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Amid controversy, funding for Admiral Theatre is approved.

After two hours of haggling, the Bremerton City Council came up with a long-term funding package for the Admiral Theatre that seemed to calm opponents and nearly pull the Council into unanimity.

The vintage theater on Pacific Avenue, which was acquired by the city in 1989, will get half or about $90,000, of the city’s Hotel/Motel tax (H/M) revenue every year until 2040 — subject to regular audits and Council review every three years. The agreement begins in 2002.

The 4 percent annual H/M is levied against lodging establishments in the city, and usually raises about $180,000 per year. The money is put into a special fund to promote and encourage tourism.

Wednesday’s regular Council meeting involved a two-hour rough-and-tumble verbal battle over who should get the lion’s share of the $180,000. After many complaints from representatives of the half dozen non-profit tourist-related agencies in town — and among Council members who were also split on how the money should be allocated — a compromise was reached with only two nays on the Council.

“Allowing $90,000 per year to be given to the Admiral Theatre (alone) is fiscally reckless,” commented Troy Summerill, general manager of the Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel & Conference Center on Kitsap Way, one of the larger hotels in town taxed by the H/M. “Over the next 38 years, we’re talking about guaranteeing $3.4 million to the theater.”

Summerill questioned whether the theater brings in enough tourists to warrant giving it that much money.

Pat Wright, owner of Just Your Cup O’ Tea downtown and involved in organizing many festivals in town which are not supported by H/M revenues said he worried about the city’s fiscal future.

“The Sept. 11 (terrorism) showed change can happen any time. If you pass this, we’ll have no flexibility over the next 38 years,” Wright said.

Wright and others from the non-profits said they worried H/M revenues may decline in bad years, leaving nothing for the other six non-profits. Of the $90,000 left after the Admiral’s cut in 2002, the Visitor and Convention Bureau gets $15,000; the Bremerton Area Chamber of Commerce gets $30,000; the Mainstreet Association (organizers of the Blackberry Festival) gets $25,000; the Historical Society (which runs the Kitsap Museum) gets $7,000; and the Historic Ships group (USS Turner Joy) gets $13,000.

Council member Eric Younger said the timing of the addendum was “not very good.”

“I have the highest regard for the Admiral Theatre — it’s a jewel for the city — but I have a serious problem with this long-term obligation.”

Then the defenders of the addendum got into the act.

“This city decided to build Casad Dam (the city’s water reservoir). It’s our job to make long-term decisions,” said Council member Mike Shepherd. “It’s how the city was created.”

Council member Will Maupin commented “The issue is not about dividing up the tax, it’s about whether we should honor an agreement we made.”

At the time the city acquired the Admiral, voters approved a 50-year plan to help support the facility. Three years ago, the city informally agreed to double its H/M to 4 percent for the express purpose of supporting the theater. The addendum on the Dec. 12 docket was designed to “formalize” the 3-year-old agreement, said city Treasurer, Rich Hanna.

“There’s no way I’d agree to a blanket 2 percent (half of the $180,000 total),” Council member Jim Reed said. “But this addendum does not commit us to this. There are safeguards.”

Reed and Council member Wayne Olsen both said there are layers of safeguards in the addendum. Olsen criticized critics from the half-dozen non-profits for not reading the addendum thoroughly. City Attorney Loren Combs agreed there are many layers of legal safeguards to protect the share of the H/M that goes to the non-profits.

The addendum caps the disbursement to the Admiral at $90,000, and if H/M revenues fall short, the amount to the Admiral can be reduced. Plus, in the original text of the addendum, the Council had the option every five years of changing or abolishing the disbursement to the theater, said city officials.

Council President John Law said the interval for reconsidering the addendum should be every year. Reed suggested every three years.

With the option for the Council to reexamine the addendum every three years, the issue passed 6-2, with Law and Younger voting no. Council member Cecil McConnell was absent.

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