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Childs insists walkway be added to boat ramp deal

The Port of Bremerton needs the Bay Street boat launch. And the city of Port Orchard needs to put a pathway over a port driveway.

So they should each rent out space to the other, says City Councilman Jerry Childs, who says he’ll refuse to vote for an agreement between the two groups unless it covers both issues.

"We want a 25-year lease to go through the park,” he said. “And we’ll give the Port a 25-year lease to operate the boat ramp. It just seems like a win-win for everybody.”

The city and port could save $250,000 and the port could save about 600 local jobs if the two groups work together, he said.

But there’s been a lot of bad blood between the parties over the past several months.

During the summer, the city asked the port to let it run a pathway across the driveway of a port property. The port refused, saying the pathway was an unnecessary liability, which added $250,000 to the city’s expenses for the project.

Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola responded by sending a letter to the Port of Bremerton’s commissioners asking them to chip in $200,000 to help defray the additional costs for the pathway.

They refused.

Shortly thereafter, the port asked to replace — and take over — the Water Street Boat launch in downtown Port Orchard.

The city council refused, arguing that SAFE Boats, one of the port’s major clients, broke the ramp.

The council suggested the port fix it, then lease the space from the city.

But Safe Boats International employs 300 people locally, and the city of Port Orchard doesn’t want to be responsible for driving them away, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.

Coppola assigned several members of his staff to work on the issue with staff from the Port of Bremerton, and both sides are still working out the contract.

“Staff seems to be working together just fine,” said Jennifer Forbes, Port Orchard’s assistant city attorney. “But staff doesn’t control things. It’s ultimately up to the city council, and I can’t say whether they’ll approve it or not.”

Under a current draft of the solution, the port would repair the ramp and pay the city an additional $1 per year for the next 25 years to rent it.

“The port’s asking for a nominal rent with the real compensation being the improvements they make to the ramp,” Forbes said. “That’s just a proposal that’s been put on the table by the port.”

Port and city staff hope to complete the details of the new proposal by early January and present their proposed solution to the city and port at separate meetings on Jan. 11.

The Port of Bremerton’s next commissioners meeting is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. that same day, and the commissioners hope to discuss the solution at that point.

Port Orchard’s City Council has a regular meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. that day, and the members hope to hold a special work-study session beforehand to discuss the proposal.

But so far, neither has considered including the pathway in the agreement.

“This boardwalk is a huge deal for us,” said Childs. “I’m not going to vote ‘yes’ on one without getting the other included. I just started lobbying yesterday, and I’m going to send an e-mail to (Port of Bremerton Commissioner) Bill Mahan to consider the issue.”

Mahan, who represents South Kitsap on the board, says he’s committed to working towards the best solution.

“The bottom line is, we serve the same people,” he said, “and if we can figure out a way to take care of those folks and have the public win, in having a very nicely located boat ramp, then we all come out of this having done our job.”

Port Commissioner Larry Stokes, who represents downtown Port Orchard and parts of eastern South Kitsap, has, however, vocally opposed the path in the past.

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