Port agrees to lease for Water Street Boat Launch

The Port of Bremerton agreed, on Tuesday morning, to a 25-year lease, starting February 1, 2011, to rent the Water Street Boat Launch from the City of Port Orchard.

But Port Orchard’s city council, which meets tonight, might not.

Under the agreement, the port would fix the boat launch, maintain the property at no cost to the city and pay $1 per year for each of the next 25 years.

“We’re very happy,” said Chris Case, the Port of Bremerton’s marketing and communications manager. “We’re very positive. We intend to go forward.”

If the city also agrees to the proposal, prepared by city and port staff, it would end a disagreement between the groups that’s lasted for several months.

It started when the city approached the port, saying that SAFE Boats International, one of the port’s major clients, broke the boat launch, and they suggested a three-way partnership between the city, port and SAFE Boats, to fix it.

They said that SAFE Boats had used heavier-than-intended equipment on the launch, like semi-trucks instead of pickups, and industrial boats instead of recreational boats.

SAFE Boat’s heavy use, they claimed, caused holes to form at the bottom of the ramp and undermined the ground beneath it.

The port retained Seattle-based PND Engineers, Inc., to estimate how much repairing the structure would cost.

“Providing interim repairs to the current system would not be fiscally responsible,” the company wrote in an assessment, since, “there would be very little of the current system that could be saved.”

A new ramp should be built the engineers said.

And the port agreed to build a new ramp if the “city will vacate the entire length of Water Street from Bay Street to the street end and transfer this property to the port by a quit-claim deed.”

In other words, the port would replace the ramp only if the city turns over the property on which it sits.

The city declined.

But they said, at the time, that they’d lease the boat launch to the Port of Bremerton through an agreement like the one that the Port of Bremerton agreed to on Tuesday morning.

But City Councilman Jerry Childs has now said that he won’t support it.

He wants to tie the issue with another issue that the port and city have been squabbling over for several months: The Bay Street Pedestrian Pathway.

The city proposed to put the pathway over port land, saying that it would save about $250,000 to do so.

The port refused.

The city asked the port to pay $200,000 to help defray the cost of avoiding port land.

The port, again, refused.

And, on January 4, when city and port staff had almost finished drafting the lease agreement for the boat launch, Councilman Jerry Childs said that he wouldn’t support the lease unless the port allowed the city to put the pathway across their land.

“I find it incredible that we’re not already doing this,” Childs said. “Our city council agonized over raising taxes one percent for the cost of living increase, but we did it. But then we take this situation with $250,000 and act like it’s chump change.”

Childs said he’ll be lobbying his fellow city councilmen to also refuse to sign the lease agreement unless it allows for the pathway.

“This boardwalk is a huge deal for us,” said Childs in a phone interview on Jan. 5. “I’m not going to vote ‘yes’ on one without getting the other included.”

Port Orchard’s City Council plans to discuss this proposal at a work study session at 6 p.m. tonight, and decide whether or not to sign the lease during the regular city council meeting at 7 p.m.

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