SoundRunner will get $340K subsidy in 2012

KINGSTON — A majority of Kingston residents surveyed support SoundRunner, but they also want to see the port give it limited financial support.

Results of the mail-in survey, conducted by the Port of Kingston Oct. 14-28, was relayed to port commissioners Dec. 1. More than 900 port district residents completed the survey, which Kori Henry, executive director of the port and SoundRunner, thought was impressive. There are 3,000 district residents.

Of survey respondents, 64 percent support the ferry service and 71 percent want to see limited financial support. They were divided between not increasing the property tax and delaying further development of the service. The majority saw the service’s major benefits as commuting, traveling to downtown Seattle and special events.

The issue of financial support remained a hot topic among commissioners as well.

“Everybody wants the service but nobody wants to pay for it,” Commissioner Tom Coultas said at the Dec. 1 meeting. “It’s like sitting on Santa’s lap.”The port commission approved the 2012 budget, which includes a $340,000 subsidy for SoundRunner — $140,000 left over from this fiscal year and another $200,000.

SoundRunner will cost $700,000 to run, according to the 2012 budget, and Henry said she is still looking and applying for grants. The port is not considering raising property taxes to help fund the service, she said.

“It’s an automatic thought,” Henry said, that residents think the only way to run the service would be through taxes. The port receives about $160,000 in property taxes every year.

Ferry ridership has remained steady in the last few months, averaging between 24 and 29 riders a day. The ORCA transit card, implemented Nov. 1, has yet to make a major impact.

Coultas, who will be replaced by Walt Elliott as commissioner in January, said he is concerned the port’s subsidy was relying on an assumption ridership will increase.

“[The port] is trying to run an operation on speculation, but that doesn’t work,” he said.

The port’s finances are in better  shape. Commissioners approved a $1.2 million budget for 2012, with $811,900 in expenses. That does not include the subsidy for SoundRunner, which comes out of reserves. The port did not use reserves to subsidize SoundRunner last year because the passenger ferry received federal grant money.

The port’s net worth is $11.8 million as of October.

Commissioners also voted to shift $190,000 from the port’s savings and investments account to a project investment account for future marina rehabilitation. Henry explained at the meeting the marina dock will need restructuring in the next 15 years, and suggested setting aside $1.5 million from the port’s savings into the account and allocating up to $190,000 each year to the account to pay for repairs when needed. The project is expected to cost $4.3 million.

- SoundRunner will make a special shopping run to downtown Seattle Dec. 18. The ferry leaves at 10 a.m. and will stay at the dock so passengers can leave their bags instead of carrying them. The boat will return at 4 p.m. Tickets are $14 round trip; students with ASB cards ride for $7.

- The port is moving ahead with the pile replacement project, replacing timber piles with 12-inch steel piles. The $240,000 project is being done by Pacific Pile and Marine LP.



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