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Port adds, removes $1.5 million bond measure

A $1.5 million bond measure that appeared, then disappeared, from the Port of Bremerton Board of Commissioner’s meeting agenda for Feb. 9 had attendees asking not why it was removed, but why it was there in the first place.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to be piling on more federal debt (for another building), given the amount of vacant port property already,” said David Rhine, a Bremerton resident, referring to an action item that would have the board considering whether to sell $1.5 million of general obligation bonds to build what was formerly known as the incubator building for the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development project.

Now called the Olympic View Business Park building No. 2, the building is already designed as a 7,000-square-foot manufacturing building. It would no longer serve as an incubator, but house small businesses.

The building’s cost is estimated at $3 million, with half of the funding coming from the EDA grant, and the other half a port match. According to the staff summary, “funding would come from currently unbudgeted GO bonds, requiring a budget amendment.”

After Rhine’s comments, Chief Executive Officer Cary Bozeman quickly took responsibility for the item “getting on the agenda before it should have.

“That one got away from me, and it won’t be on the agenda again until we’ve had a long discussion about it,” Bozeman said.

Bremerton resident Louis Soriano had even stronger words for the board.

“That was a slap in the face of the public,” Soriano said, saying he was appalled that the port would ask citizens to finance another building after borrowing $4.425 to buy its Washington Avenue property. “Maybe your CEO is not aware of the economic situation right now? This is not the time to be asking for more tax dollars.”

Board President Bill Mahan responded by pointing to Bozeman’s acknowledgement of his mistake and adding, “The last guy who didn’t make any mistakes walked on water.”

When Soriano bristled at this response and said he was not upset about the agenda confusion but the fact that such a bond proposal was even suggested at all, Mahan said he was only trying to “make light of the situation.”

Commissioner Larry Stokes said if the bond measure had been on the agenda, “it would have gotten at least one ‘no’ vote.”

Kathleen Seamans of Rocky Point said she would prefer that the port “market the properties we already have, instead of burdening the public with further projects.”

Seamans said the recent hiring of a marketing director was “long-overdue, and I commend you on that.”

At a study session last month, port staff announced they were mulling three options for still putting to use at least part of $2.58 million grant awarded by the Economic Development Administration for the former SEED building.

The considered projects were a commercial aircraft hangar, a racetrack, or completing the building, which has already been designed.

Staff, including Bozeman and Real Estate and Industrial Park Development Director Tim Thomson, recommended in the (now removed) agenda item that the port move forward with the OVBP building, describing the hangar as too expensive — $8 million — and the racetrack as not likely compatible with the grant.

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