Botkin defends SEED project, rallies for support

At the same meeting during which the Port of Bremerton commissioners approved suspending work on the Port of Bremerton’s Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) project, the initiative’s director Tim Botkin remained steadfast in his belief of its worth.

“I will challenge anyone to name another project that has the potential we have with (SEED),” Botkin said Tuesday, referring to the clean technology business park and incubator that the port estimates will eventually bring 2,000 new jobs and more than $200 million in private investments into the county.

Commissioner Bill Mahan, the sole vote against pausing the project, agreed with Botkin’s assessment of SEED’s potential.

“Never, in 30 years, has there been an opportunity equal to this,” Mahan said, explaining that while the now-folded NASCAR project would have benefitted the county’s economy, “(SEED) is creating good-paying, primary jobs, not ones (such as) at McDonald’s or Burger King.”

Mahan added that he still felt “confident that (SEED) is going to happen,” but acknowledged that “there seems to be a lot of confusion about where we’re going with the project.”

While he said part of that confusion can be blamed on the port, Mahan added that, “Frankly, some of it is the public’s fault for not wanting to know about the project until now.”

As a way of answering the public’s questions, board Chair Cheryl Kincer suggested a “pause” in SEED (that she and Commissioner Larry Stokes voted for) to allow a third-party review of both the project’s business plan and funding plan.

Botkin said he welcomed such reviews.

“It is clear to me that there is widespread misunderstanding of what we’re doing,” Botkin said, adding that a third-party review could help explain “exactly what we’re doing and why.”

Botkin said he also hoped that further discussions of SEED could be separated from those involving the recent tax hike imposed after the port created an Industrial Development District to fund the Bremerton Marina Expansion.

“That is comparing apples to oranges — the IDD doesn’t relate to SEED,” he said. “I hope we can look at (SEED) for what it is, and not (in regards) to other things that are not a part of it.”

In an e-mail sent to SEED supporters following Tuesday’s discussion and vote, Botkin described the meeting as “inexplicably regressive” and blamed what he called Kincer’s “willingness to risk losing the project” on “an onslaught of negative calls and e-mails from SEED opponents,” of whom he supposed there might only be a “relatively small number.”

Botkin stressed in the e-mail that “this is the time to speak up,” and “my understanding has always been that most of us feel SEED would be great for our community. If I am wrong, we will move on. But I do not want to stand by and let this happen without knowing our good citizens had the chance to get involved.”

Also in the e-mail, which Botkin stressed was sent as a personal statement and not as part of his role as SEED director, he states that he believes Kincer is being influenced by Stokes, whom he describes as “clearly entrenched against (SEED).

“I believe (this is because) she has been out of the loop due to health and work issues and has not had the chance to understand the reasonably complex issues of SEED,” Botkin wrote.

On Thursday, Botkin added that Kincer’s personal issues, “through no fault of hers, have kept her from being able to participate,” and she may not be as familiar with all aspects of the project as she could be.

“And part of that reason could be she needs to demand from us that we give her the information, which is absolutely fair,” he said.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Stokes referenced another e-mail from Botkin that he said had been addressed to a group called “SEED Champs.”

In the e-mail, Stokes said Botkin refers to a lack of support coming from “they (who are) not willing to think or invest.”

Stokes said he took the “they” to mean members of the board, and said he believed the port’s paid consultant “should be working for us, not against us.”

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