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City seeking money from lodging taxes to help pay for ferry service
City Council voted 5-1 to allow the City to petition the Lodging Tax Committee for up to $3,000 to assist in funding its portion of the foot ferry service this summer.
Council approved the motion at its April 23 meeting.
Port Orchard, along with the Port and City of Bremerton, have combined to allocate more than $21,000 for summer service for the ferries every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and some festivals and holidays from May 24 to Sept. 2.
The City of Bremerton agreed to late night Friday and Saturday service, Sunday service from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. is preserved for its Sunday Farmer’s Market. The proposal includes three more hours on Friday (9 p.m. to midnight) and four additional hours on Saturday (8 p.m. to midnight).
Sunday service would be expanded to 11 hours on May 26 for Harbor Festival, June 30 for Fathoms o’Fun Festival and Sept. 1 for Taste of Port Orchard.
City Clerk Brandy Rinearson said the Port agreed to allocate $5,500 and that the City of Bremerton can only allocate $6,500. Port Orchard originally allocated $6,400, but projections show more funding is needed.
Rinearson said the City needs about $2,800 of additional funds.
If the committee approves the addition money, the City’s allocation is $9,200.
Before discussion on the issue began, Councilman Jerry Childs motioned for the City to petition the Lodging Tax Committee about the additional money needed.
“I’m not happy to see us pay more than the other groups,” Childs said. “We have already talked about the fact we want make a strong effort to see whether this will work. If we don’t get the money, we not going to do it. So let’s do it and get it on.”
But Councilwoman Carolyn Powers — the lone opposing vote — asked the Council why was it voting on issue not on the agenda.
“We’re voting on things that were not put on the agenda,” Powers said. “No one spoke up at the beginning and said we need to get these things on the agenda. That bothers me a little bit.”
City Attorney Greg Jacoby assured Powers it was legal.
“The Council is not legally restricted to take action on only written agenda items,” Jacoby explained. “There is a recognition that things come up and that Council needs to be prepared.”
Powers wanted to know if it was urgent to vote on the motion or could it wait until the next meeting. The next Council meeting is May 14.
Councilman Fred Chang, who chairs the Lodging Tax Committee, said a May 7 meeting is scheduled.
Rinearson said it’s enough time for the committee to meet and bring a recommendation back to the Council for adoption.
Chang assumed at the April 16 work study session that the Council gave consensus for $1,500 to help fund the foot ferries.
Councilman Rob Putaansuu said the Council couldn’t take action at the work study session and asked if Childs’ motion was for the original $1,500 — discussed at the work study — or for the additional $1,500 needed.
Councilman Jim Colebank reminded Council no action was taken on the original $1,500.
Childs amended his motion for $3,000, instead of $1,500.
Powers asked why the issue was not placed on the agenda.
Jacoby said staff didn’t know until a few days ago that the additional funding was needed.
“We didn’t know what Council wanted until you told us,” he said. “So we could prepare a resolution.”
Public Works Director Mark Dorsey said during the work session Council asked Rinearson to confirm funding from the Port and City of Bremerton.
Change said he tried to put it on the agenda and was told that it was needed and could be a staff report.
“I’m going to support the motion although the form is a little odd,” he said.
Putaansuu said he was concerned that the Council acted on the issue quickly and out of necessity.
Powers asked if Port Orchard Bay Street Association (POBSA) was going to donate funds for the ferries.
Bek Ashby, who chairs the POBSA Market Committee, said the group could contribute $1,500 toward the ferry service
“If there’s no service, there’s nothing to market,” Ashby said.
She said POBSA’s Executive Committee helped solicit donations from downtown merchants after they were aware of the additional shortfall.
“We would like ours to be the last money in and the first money out, if it wasn’t needed,” Ashby said.
Putaansuu said funding the foot ferries this summer is based on projections.
“If those projects don’t hold true, then someone’s going to need to ‘pony up,’ ” he said. “I think we’ve ‘ponied up’ a lot here.”
He added if the projections are short, someone will have to step up later and it’s good to know that money from POBSA is available.
“I’d rather for us not to cut service at the tail end if we run out of money,” Putaansuu said.
Jerry McDonald of Bremerton told the Council additional funding could be available from Seattle’s professional sports teams because of people from the area attending games.
“I think it would be worth the efforts to make a trip to Seattle,” McDonald said. “Talk to the teams to see if they could come up with some additional money to help fund the ferries.”
Powers said she voted against the motion because of the way it was handled.
Before any discussion on the ferries, Councilman John Clauson recused himself because he serves as executive director of Kitsap Transit.