Port of Bremerton Commissioner Roger Zabinski took a moment at the end of Wednesday’s port meeting to let the other commissioners know he’d had a conversation with Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent.
But his summary of the call was described much differently than the mayor remembered.
“She raised her voice at me,” Zabinski told the other commissioners. “She said we needed to do our job and fill the (Bremerton) marina. And she said she thought the marina was filthy.”
Zabinski’s comments came after the commissioners were reminding those attending the meeting of the ribbon cutting at the Water Street Boat Ramp at the Port Orchard marina, which happened the following morning.
The commissioners were sharing how happy they were to have that project completed and talking about Harper Pier and upcoming projects. But Zabinski said that the commissioners should not forget the work that needs to be done at the Bremerton marina.
“I’m the commissioner for that area and it’s important that we not forget the work that needs to be done to fill that marina,” he said.
Lent was not at the port meeting, but on Wednesday morning, Lent acknowledged that she had had a conversation with Zabinski the day prior to the port meeting.
“He called me to talk about meeting with the (city) council,” Lent said. “He told me he wanted to give an update to the council about what was happening with the port.
“I don’t think I raised my voice at him, but I did tell him that I was disappointed that the port made the decision not to hire someone with the expertise to fill the marina.”
Lent referred to the board’s decision not to accept either of two proposals from private companies that would manage and market the Bremerton marina in an attempt to get more boats to be moored at the marina.
“As a city, we take care of the boardwalk,” Lent said on Wednesday. “But we have to work as partners with the port in the area. If you walk the marina, you will see the slips are filthy. The port staff does not take the debris away from where it collects in the slips.”
She said she felt the city has a good partnership with the port, but that the city “can’t dictate what they (the port) do.”
Lent said she didn’t think port commissioners did their “due-diligence” to have an expert come in and say how they would manage the port.
The commissioners rejected a contract with a professional management company partly to save expense and partly because they did not want to hand over management of a public marina to a private company, Zabinski said.
But Lent said that wasn’t a good call.
“You’re not privatizing it,” she said. “You will always own it. You’re just contracting with someone with the expertise to manage it and market it so that it becomes more attractive.”
Earlier this month, Port CEO Tim Thompson outlined a plan to reduce costs at the port. That plan, which is underway, called for a restructuring and downsizing of marine facilities in order to save $443,555 a year. Of that, nearly $365,000 a year will be saved at the mostly empty Bremerton Marina. The plan calls for one manager for both of the port’s marinas in Bremerton and Port Orchard. It also calls for the elimination of the director of business development. In all, five positions will be cut.
Lent said she worries that the plan will have negative affects on the already struggling Bremerton Marina. The marina is at 35 percent occupancy.
But Lent said she did not intend for her comments to stir up trouble with the port commissioners. She said she is concerned about the negative press the marina has gotten lately and welcomes an update from Commissioner Zabinski.
“I suggested that he (Zabinski) schedule time in a work session in March so that he could speak to the council and so that the council would have time to ask questions,” she said. “And I suggested that he bring the CEO with him.”
Zabinski said he is working with the council president to schedule that work session. He said his goal is to make sure that the Bremerton Marina remains “front and center” in the port commission’s strategic plans.
Thompson was not in attendance at the port meeting Tuesday and did not want to comment Wednesday on the issues Lent raised.