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KRCC supports port’s position on leasing

KINGSTON — Chalk up another point on the board in favor of the Port of Kingston.

The Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council has recently announced its support of the Port of Kingston in encouraging Washington State Ferries to continue lease negotiations for the port’s 3-acre property.

The port leases a portion of its waterfront property to WSF for the Kingston-Edmonds ferry terminal but the state has expressed interest in purchasing the property outright, rather than continuing its lease.

The KRCC — a council of governments that includes Kitsap County, the cities of Bainbridge Island, Bremerton, Poulsbo and Port Orchard as well as the Suquamish and Port Gamble S’Klallam tribes, the Port of Bremerton and Naval Base Kitsap — is hoping WSF backs off.

“A viable and adequate ferry terminal is vital to our north county area,” the council stated in a Dec. 15, 2005 letter sent to Russ East, the director of terminal facilities for Washington State Department of Transportation’s Ferry Division. “We feel that the state can provide its marine services and facilities through a mutually-beneficial lease arrangement with the Port of Kingston.”

The council also finds the state’s “threat” to exercise its right of condemnation “unfortunate,” the letter stated. While condemnation has its time and place, doing so without attempting to negotiate a lease with the port is not one of those times, the council stated, adding that “seasoned public servants, with the responsibility to wisely use public resources, do not conduct negotiation meetings under the cloud of taking the other’s property.”

The Kitsap County Board of Commissioners also expressed its support of the port in December by passing a resolution, stating it would like to see the port retain ownership of the property and encouraged the state to continue negotiations for a new lease.

Port of Kingston Commissioner Pete DeBoer said Monday that the port has not had any communication recently with the state regarding negotiations.

At a public meeting last June, Washington State Department of Transportation officials said they wanted to purchase the property to help control the ferry system’s costs, strengthen its financial standing and increase non-fare box revenue. Port officials and residents opposed the state’s offer.

In July, the port’s board of commissioners officially stated in a resolution that it would not sell the land to the state but would agree to negotiations about a new lease with the state.

The port has been leasing the property to the state since 1952, however, WSDOT’s long-term lease expired in 1999 and it has been on a month-by-month basis since then. The two parties have been trying to negotiate a new lease since the late ‘90s but the port has been opposed to the state’s demands to allow for development at the site, which the port have no control over.

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