Opinion

Port of Bremerton just keeps shafting SK

Things have been happening at the Bremerton Marina.

Things that I thought you should know about. Here’s the scoop.

When I asked Port Commissioner Bill Mahan about progress on the ambitious development a year ago, I was assured that it would be finished and filled this summer.

I watched with growing interest as the finishing touches were added to the very expensive upgrade.

I wondered when it was going to start doing what management claimed it was going to do: to pay its own way.

When I counted the number of boats in the marina, it didn’t look very promising, so I did a little snooping.

It was worse than I thought.

Out of a total of 229 slips available for permanent moorage, they had managed to fill just 61.

That was back in July. Maybe it’s better now, I thought, so I called for an update.

It’s still about a quarter full, I was told.

Or, more to the point, three quarters of the marina is vacant.

You may wonder why a Port Orchard resident is concerned about the number of paying tenants at the Bremerton Marina.

Fair question. It’s because my tax dollars, and the tax dollars of every homeowner living in the port area, which includes most of Port Orchard, paid for this extravaganza.

And when they aren’t successful in making it pay, you know who’s going to be asked to pony up the missing dollars.

They aren’t going to be successful, no question of that. With the high cost of boat fuel, boating isn’t exactly booming this year — unless you’re lucky enough to be a sailboat owner.

The wind is free. (But that may change, with all this talk about wind energy. Surely the Democrats wouldn’t miss a chance to tax the wind.)

But I digress. Part of the reason the marina isn’t filling is the lack of parking facilities.

This is a long-standing argument. I tried to tell Mahan this before work started on the project.

Parking is available, if you can afford it.

They offer a discount rate of $11 for 24 hours, or 54 hours for $20. And if you are planning to be away for over 3 days, they will provide free valet parking at the airport.

Now, that sounds dandy, until you think about it.

The airport isn’t exactly next door to the marina. It’s way down highway three, south of Port Orchard.

Still, it’s free. Of course, you have to plan on returning during marina hours, unless you plan to spend the night on your boat.

The Port Orchard Marina does offer parking to its tenants, provided they aren’t going to be on the water for more than four hours, or if you’re lucky enough to get one of the blue spaces in front of the marina.

The alternative is to walk all the way from the far end of the marina, by the park.

I can’t imagine how that happened. I don’t think I want to know.

I also expressed my concern about the wakes caused by the ferries.

Mahan assured me that the engineers had investigated that, and the conclusion was that they would not have a problem.

So why is it that all the boats are crowded into the north end of the marina? Can it be that the engineers goofed?

The price of open moorage runs approximately $9 a foot in Bremerton. It’s $7 over here.

Now, these prices are outrageous, but it’s part of the price of owning a boat, I guess.

If you have to have it, it’s going to cost you.

And now we come to the real issue of the month. The port’s Board of Commissioners apparently signed an agreement with the Suquamish Tribe in 2005 for a $10,000 one-time payment to a “net damage and repair fund,” plus $7,000 per year that will go to a “fisheries enhancement fund,” to get the agreement they wanted to build the Bremerton Marina expansion.

Charges were leveled recently that the board signed the agreement with the tribe in secret, but Mahan protested innocence, claiming that the meetings were held with “full public awareness.”

But strangely, there were only two people in the room at the meeting, apart from board personnel.

The port apparently agreed to give up 200 feet of the Port Orchard Marina to the tribal fishermen in return for getting their approval to build the Bremerton Marina expansion.

Richard Butler, a Port Orchard citizen, wanted to know why the Indians were given this space rather than the same space at the Bremerton Marina.

It’s suspected that Bremerton didn’t want the fishermen over there.

I’ve seen the Indian fishing boats at our docks, and they aren’t exactly scenic. They would clash with the stylish new condos and the Convention Center, I’m sure.

Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola said we don’t want those fishing boats here in our marina. “You made this agreement for the benefit of Bremerton,” he said. “Those boats should be in Bremerton.”

Good for you, mayor.

Bill Mahan and port commission chairwoman Cheryl Kincer voted to agree to pass the agreement as written.

Commissioner Larry Stokes said that he wasn’t a part of the original agreement, so he couldn’t vote on it.

Stokes added that he’d “like to see us live happily ever after,” whatever that means.

It seems to me the port has gotten us into a nasty fix. The serious question yet to be answered is who’s going to pay for it.

I’ll leave you to guess.

It’s time to clean house. Port Orchard has an excellent marina, but in my view it would be even better were it to be run as a private business.

Then we could let the Port of Bremerton do its thing for Bremerton residents and leave Port Orchard alone.

Bill Bambrick is a Port Orchard resident.

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