Federal SEED grant money delayed

A large grant that was expected to help push the Kitsap Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) project out of the concept phase and into construction has been delayed, but Port of Bremerton officials declared this week they have every intention of keeping the ambitious plan on track.

“We have high expectations that the grant is coming,” said Port Chief Executive Officer Ken Attebery, referring to approximately $425,000 the port applied to receive from the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) for the planned business park and had expected to receive this spring.

“If the EDA funds don’t come through,” he said, “we’ll consider starting some of the work ourselves.”

Discussing the delay with the port’s commissioners at Tuesday’s meeting, SEED Project Director Tim Botkin said it appeared the grant application had been “lost in the shuffle.

“This is frustrating because it is the first piece we need to do the design work,” Botkin said, explaining that the EDA grant was needed to complete much of the planning work before the port could tap a state capital allocation of $800,000. “The state money is for pure design capital, while the EDA money can be used for soft design costs such as feasibility studies, contract fees” and marketing.

Attebery said that getting the EDA loan back on track became the main focus of a recent trip he and other port officials made to Washington, D.C., to visit with “all 11 of our local representatives.”

He said he hoped with the legislators’ help the EDA money might still arrive before the state funds are allocated July 1. But if the federal funds are delayed any longer the port will consider funding certain steps itself.

“I would like to give them another few weeks, at least until mid-June,” Atteberry said. “But if the EDA funds do not come through, we will consider starting some of the work ourselves. Time is becoming very important here.”

Attebery said the port will not be investing the entire amount of the anticipated grant into the project, but instead would be “very picky (about what we fund) and make sure it is specifically what we need.”

Commissioner Mary Ann Huntington asked Botkin if the port could pay itself back for the work undertaken if the EDA grant was dispersed later, to which he responded, “No, the money cannot be used for planning.”

The SEED project, recently endorsed by the Kitsap Economic Development Council, is conceptually planned for a 72-acre section of the South Kitsap Industrial Area (SKIA) and is already being touted by some as the project that may spark a clean technology cluster in Kitsap County.

And though it may eventually put Kitsap on the map, Botkin advised the port Tuesday that the county’s namesake is not famous yet, and that the commissioners should consider taking it out of the project’s title.

“We people hear Kitsap, it’s foreign,” Botkin said, suggesting the board might want to consider using regional monikers such as Puget Sound, Olympic or Cascade that would be more immediately recognizable.

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