Port of Port Angeles commissioner candidates Colleen McAleer and Michael Cobb speak after their election forum Tuesday. (Paul Gottlieb/Peninsula Daily News)

Marinas topic of debate at Port of Port Angeles candidate forum

PORT ANGELES — Discussion of the Port of Port Angeles’ two marinas highlighted a forum Tuesday that focused on the only Clallam County-wide race in the Nov. 7 general election — the port’s Sequim-area District 1 commissioner’s seat.

Candidates Colleen McAleer, a one-term incumbent, and Michael Cobb, her challenger, trained much of their attention during the hour-long Port Angeles Business Association breakfast meeting on the port’s Port Angeles Boat Haven and John Wayne Marina.

McAleer, 50, the port’s former marketing and property manager, said that as port commissioner she has helped bring $7.1 million in federal, state and private funding to businesses in the county and the port.

Cobb, 74, a part-time senior sailing instructor with the Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend, said he has an extensive corporate and financial background that makes him well-suited to be elected.

Both said they had no intention of selling John Wayne Marina east of Sequim.

“The John Wayne Marina to me is the jewel of the county, and it needs to be supported and needs to be maintained in a smart and prudent manner,” McAleer said.

About 140 acres surrounding the marina has been put up for sale by the family of the late, famed actor, she said.

The family is “looking at different development opportunities,” McAleer said.

Cobb said the port-owned John Wayne Marina parking lot provides one of the few points of access to Sequim Bay, the other being state park access that requires an entry fee.

“I’d like to see the parking lot facility enhanced and maintained in public hands for the public access to the bay,” he said before segueing to Point Hudson Marina.

“You don’t have to look very far east to see a marina that’s been badly managed,” Cobb said, saying adding that Point Hudson is “not well managed.”

“It doesn’t have the same impact as the [Port Angeles] Boat Haven has now, but it’s a very substantial contribution,” Cobb said.

McAleer drew distinctions between the port’s Boat Haven and John Wayne marinas and Point Hudson.

By comparing Point Hudson with John Wayne Marina, “we are talking apples and oranges here,” McAleer said.

“They have been deferring their maintenance and we have not.”

McAleer said floats at John Wayne Marina could be replaced in the next five to 10 years and will likely cost $7 million to $10 million.

Financing could occur through a revenue bond that would not increase port-related property taxes, although a “public conversation” is needed “on what we want to do there,” McAleer said.

McAleer said the port has spent $8 million on Boat Haven improvements since 2006 and recently approved $160,000 in additional electrical upgrades for 2017.

She said the Boat Haven annually generates $22 million and 800 jobs and, unlike John Wayne Marina, focuses on commercial boating.

But the Boat Haven “is not a very attractive place to leave a boat,” Cobb said.

He added that the port’s nearby log yard generates dust and dirt that leaves boats “covered with dirt” after two or three days.

“That in itself is not an attractive aspect of it,” Cobb said.

In her final comments, McAleer said the port will be paving the property west of the Boat Haven that’s the source of the dirt.

Cobb, who had the last say at the forum, responded that there were concerns about “archaeological remains, graves in that area” that have been expressed by port Executive Director Karen Goschen.

Goschen did not return calls for comment Tuesday.

McAleer said in a later interview that the port is consulting with city of Port Angeles officials and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe on the repaving project.

“The intent is to put asphalt material and asphalt on top of the existing ground so we are not disturbing what’s underneath,” McAleer said.

“I don’t see it as an issue.”

Both candidates also said during the forum that restarting commercial passenger service at the port’s William R. Fairchild International Airport would be difficult given the high ticket prices that have characterized past proposals for air service.

Cobb said more financial disclosure is needed on the port-supported Composite Recycling Technology Center, which will likely no longer be funded by the port after the end of this year.

McAleer said port officials receive “detailed information” on a quarterly basis from the CRTC that has been discussed at port commission meetings.

Port of Port Townsend Executive Director Sam Gibboney did not return calls for comment Tuesday.

Officials there have said Point Hudson needs $6 million in repairs, including to two breakwaters, and have considered a collaboration with the Northwest Maritime Center.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

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