Port of Port Townsend drops ferry project

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port of Port Townsend commissioners have decided to scuttle a plan for a passenger ferry between Port Townsend and Seattle.

The three commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to abandon the plan after determining the venture was unlikely to turn a profit.

“It didn’t pencil out,” said Deputy Port Director Jim Pivarnik, who recommended dropping the project.

“It took a lot of energy and cost around $25,000 of staff time over the past two years on that, we decided to stop the bleeding and let the Feds have their grant money back,” Pavarnik said.

The service was not geared to commuters. Rather it would have scheduled one or two daily trips intended to bring tourists to Port Townsend.

The proposal had received a boost in August 2011 when it was the recipient of a $1.3 million Department of Transportation grant earmarked for ferry purchase or construction.

The federal grant covered the cost of acquiring the ferry, but the port would be responsible for its operation.

In turn, the port sought to transfer that responsibility to an independent operator so no taxpayer money would be used to support the project.

In order to receive the grant, the port needed to put up $300,000 in matching funds, toward which dock repair funds were to be allocated.

Pivarnik learned last week this was not acceptable, and he did not want to spend taxpayer funds to achieve the match.

The grant money has been placed into an escrow account and has not been used by the port.

The port has until August 2013 to use the funds but decided to return the money.

Pivarnik said that he “has spent two years of my life on this,” but that he was relieved about the decision.

“We’ve gone up and down about this for a while,” he said.

“We’d decide that it wasn’t going to work and then someone would tell us how great it was going to be so we changed our minds,” he said.

“But we vetted the project and found that it wouldn’t work without subsidies.”
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Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: November 14. 2012 12:27PM
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