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Port passes annexation agreement

It all came down to one word — honor.

After months of conversations and compromises, the Port of Bremerton on Tuesday night approved a petition to annex the bulk of the South Kitsap Industrial Area (SKIA) into the city of Bremerton.

However, the resolution also included an amendment urging the city of Bremerton to “honor” the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2003 by the port that identifies the city of Port Orchard as a sewage treatment provider for the largely undeveloped 3,400 acres — a short paragraph that led to a lengthy discussion.

“SKIA would not be here today if Port Orchard had not stepped forward to offer wastewater treatment,” said Port Commissioner Larry Stokes, referring to Kitsap County’s provision that such a provider be identified before the area could be designated as an Urban Growth Area. “I feel we have an agreement that should be honored, and honored in writing. I would like to add language (to the resolution) that will protect Port Orchard.”

The resolution in question officially authorized the port to “proceed with annexation processes for port lands within the SKIA (UGA) to the city of Bremerton,” and the port commission president to “execute a 75 percent petition for said purposes.”

But before voting on the resolution, both Stokes and fellow commissioner Bill Mahan said they wanted to protect Port Orchard’s investment of $21.5 million to expand West Sound Utility District’s wastewater treatment facility in anticipation of serving SKIA.

“Frankly, I am not willing to flush them down the toilet, so to speak,” said Mahan, who suggested adding a condition regarding the MOU to the petition, but backed off when Bremerton’s attorney Roger Lubovich said that would very likely derail the annexation process.

“My advice to my city council would be to not accept (the petition) with that condition attached,” Lubovich said. “Our position is to keep it simple, and what goes on between Port Orchard and the port, that is between you two.”

Port president Cheryl Kincer said she thought it was “not a good idea to entwine the two” and that the best course of action would be to pass a “clean” petition and keep the process on track.

Mahan agreed, but said he would still like to “protect Port Orchard’s investment. If there is a way we can do that without changing the petition, I’d like to honor that (MOU).”

He then suggested amending the resolution to include the words, “The port supports and honors the (2003 MOU), and urges the city of Bremerton to honor the MOU.”

Stokes said such language would satisfy him, however, both Lubovich and Bremerton City Council President Will Maupin objected to the word “honor.”

“We would ask that it be ‘consider,’ not ‘honor,’” Lubovich said. “When the time comes, we will be looking at all options, and Port Orchard may be serving half of SKIA. But we don’t want to be in the position of honoring an agreement we haven’t signed.”

When Mahan pointed out that the amendment only said the port “urges” Bremerton to honor the MOU, Maupin said he still objected to the idea that “the city of Bremerton should honor an agreement” it was not party to, but ultimately said, “We don’t have a problem with (that) being in the resolution.”

Several members of the public addressed the port, including SKIA property owners David and Peter Overton, Rod Reid and Doug Skrobut, all of whom urged the port to pass a “clean petition” and keep the annexation process moving forward.

“Solve these things later and vote for progress,” said Peter Overton. “This is the best deal for everybody.”

Deciding to leave the amendment urging Bremerton to honor the 2003 MOU, the port unanimously passed the resolution approving the 75 percent annexation petition.

The petition next goes before the Bremerton City Council for consideration.

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