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Bremerton City Council approves $9.6 million in bonds for new parking garage

The Bremerton City Council approved a bond measure up to $9.6 million Wednesday to help pay for a downtown parking and retail complex, despite calls to hold back until the economy improves.

Lions Park improvements and the purchase and remodel of the future municipal court building would also be paid for with the money.

State dollars and real estate taxes will pay off the debt created by issuing the bond, city officials said.

About $300,000 of the bond would be allocated to the Lions Park facelift, which has been under construction since March and will be completed next year. About $1.5 million would contribute to the purchase and remodel of the Park Avenue and Sixth Street Kitsap Bank building, bought last month to become the city’s municipal court building. The rest of the bond would cover the Park Avenue Plaza project, which will include a city-owned garage, office and retail space and a movie theater on the intersection of Park Avenue and Burwell Street.

Despite the challenges of filling empty retail space downtown, Mayor Patty Lent said the 250 parking spaces in the new garage will help boost business in the area.

“The buildings are vacant because there’s no parking,” she said.

The council voted 7-2 to approve the bonds, the first of which will be $7.6 million.

Councilman Cecil McConnell and Councilwoman Carol Arends voted no, saying the timing of the borrowing comes at a time when many are not convinced the economy is rebounding.

“I would be more comfortable with postponing (it for) a year to see how the economy is doing,” Arends said.

McConell agreed.

“We should forget about it for a year,” he said.

The city will start by issuing the first bond in May, in the hopes that the remaining costs would be covered by a $2.5 million Economic Development Administration grant that the Port of Bremerton returned last month. If it doesn’t receive that money, the city will issue a second bond later in the year.

As part of the two bond-related ordinances approved Wednesday, the city will receive a $330,000 annual tax rebate for 25 years to help pay off the bonds — a rebate directed to public improvement projects in designated “Revitaliza-tion Areas” in the state, Finance Director Barbara Stephenson said.

The City Council designated downtown as the Bremerton Harborside Revitalization Area last year for the purpose of receiving such assistance.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to have our sales tax money to come back to us,” Councilman Greg Wheeler said.

The rest will be covered by real estate excise taxes.

Though real estate tax collections have lagged countywide, the city is budgeting its real estate tax income based on 2009 numbers, when collections were low, Wheeler said.

Prior to the vote on the bond measure, the council voted 6-2 to allow the city to collect state money to pay back the bonds. McConnell and Arends voted “no,” Councilwoman Dianne Robinson abstained.

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