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Kitsap Transit buys Horluck

Horluck Transportation is going, going, gone at the bargain price of $1.52 million.

Last Tuesday, Horluck president Hilton Smith presented Kitsap Transit officials with a signed agreement to sell the entire foot-ferry operation — including boats and dock — for $80,000 less than the original assessed price of the business alone. This move came a little more than three months after Kitsap Transit announced they would let the clock run out on a earlier option to buy the Horluck system.

“We’ve had additional discussions since then,” said Kitsap Transit spokesman John Clauson. “We’ve just been negotiating back and forth.”

The Kitsap Transit Board of Directors is expected to sign the sale at its next meeting Dec. 3.

Kitsap Transit, which plans to purchase more modern passenger ferries for the route, has chosen to acquire only one Horluck boat — the Carlisle II. Three other Horluck boats — the Mary L, the Eagle and the Retsil II — were rejected as being poor investments. The Spirit of 76 is leased by Horluck and Kitsap Transit has agreed to assume the lease.

“I don’t know what (Smith) wanted,” Clauson said. “We were never interested in buying all of them.”

Smith did not return repeated phone calls on Wednesday.

The sale paperwork also includes a non-competitive agreement which prohibits Smith from running the ferry service after his one-year contract term expires next fall. Starting sometime next spring or summer, Clauson said Kitsap Transit will advertise for bids on the Horluck contract, hoping to attract a company which can run the service efficiently and reliably.

Until then, Smith will be paid the agreed-upon contract rate of $1.80 per passenger, less the cost of leasing the ferry dock in Port Orchard.

“During this next 12-month period, we’re going to be putting together how we think the service should be operated,” Clauson said.

However, Kitsap Transit is not waiting to launch a few key changes to the foot-ferry run. Starting within the next 90 days, Sunday and holiday ferry service will be re-instated. Clauson said the ferry will only be out of service the same days as transit buses — on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

In addition, the infamous commuter triangle run, in which a single ferry has to serve Annapolis in addition to Port Orchard and Bremerton, will be handled by two boats. One boat will run to Annapolis while the other boat will handle the regular Bremerton-Port Orchard route.

Although Kitsap Transit included the $1.5 million in its 2002 budget, Clauson said transit officials are hoping to delay full payment while they pursue government grants. In particular, Kitsap Transit plans to go after the grant money originally slated for Washington State Ferry’s proposed passenger-only run to Southworth — now on the chopping block after the latest round of budget cuts.

“We’re looking at bringing that money back here,” Clauson said.

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