By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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“The port will never close the Quilcene Marina even though it will never run in the black,” said Leif Erickson, who is seeking re-election to a second term in District 3 during the Nov. 5 general election.
“There are not enough people at the table to support the marina, but our mission is to provide access to the water,” Erickson said.
“The beach and the dock will always be port facilities.”
Erickson, 62, a consultant, is challenged by Pete Hanke, 54, owner of Puget Sound Express, a charter boat service.
About 30 people attended the event, which represented the final of about 10 forums for the candidates since June.
Also appearing at the forum were District 2 candidates Brad Clinefelter, 53, a retired maritime heavy-industry worker and owner of Mystery Bay Charters & Services, who is running against Peter Quinn, a 59-year-old entrepreneur, for the seat incumbent Dave Thompson lost when district boundaries were redrawn in 2011.
“With the redistricting in District 3, each district is supposed to have the same number of voters,” Erickson said.
“There has been a reluctance from District 1 to spend any money in Quilcene because they think they should have it all,” he added.
“If re-elected, one of my promises would be to spend proportionately in District 3.”
Hanke said the marina needs rehabilitation.
“It’s interesting that Leif has been commissioner for four years and we’re just now getting around to talking about fixing the docks,” Hanke said. “You walk on the docks, and it’s like playing leapfrog on those cement pontoons.
Hanke said he lived on a boat in the 1980s.
“I’m a boat person, and I’ve been on a lot of ramps, and that’s a pretty dangerous one you have down there,” he said.
He described the beach as “great” but the bathrooms as “kind of ratty.”
“If I were port commissioner, that would be first on my list, to clean them up,” Hanke said.
All four candidates said they favored economic development and recognized the port’s role in that process, with three of the four stating support for Jefferson County International Airport’s proposed industrial park.
“There are a lot of options for an industrial park at the airport, and they are all very costly,” Clinefelter said.
“My opinion is that now is not a good time to take risks, with what we are facing with local economics as well as the federal government.”
Clinefelter said applying for grants that require matches “can be a considerable risk unless we are working with partners that we know will bring their business to the port.”
Quinn told of his ideas for the airport.
“We have a really open marina, one of the few that doesn’t lock down at night, and I wish that we could do that for the airport,” Quinn said.
“I wish there were things we could do to make it available for fliers from all around.”
Hanke said hangars could be revitalized and used to support small businesses related to aviation.
“One of the models for this is the Arlington airport, where there are a number of companies along the runway that are building parts for very light aircraft, which is a huge industry that is exploding across the country,” Hanke said.
He said he agreed with Clinefelter about developing the industrial park, adding: “With that, you need people in the pipeline.”
Erickson characterized the idea of a light-aircraft industry as “low hanging fruit.”
“The airport industrial park is the most shovel-ready idea we have right now,” Erickson said.
“We’d like to involve the agriculture community in that and put some processing facilities out there, involving the Department of Agriculture, which is one of the only government entities that is still funding projects.”
Clinefelter previously worked for a tenant at the Port of Portland, Ore., and said that facility had better coordination.
“We had a very good relationship with the port commission and administration, and worked together in a partnership,” Clinefelter said of his past job.
“The port took an active role in seeking out new business and new clients, and tried to work as a team, something that is lacking in the Port of Port Townsend.
“The tenants and the administration and the commission don’t work together, and that needs to change.”
Quinn said the port needs to become more independent.
“We have to be able to support anything we undertake,” Quinn said.
“We can’t count on federal funds. We need to take care of things ourselves.”
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or firstname.lastname@example.org.