Port buys 2-acre plot along Bremerton waterfront

The Port of Bremerton agreed to purchase this 2-acre waterfront property in Bremerton. At least in the short-term, it will provide parking for the Bremerton Marina. - Courtesy photo
The Port of Bremerton agreed to purchase this 2-acre waterfront property in Bremerton. At least in the short-term, it will provide parking for the Bremerton Marina.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

The Port of Bremerton Board of Commissioners last Friday approved the purchase of a 2.13-acre parcel along the Bremerton waterfront intended to provide parking for the Bremerton Marina.

“This is one of the best opportunities the port has had,” port Chief Financial Officer Becky Swanson said at a special meeting June 5. “It gives the port the opportunity to push forward in getting more revenue and perhaps a higher occupancy rate in the marina, and not being so dependent on bonds. Overall, I think it is a key part of the success (of the marina).”

Owned by the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority, the property is adjacent to the marina and flanked by Washington Avenue along with Second and Burwell streets. The purchase price was $3.5 million, but a $392,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was awarded to the KCCHA for improving public access by building a combination stairway-ramp. By a “good faith agreement,” the money will be transferred to the port instead.

Commissioner Larry Stokes said he was not against the purchase, but he wanted to “play devil’s advocate” by expressing concern over the “good faith” aspect of the HUD grant being given to the port.

“I also do not feel that we should assume all costs of the (environmental) clean-up,” Stokes said, referring to a part of the purchase agreement that states “the site is contaminated with hazardous substances (and) the port assumes all costs with regard to environmental clean-up.”

Commissioner Bill Mahan said he had received assurances from both U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Belfair) and Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown that the port would receive the grant money.

“Norm Dicks is committed to us receiving the money and he is working to double the amount,” Mahan said. “And Josh Brown said point-blank, ‘the Port is going to get this money.’”

But even if the port ended up having to pay for the clean-up and not receive the grant, Mahan said the port was still getting a “good deal.

“Even if we subtract $392,000 and $450,000 from the assessed value of the property, we are getting a good value,” he said. “We are still getting the property below the appraised price.”

Port staff anticipates paying for the purchase by issuing general obligation bonds, and Stokes asked if the money could be found another way.

“I am in favor of buying the property and I think the port needs this property,” he said. “Can we finance this using revenue bonds?”

CFO Swanson said it would not be advisable given the market and the amount of risk involved in revenue bonds, describing GO bonds as much more desirable and easier to sell.

Board president Cheryl Kincer said she had “faith in the good-faith agreement,” and that “plain and simple, this is a wonderful opportunity for the port. It is in the best interest of the port for now and for future generations.”

When the port asked for citizen comments, Russ Porterfield said he felt “strongly that the user should pay for the lot instead of the taxpayer.” Ron Ross was firmly behind the purchase.

“I think it was unconscionable to build a marina of that size and not have parking,” Ross said, advising the port to make sure it had permission from the city to use the property for parking and asking them not to contract with Diamond Parking. “And if you do purchase this, do not proceed with the (Sustainable Energy and Economic Development) project. This is a good move, but you will have your hands full.”

David Ryan asked why a special meeting was held four days prior to a normal business meeting, which gave little time to notify the public, and if the purchase would “affect the port’s ability to move forward with the SEED project?”

CFO Swanson said it would not and that both items were accounted for separately in the port’s 2009 budget. Chief Operating Officer Tim Thomson said the meeting was scheduled this week because not only would both port attorneys be on vacation next week, but Kincer was expected to be out of town.

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