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City looks to ferry expansion for business bump
Port Orchard City Council members think the passenger-only foot ferry could help liven up Friday and Saturday nights downtown on our side of the bay.
Members of the city’s Economic Development and Tourism Committee discussed extending foot-ferry service by an additional four hours on Friday nights and five hours on Saturday, meaning the last ferry would dock in Port Orchard at 1 a.m.
Currently, the foot ferry makes its final dock at 8:57 p.m. on Fridays and 7:57 p.m. on Saturdays.
Extending the hours for the summer months‚“ May, June, July and August‚“ would cost approximately $22,961.25, said city clerk Brandy Rinearson.
City of Port Orchard, City of Bremerton and the Port of Bremerton could presumably split the cost three ways, Rinearson said, making each entity responsible for $7,653.
The three institutions share a joint contract with Kitsap Harbor Tours, Inc., for foot ferry service.
But, Rinearson said, both the Port and the City of Bremerton seemed hesitant to extending the foot-ferry hours into the weekend nights.
Rinearson spoke with Ginger Waye, an executive assistant with the Port of Bremerton, who said another extension of hours was unlikely.
“She does not believe that her port commissioners will support this year extended Friday and Saturday night services,” Rinearson said.
The city council approved holiday and Sunday hours for the foot-ferry services for the summer months on March 27, a decision that could cost the city as much as $4,000. The ferry will now run on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. throughout the summer. The money will come from the city’s Hotel Motel Tax fund.
The Economic Development and Tourism committee debated the merits of taking on the full cost of the increased hours at a April 11 meeting, since a portion of the money could be made back through $2 rider fees charged by Kitsap Harbor Tours, Inc. Rinearson said Kitsap Harbor Tours, Inc., can partner solely with the City of Port Orchard, but that would mean the city shouldering the full cost.
Members also discussed increasing the hours incrementally, worrying a 1 a.m. final run was too late for any reliable traffic on the ferry.
“What if we just went to 11 p.m., wouldn’t that be a bit of a bump?” asked city council member Jerry Childs.
Council member Cindy Lucarelli advocated extending the weekend hours as a way to bring more customers for downtown restaurants and bars.
Closing the foot ferry at 8 p.m. on Saturdays dissuades people who live in Bremerton to eat on this side of Sinclair Inlet, she said.
Even if the City of Port Orchard had to shoulder the brunt of the cost, an increase in hours would bring revenue to the city.
“If we get the market going, it will be worth the experiment,” she said.
Members of the city’s Economic Development and Tourism Committee will continue to discuss the issue at their next meeting before any recommendation is made to the full council.