Opinion

Port Orchard being bullied out of SKIA

Things are getting contentious in the talks between the Port of Bremerton and the city of Bremerton regarding the latter’s proposed annexation of the South Kitsap Industrial Area (SKIA), which probably means something is on the verge of happening.

And since it’s the city of Port Orchard and its leaders the aforementioned parties are so worked up about, one can only assume whatever happens — or is supposed to happen — won’t be good news for the home team.

Twice in the past week Port Orchard officials have drawn rebuke for taking exception to Bremerton’s plans. The most recent came last Thursday, when port commissioners were critical of Port Orchard’s proposal to provide sewer service to the SKIA site, noting that the plan city officials were to have presented still had a few holes in it.

“I would like to compliment the city of Bremerton for their work on their plan,” said Port Commissioner Larrry Stokes, himself a South Kitsap resident, “and I challenge the city of Port Orchard to put the same effort into theirs. 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.”

Admittedly the Port Orchard contingent, which includes Mayor Lary Coppola and planning director James Weaver, hasn’t had all its ducks in a row on the project to this point as it tries to play catch-up ball because of a previous administration that wasn’t known for either its vision or its vigor.

Meanwhile, the Bremerton proposal isn’t entirely without flaws, either. Coppola points out, for example, that its offer to provide wastewater services to SKIA is based on its treatment facility near Gorst doing the work.

But that facility has promised much of its capacity already to the Navy, meaning it will have to expand in order to accommodate SKIA. But Bremerton isn’t saying yet where those funds will come from.

“How exactly does the port benefit from being annexed into Bremerton” in the first place, Coppola wants to know. “(Port Commissioner) Bill Mahan flatly refused to answer this question. This is a question, at least in my mind, that needs to be addressed and answered.”

It’s a reasonable request.

From Bremerton’s perspective (and that of property owners adjacent to SKIA who stand to benefit from a speedy resolution of the problem), Port Orchard may just represent an irritating obstacle to a deal both parties are anxious to make. And they’re entitled to feel that way.

But from Port Orchard’s perspective, the city has invested real money already and its claims are based on a good-faith (if not legally binding) memorandum of agreement it signed with its neighboring jurisdictions (including Bremerton) to participate in the development of SKIA and reap its benefits as a full partner, not just get crumbs from the table.

Remember that Port Orchard has stood by for years and watched as millions of taxpayer dollars have been pumped into downtown Bremerton and the Bremerton Marina on the theory that, “What’s good for Bremerton is good for Kitsap County.”

We even saw a real effort a few years back to move the county seat over there and had to settle as only some county government functions were relocated to Bremerton.

Meanwhile downtown Port Orchard continues to decay but no one has suggested throwing a dime our way. And now, to add insult to injury, Bremerton wants to elbow Port Orchard out of the way so it can grab our share of the SKIA pie.

Or at least that’s the way it seems over here.

The point is, however tiresome Port Orchard may seem to those who would prefer to bully it out of the process entirely, we’ve been as much a player in this game as anyone else and our concerns deserve serious consideration.

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