Is SEED project still progressing while on pause?

The focus recently at the Port of Bremerton’s Board of Commissioners’ meetings may have shifted from one controversial topic to the potential annexation of the South Kitsap Industrial Area, but many have not forgotten about the last most-discussed item — the port’s Sustainable Energy and Economic Development project.

“I am very, very disappointed in the delays on the SEED project,” said South Kitsap resident Mary Colborn, speaking at the last meeting of the port commissioners April 22.

Colborn also described the annexation process as “steamrolling,” and said if SKIA is annexed into Bremerton, the tax dollars generated by whatever is eventually built there will be collected by Bremerton.

“I live four miles away, and the idea that the taxes would be going to Bremerton and not going to parks for South Kitsap is very disturbing to me,” she said.

Colborn is one of many proponents who have lauded both the SEED project and the port for its initiative in backing the plan, which aims to create a green energy business park and incubator on a large section of SKIA.

However, progress in the both maligned and praised project was effectively halted Feb. 26 when the commissioners voted in a “pause” until four milestones were achieved.

Those milestones include having a third party review both the project’s business plan and financial scheme, establishing a partnership with a research institution and conducting meetings with private developers.

After the “pause” was enacted and defined, Port CEO Ken Attebery began work on the required elements, predicting at the time that the process would take at least 60 days — which have now passed.

“I knew it would take a little longer,” Attebery said, explaining that he is still searching for a group to perform the necessary reviews of the SEED project.

“We have identified three firms — one in Seattle, Tacoma and the Tri-Cities — and are still deciding whether to use the firm approach, or a team of individuals (from different firms),” he said. “However, we are darn near there at identifying a group of folks.”

When asked previously how much he expected the port would have to pay for such a review, Attebery said the port was looking into consultants that may be able to provide assistance “pro-bono.”

And once the review is complete, he said it should only strengthen the project overall.

“It will, hopefully, serve to give the players additional confidence in the process,” he said, explaining that the port hoped to give SEED as “much merit as possible,” since there was “obviously an audience that we need to be answering questions to.”

And though Attebery and his staff were still “pushing ahead” as if the third-party review would give the project a stamp of approval, he said all would not be lost if that did not occur.

“In my mind, each incremental step we take has a double benefit,” he said, agreeing with board President Cheryl Kincer’s estimation that even if SEED dissolves as a project, the infrastructure the port has put in place so far could still be utilized.

As for the other requirements, Attebery said port staff has held a “series of meetings with regional developers,” and has entered into cooperative agreements with both the Washington State University Extension and the University of Washington — Tacoma.

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