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No more marina hikes this year

After more than four months of discussion, the Port of Bremerton Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved a staff-recommended plan for raising tenant fees at the Port Orchard Marina.

“We have read over your proposal and studied it to death,” said Commissioner Mary Ann Huntington, explaining that she agreed with most of the three-year plan that will raise rents steeply for new tenants as of January, but slowly increase costs for existing ones.

“However, I’m really concerned about a second increase this year,” Huntington said, referring to the 7.5 percent hike proposed for July that would follow the 5.5 percent increase already imposed in January.

She suggested postponing the July increase until January.

Canceling any further increases this year was one of the requests repeatedly mentioned by the Port Orchard Marina Advisory Committee during their meetings with marina staff. But marina director Steve Slaton told the board that while he agreed with the tenants that spreading out the rate hikes over three years was “the right thing to do,” he decided to leave a July 2006 increase in his proposal.

Commissioners Cheryl Kincer and Bill Mahan agreed with Huntington, however, that there should be no more rate increases this year, and adjusted Slaton’s rate-increase schedule forward six months.

The approved schedule will begin with a 7.5 percent increase for existing tenants in January 2007, followed by increases of the same amount every six months until January of 2010 when the “Target Rate” is reached.

The Target Rate — which raises slip rents anywhere from $20 to nearly $250 a month — will be charged to all new tenants beginning this July.

The rate increases were first proposed last year as part of two directives the commissioners said they gave the port for creating this year’s budget.

“We decided any new slips — starting Jan. 1 — would be rented at the market rate, and we couldn’t understand why that wasn’t already so,” Mahan said when the new tariff schedule was approved.

Chief Executive Officer Ken Attebery said the rate increases were also “driven by a need to address the sustainability of the marina over the decades,” and that the increases will allow funds to be set aside for future repairs and upgrades.

Mahan advised the tenants early on that the port staff “recommended we not do this, but the commissioners felt very strongly that we need to do this,” he said, explaining that passage of state Initiative 747 had a “dramatic impact on the port’s ability” to fund projects and pay for future replacement of facilities.

At Tuesday’s meeting, marina tenant Robert Oliver addressed the board and expressed concern that the money collected from the rate increases might not be set aside for use on the marina, but instead be used for rising administrative costs or other expenses.

“The intent of the replacement model was that the money (from the rate increases) be put into an account for marina improvements over time,” Attebery said.

Mahan suggested the port allow the POMAC to review the marina’s maintenance and operations budget and provide feedback.

Attebery responded by saying, “My goal is to be as transparent in the process as possible.”

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