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SKIA utility talks stall

About the only definitive notion to emerge from a rectangular-table discussion held Thursday between the Port of Bremerton and local government entities hoping to provide utility service to the South Kitsap Industrial Area is that more discussion is needed.

A key unresolved issue in the potential annexation of SKIA by the city of Bremerton is who will be called upon to provide basic services — and, in particular, wastewater treatment — to the commercial development that is expected to sprout if the just-launched process of annexation is completed.

“No one entity can provide all the necessary services, and we all need to work together to make this happen,” said Port Commissioner Bill Mahan to begin the meeting, again pointing to the revitalization of the Bremerton waterfront as an example the group should be striving to emulate.

Greg Jacoby, attorney for the city of Port Orchard, said Port Orchard officials agreed with the “basic premise” that providing services to SKIA should be a joint effort, and that the city was keenly interested in being involved in that process.

“We want to help develop SKIA, and we have begun building a portion of that infrastructure with our wastewater treatment plant,” said Jacoby, explaining that when the city invested $20 million into West Sound Utility District’s (then called Karcher Creek Sewer District) plant expansion, it was with the understanding that Port Orchard would be the most efficient and cost-effective option for providing wastewater treatment for SKIA.

“We shared in the costs,” Jacoby said. “We should be able to share in the revenue.”

In response, Mahan pointed to an Inter-Local Agreement signed by the city and the port in 2003 that stated Port Orchard could and would provide that service to SKIA.

“According to the ILA, the city of Port Orchard is going to provide wastewater treatment,” Mahan said. “Period. End of story.”

However, representatives from the city of Bremerton went on to explain how they also could provide wastewater treatment to SKIA.

“Things have changed in the 10 years since it was determined that Port Orchard would be the more cost-effective option,” said Phil Williams, Bremerton’s Public Works director. “One alternative is Port Orchard. Another is Bremerton.”

When asked to clarify his statement about Port Orchard providing sewer treatment “period, end of story,” Mahan said that is indeed what the current ILA states. Asked if that ILA could be changed, he said, “That’s a good question.”

As background, an official familiar with the ILA signed in 2003 said the agreement does stipulate that Port Orchard would provide sewer services, and if the port wanted to seek wastewater treatment from another entity, the contract would have to be broken or renegotiated.

As far as Bremerton’s plan to provide the most “cost-effective” wastewater treatment to SKIA, Bremerton City Councilman Will Maupin said it has been created to account for a low, moderate and high level of growth, and all the documents are prepared and accessible to anyone via the city’s Web site.

As far as a draft of Port Orchard’s plan, both Mahan and fellow commissioner Cheryl Kincer said they believed it would be submitted Thursday morning before the meeting, but they had yet to receive it.

Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola said that was because it had only just been completed, and when Mahan asked again to see the plan, Jacoby requested that Port Orchard officials be allowed to “caucus” and return in 10 minutes.

When the group returned, Jacoby announced that it was clear “there were issues brought up that our draft plan does not address, and we would like to be able to revise it before submitting it.

“(However,) we do not think the meeting today was a failure,” he continued. “We came here in good faith, and the purpose of the meeting was not to discuss our plan.”

Mahan then said that the port had fulfilled its obligation “to bring all the SKIA stakeholders to the table, and now the ball is in (Port Orchard’s court).”

Coppola agreed, and apologized for the meeting starting out “more adversarial than I think anyone intended it to.”

Port Commissioner Larry Stokes then addressed the group.

“First, I would like to compliment the city of Bremerton for their work on their plan, and I challenge the city of Port Orchard to put the same effort into theirs,” he said. “This isn’t the first time you have promised the port a document that never materialized. We encourage you to be as proactive as the city of Bremerton.”

For the process of annexing into Bremerton, SKIA has been divided into SKIA North and SKIA South, both of which need to submit a petition providing 75 percent of ownership support for annexation.

SKIA North has already provided the 75 percent petition, which will be voted on July 30 by the Bremerton City Council.

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