SEED funding goes before the commissioners

A $1 million allocation of Kitsap County funds that will be used to install infrastructure for the Port of Bremerton’s proposed Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) project has drawn the ire of South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel, who says the nature of the grant has changed since it was first approved by the county.

Angel said the resolution’s addition to the June 18 meeting agenda took her by surprise, which especially disturbed her because the project is being developed in her district.

“Usually when something is in an individual commissioner’s district, they will take the lead,” she said. “When this was added to Monday’s agenda, it was a complete surprise to me. I am very upset, because this is not the way the (Board of Commissioners) works.”

The initial agreement was approved in January by the current lineup of commissioners, which will change when Endresen resigns later this month. Angel said the initial agreement was to supply roads, sewer and utilities for the entire South Kitsap Industrial Area (SKIA), of which the designated SEED area is only a part. The proposed NASCAR raceway, plans for which were dropped in April, was also to be located in the development.

Port of Bremerton Chief Executive Officer Ken Attebury said the agreement to fund the infrastructure was first made in December, in a letter from the Board of Commissioners. He said SEED was part of SKIA and the two are in many ways interchangeable.

Monday’s meeting is the last in which Endresen will participate. The Port of Bremerton has pushed to get the matter approved before Endresen leaves, since the installation of infrastructure will help its to acquire additional public funding.

Attebury said the timing had nothing to do with politics or Endresen’s departure, only that it took several months for the port to finish the paperwork. He said that he didn’t care when the matter would be addressed by the county commissioners “as long as it passes.”

The $1 million is to come from real estate excise taxes, and will cost the county about $80,000 per year in the form of debt service on a bond.

Even though a lump sum payment is not required, the matter has raised red flags among those who are concerned about potential budget shortfalls.

“Eighty-thousand a year is a significant amount of money, especially with current budget conditions,” said Special Projects Manager Eric Baker. “But it will help us attract family wage-high tech jobs, which is a significant portion of the Comprehensive Plan.”

Baker said that if SEED does not come to fruition, the new infrastructure will benefit anyone who occupies the land in question.

“I had asked (Administrative Services Director) Ben Holland where this money was going to come from and he said he didn’t know,” Angel said. “SEED is just a vision. I certainly hope it comes to pass. But this resolution needs to be rewritten to include all of SKIA. Otherwise, I cannot support this.”

Angel concedes her opposition could mean nothing if North Kitsap Commissioner Chris Endresen and Central Commissioner Josh Brown support the measure. She expects to register her opinions at Monday’s meeting in the hope of rewriting the agreement.

“I thought that the funds would benefit all of SKIA,” Angel said. “It was never meant for all of it to go to SEED.”

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