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City nearly unanimously supports foot-ferry plan

With only one member dissenting and one audience member voicing concerns, the Port Orchard City Council voted to endorse Kitsap Transit’s proposal to provide passenger-only ferry service from Kitsap County to downtown Seattle following a public hearing Monday night.

Most councilmembers reacted favorably to Kitsap Transit Executive Director Dick Hayes’ presentation describing sleek new boats that will zip Kitsappers across the Sound in less time and using less fuel than the foot ferries soon to be grounded by the Washington State Ferries for leaking money.

“People ask, ‘Why does Kitsap Transit think we can do it cheaper?’” Hayes said. “Because we’re going to burn a lot less diesel, that’s the first reason.”

On average, Hayes said the 14 NY Waterways boats he plans to run from Bremerton, Kingston and Southworth will use 75 gallons of fuel an hour, versus the WSF ferry boats that burn 350 an hour.

Along with burning less fuel, Hayes said the “green vessels” — that, like Kitsap Transit’s buses, burn ultra-low sulfur fuel — are half the size and weigh a third less than the WSF boats, therefore creating significantly less wake.

Councilwoman Carolyn Powers commended Hayes’ for his vision and urged her fellow councilmembers to “show some leadership” and get behind the plan.

“It seems to me to be the only way to go,” Powers said. “We can sit here now and be naysayers, but then where would we be 10 years from now? We’d be worse off.”

However, Councilman Don Morrison said although he supported the spirit of the plan, he could not support the sales tax and Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET) hikes Hayes proposed to help pay for it.

“I think your plan has merit, but I am concerned about placing an unfair tax burden on the citizens,” Morrison said.

Along with charging passengers $9 for a round-trip ticket, Kitsap Transit’s plan proposes raising the local sales tax by three-tenths of a cent and the local MVET by three-tenths of a percent for renewals only.

According to Hayes, the increases would add about 30 cents to a $100 purchase and $60 to the annual registration of a $20,000 car. Voters will be asked to approve both tax hikes in November.

“It will have more benefit than the small amount of tax,” said Councilman Rick Wyatt.

“I look at it like the schools,” said Mayor Jay Weatherill. “I don’t use them anymore, but I always support them.”

Councilman John Clauson also voiced his approval of the plan, which prompted a quick discussion and question to City Attorney Greg Jacoby about whether it was “proper” for him to voice his support given his position as Kitsap Transit’s director of service development.

Jacoby said the council had followed proper procedures by having a pro-and-con discussion and holding a public forum.

“I’m just showing support for something I feel is important to our community and economy,” said Clauson.

The council voted five to one, with Todd Cramer absent, to endorse the plan, with Morrison casting the only dissenting vote.

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