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Council approves contract to gather information on waterfront properties

The Port Orchard city council voted 6-0 to approve a contract with Universal Field Services for the Bay Street Pedestrian Pathway right-of-way services precursor during its Feb. 11 meeting.

The contract will not exceed $18,000 and will be funded from the Street Fund.

Councilman John Clauson was absent from the meeting.

According to Public Works Director Mark Dorsey, there are five existing structures located within the pathway project limits along Bay Street and as a precursor to extending obligated FHWA Right-Of-Way Acquisition funding.

Dorsey said Universal Field Services will obtain title reports, prepare appraisals, meet with property owners and summarize its findings, which it will present to council.

Councilman Rob Putaansuu said the council will use “due diligence” and do homework ahead of spending federal money.

“It the project didn’t move forward we would have to repay those federal dollars,” Putaansuu said. “We just want to do our homework and find out what values we are talking about before we make any further decisions.

Council members Jeff Cartwright and Bek Ashby echoed Putaansuu’s comments.

“We really want to do our due diligence to go forward cautiously,” Cartwright said.

Dorsey said the work by Universal Field Services will help council provide direction to city staff.

“This is appraising, meeting so each overwater property owner has a full understanding the values associated with the home relocation values and to get a sense are they willing to sell or not,” said Dorsey.

Dorsey said if the city moves forward with acquisitions, applications will need to be made to different state or federal funding sources.

Mayor Tim Matthes said he’s received comments from between 20 to 30 people who think it was a “bad idea to take anyone’s house.”

“I think there are other options open to us and I hope we look at all of them,” Matthes said.

Councilman Fred Chang said one of the five homeowners sent him a letter stating she believed approving the contract would be same as condemning the properties.

“This is a step that will give us more objective information,” Chang said.”This will be giving us information about the five homeowners and how they would react if a professional was talking to them. The information will be very helpful to us when we decide what to do.”

He said many people who like the pathway don’t like the idea of the city condemning the five properties.

“I will vote for the motion, but I won’t vote for condemning the properties if it gets to that point,” he added.

Councilwoman Cindy Lucarelli agreed with Chang and his comments.

“This is information gathering as I understand,” Lucarelli said. “It is a step we have to take so they we know what we’re talking about and don’t waste taxpayers’ dollars. This is an important step in doing our job.”

One of the homeowners, Randy Jones, said one serious issue about the pathway project is appraisal. Jones’ home sits on piling over the water.

“There are no houses to compare it to,” Jones said. “You’re not going to find another house like it.”

He said his home was once appraised at $325,000.

While Jones was telling the council about comments from visitors who stayed at his home, Putaansuu said it was appropriate to hear some of Jones’ comments and he was ready to vote.

Ashby called for a point of order.

“It may not be appropriate, but it’s not your home,” Jones said.

During residents’ comments, Jones said that he talked with the other four property owners.

“This is not about the bike path, it’s about mitigation,” Jones said.

Jones said, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), in order to construct a building over the water, a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is needed, along with permission from the Indian tribes.

He claimed that Dorsey had not talked to the WDFW in four years.

“Mr. Dorsey told us he had clearance from the WDFW and tribes,” Jones said. “The last time I talked to the WDFW, they said they had not talked to him (Dorsey).”

Dorsey said that was not true.

Jones told the council that he and the four property owners would be watching them “very closely” and claimed that other politicians have told him this was a “waste of tax dollars” for the sake of the city wanting more property.

“We’re watching,” Jones said.

 

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