SEQUIM — Port of Port Angeles commissioners approved a long-term plan Tuesday for potentially leasing the tax district’s publicly owned John Wayne Marina east of the city’s downtown core — or having it no longer owned by the port at all.
But Sequim City Manager Charlie Bush said after the meeting that city officials want an agreement in writing that the port will take action on approving a “conceptual model” for a transfer only after Dec. 1, 2019 — even though port commissioners already unanimously voted Tuesday to take action after that date.
During the meeting, port commissioners said that by mid-February 2019, they will review requirements that will be contained in requests for information (RFI) from potential lessees of the 300-slip Sequim Bay marina.
Interested parties must respond to the RFI by Dec. 1, 2019.
Proposals to be considered a year from now could result in the Sequim Bay facility being operated by December 2020 by an entity other than the port, port Executive Director Karen Goschen said Tuesday.
Among the new operators could be the city of Sequim and the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, whose officials are discussing a joint agreement for city ownership and tribal management of the marina, city and tribal officials have said.
Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to not take action on a lease until after Dec. 1, 2019, but the vote wasn’t enough assurance for Sequim city officials to proceed unabated with the city-tribal plan, Bush said Tuesday after the port meeting, which he attended.
City officials, who tussled sharply with port officials earlier this year over shoreline master program restrictions on ownership, want written assurances that the port will stick to that Dec. 1, 2019 timeline — or be liable for paying for an $80,000 study.
Bush said Tuesday the city is moving forward with letting the maximum $80,000 contract to study the cost of marina operations and improvements that will otherwise be paid in a 50-50 split by the city and tribe.
But city officials also want the port to pay for the study if port commissioners don’t follow through on their Tuesday vote to wait until after Dec. 1, 2019 to make their decision.
City officials are worried port commissioners will “change their mind,” Bush said Tuesday after witnessing the unanimous vote.
“I don’t think it’s a trust issue.
“We just want as much certainty as we can get.”
He said city officials have not been kept sufficiently updated by port officials on different options for the marina that are being considered by the tax district.
“We want to do something formal to protect everyone’s interests,” he added.
Commissioners Connie Beauvais and Steven Burke said in later interviews the agreement was unnecessary.
“We took action [Tuesday] to say we would not do anything before Dec. 1, and that is our action,” said Beauvais, the board president.
Beauvais said the Dec. 1 threshold also will be contained in the upcoming requests for information, further binding the port to that date.
Burke said the commissioners’ unanimous vote at the meeting should be enough for Sequim city officials.
“Any agreement beyond that implies they don’t trust us.
“We will honor our word.”
Goschen said after the meeting Tuesday that the assessment envisioned by the city and tribe has no value to the port at the present time, since the port already has information on the marina’s condition.
“I would hope they would put in a conceptual model for our port commissioners to consider,” she said.
“It’s up to them whether they choose to or not.”
The RFI responses that will be reviewed next December would roughly include 10 areas of marina operation, including the business model, the capacity to make infrastructure improvements identified by port staff, and maintaining public access, according to a port staff report.
The facility will require an estimated $22 million in float, piling and breakwater improvements by 2035 that port commissioners have said is too financially burdensome for the port to cover.
Sequim City Council member Bob Lake said at the port meeting that public feedback has been positive toward a joint arrangement between the city and tribe to own and manage the marina.
He said he is “very encouraged” that “a joint solution” is possible for the marina.
Three companies have expressed an interest in managing or leasing the marina, Goschen said.
There will be a blackout of public information on the proposals until after Dec. 1, 2019 to avoid the dissemination of “partial” or “speculative” information, Goschen said at the meeting.
She said after the meeting that she will update commissioners individually if they so desire with updates would not contain “proposal information.”
Goschen said potential lessees will be urged not to submit written information to the port before December 2019 that could be subject to public disclosure requirements.
Sequim-area Commissioner Colleen McAleer said there should be a “clear separation” between commissioners and the proposals before the board considers them.
The port has to ensure public trust in the process “to ensure there is not a belief that we are gaming the system and really have a solution in mind beforehand,” McAleer said.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].