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Kitsap Transit Board fails to designate foot ferry contractor

In a rare move, the Kitsap Transit Board of Directors on Tuesday refused to approve awarding the Port Orchard/Bremerton foot ferry contract to Port Orchard-based Kitsap Harbor Tours.

Kitsap Transit Director Dick Hayes said the Kitsap Transit staff simply didn’t bring enough information on the contract to the board meeting. As a result, the board members said they could not feel comfortable signing off on the bid until they had seen the missing stipulations — particularly the one relating to contract length.

“We were trying to do too many things — that’s the honest answer,” Hayes said of the oversight.

Ever since the bid material was released, numerous potential bidders have been crying foul, claiming the package was unfairly slanted toward local companies. Hayes said many complainants have even asked for the bid process to be restarted, a move that would be disastrous for Kitsap Transit’s plans to have the new route operator in place by the first of the year.

Even delaying board approval until its regular meeting next month, he said, would cause problems.

“We’d be in trouble,” Hayes said.

Hayes believes as soon as the board members get all of the pertinent bid information before them, the contract will be approved without a hitch. He said he is currently trying to arrange a special board session sometime in the next few weeks so Kitsap Transit can get the go-ahead to move ahead before the end of the month.

Board chair Will Maupin was unavailable for comment at press time.

Hayes said, contrary to popular complaint, the bidding was done in full accordance with the agency’s policies and should therefore resist any and all formal protests.

Hayes said it was really his fault that he didn’t properly anticipate the controversy surrounding the bid and therefore take the precaution of presenting everything to the board all at once.

“There’s a lot of other detail that, had I known this would be as contentious as it is, I would have included,” he said.

The contract calls for a private company to take over operations of the Kitsap Transit — formerly the Horluck — foot ferry. Current operator Hilton Smith, who sold the business to Kitsap Transit last year, was not allowed to bid on the contract, as stipulated in the sales agreement. The operating agreement will call for Kitsap Transit to pay the contractor per hour for running the ferries according to Kitsap Transit’s schedule.

The operator will, however, provide its own boats.

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