it's torn down, the owners would have the opportunity to spruce up their buildings and add some charm and individuality to the downtown area — ala Poulsbo or Gig Harbor. Repairing and updating it will leave downtown pretty much the same as it is, only with a different color scheme.
No matter what your preference, there's no question that Mayor Kim Abel's lack of leadership has let this situation deteriorate to the point the structure itself has become unsafe and is a lawsuit waiting to happen. In the three years she's been in office, all that's been done is to "study" the issue. It sounds like Abel is getting advice on governmental management from her friend, former SK commissioner Charlotte Garrido.
The city spent nearly $25,000 on a Bellevue-based consultant for plans contractors could use to bid on the repairs. That money also included an estimate of how much those bids should be. That’s in addition to $17,000 it spent with the same firm for a previous marquee evaluation.
So here's a couple of questions...
• Isn’t there a local, Kitsap County firm the city could have spent that $42,000 with?
• Why not use the plan offered to the city for free by an award-winning builder who is also a downtown merchant?
Maher Abed, the city public works director, was quoted as saying the money will be, “…well-spent because, if nothing else, it will really clarify the scope of work.”
However, once a contract was awarded to perform the work, the contractor discovered lead paint had been used in a prevous marque makeover. Removing that paint will add a significant, unanticipated cost to the repair. This begs the question; If the consultant was being paid to "clarify the scope of work," shouldn't the consultant have discovered the lead paint as part of that $42,000 evaluation, and if not, why not?
In my opinion, Abed is one of Abel’s less than stellar appointments, along with Planning Director JoAnne Long-Woods. This dynamic duo has brought economic progress in the city to a virtual halt.
After years, and numerous "studies" — including some before Abel was elected — it’s no national security secret what needs to done downtown. Abel should have taken the lead making it happen — long before spending an unnecessary $42,000.