Port of Bremerton returns $2.58 million EDA grant

The Port of Bremerton Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday night to give back a $2.58 million grant it accepted from the federal Economic Development Administration as part of its defunct Kitsap Sustainable Energy and Economic Development project.

“Rather than put the port in financial risk, we are choosing to be prudent and withdrawing this request,” said Chief Executive Officer Cary Bozeman, addressing the board at its March 23 meeting. “This was a difficult decision, but the port needed to match the grant with its own funds, and we are choosing to be financial prudent.”

The port accepted the grant in October 2008, intending to use it construct an incubator building for SEED. After it abandoned the project last year, the port tried to find other projects to use the money on.

Ideas such as building a commercial aircraft maintenance hangar or providing space and facilities for the Bremerton Motorsports Park were considered, but Tim Thomson, Director of Real Estate and Industrial Park Development, said the port was unable to “find a partner to help finance the matching funds for the grant.”

“I want everyone to know that this is a very large missed opportunity for Kitsap County,” said Board President Bill Mahan, adding that he understood the EDA was actually rescinding the grant, and the port did not have a choice in the matter. “This was an opportunity to diversify (Kitsap County’s) economy that we missed, and I’m not sure when another opportunity like that will come again.”

No audience members spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, but at the Feb. 26 meeting Olalla resident Rob Daugherty asked what was happening with the grant.

“I’m wondering when we’re going to return that,” Daugherty said. “As a taxpayer, I don’t have the money to match that.”

At the time, Bozeman told Daugherty he would have an answer soon.

Commissioners Larry Stokes and Roger Zabinski had no comments or questions, and the motion passed unanimously.

Also at the meeting:

• The board voted to renew its Personal Services Contract with the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance at a rate of $35,000 a year. The contract is for two years, but the second year is “dependent on funding availability.”

The new contract also includes a new “Scope of Work,” which includes “a more focused approach towards mining prospective businesses to locate in port properties centered around the defense industry and the port’s airport/industrial properties; measured results by listing actual number of contacts made in each industry;” and quarterly reports that will be tailored to the port.

Commissioner Stokes repeated his concerns about the fact that the Port of Bremerton is the only port in Kitsap County that funds the KEDA, and that businesses such as Kitsap Bank and Kitsap Credit Union only contribute $10,000 a year.

“I just want them to know that I’ll support this, but I’m going to be a watchdog,” Stokes said. “I think the new contract will be good, and we’ll get a return on our investment.”

The board passed the motion unanimously.

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