PORT ORCHARD — Kitsap County officials are working on a plan to increase services Fridays, when the county administration building is closed.The plan relies on expanding online processing of forms and financial transactions. There are no plans in the works to reopen the building Fridays.
Representatives of the construction and real estate communities have lobbied the county’s Board of Commissioners for a restoration of services, now that the economy is showing signs of modest improvement. According to Teresa Osinski, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Kitsap County, the county will lose opportunities for increased revenue unless it moves forward quickly to accommodate the uptick in construction and home sales. The HBA in October submitted a resolution to the board urging it to return to a five-day-a-week schedule.
The board in 2013 will have a comprehensive discussion of the Friday closure, implemented in 2009 at the height of the recession, Commissioner Rob Gelder said Wednesday. But any speculation about if and when the building would reopen is premature, he said.
In the meantime, the treasurer’s office is conducting a pilot program using software that allows online payments of real estate excise taxes, collected with every property sale. With Friday closures, property sales were delayed, causing inconvenience and a trickle down loss of revenue, said Mike Eliason, the Kitsap County Association of Realtors government affairs director.
The county’s Department of Community Development has tried to accommodate builders by offering project inspections Fridays. Staff hours for Friday inspections are borrowed from other weekdays. DCD Director Larry Keeton also has a plan to phase in online permitting so that all projects, even those with complicated plans, could be submitted electronically and processed more quickly. Keeton anticipates the possibility that the administration building could reopen on a flexible schedule, in other words not a full eight hours but at times and days deemed most convenient for customers and economical to the county. Keeton already has begun to envision what Friday services would be most in demand if that were the case.
DCD relies solely on fees and is not supported by the general fund, so any increase in services would have to — as they say in the building industry — pencil out. The department has realized some savings through a departmental restructuring aimed at efficiency, but anything not covered through savings would have to be covered by a fee increase, Keeton said.