Port of Port Townsend approves action to seek multiyear levy

Commissioners may seek public funds in coming year

PORT TOWNSEND — Port of Port Townsend commissioners have unanimously voted to give themselves the ability to run a second multiyear levy period if they decide to do so.

Commissioners do not have a timetable for when they would ask for public funds.

Deputy Director Eric Toews cited at the Wednesday night meeting a state law that has been on the books since 1955 that port administrators have used sparingly in the past.

“This is not a resolution that would impose any tax in and of itself,” Toews said. “It is, instead, a resolution whereby the commission should authorize a second multiyear levy period of up to 20 years within the boundaries of the established [industrial development district].”

The district previously levied an industrial development district tax and the state permits multiyear levy periods of up to 20 years, according to the resolution.

The port is facing tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure deficiencies, Toews said. The goal would be to provide a source of funding to preserve Port Townsend’s working waterfront, heritage and character, he said.

“Unfortunately, our existing revenues are entirely insufficient to fund the repair,” Toews said.

Two residents asked during the public comment period about the timing and transparency of the resolution. Port Commission President Bill Putney later answered by saying it comes down to timing.

“We have a deadline if we’re going to do anything in the next year. We have to notify [Jefferson County] by April 1,” Putney said. “We don’t have another meeting between now and then.

“This really just opens a window. We still have to actually enact a levy, and if we’re going to do that, we have to do it concurrent with the budget.”

Putney said that would take place during a public hearing in November.

While all three commissioners supported the resolution, Pete Hanke apologized to the group of about 20 in attendance.

“Should we have talked more with the community on this? Yes, we should have,” he said.

Hanke committed to reactivating a citizen advisory board to help gather input from port tenants and the general public.

“We can use that board to keep us moving in the right direction,” he said.

Commissioner Steve Tucker also voted for the resolution, citing the port’s financial constraints and significant backlog of maintenance projects.

“We need to have something like this occur to have a port that we know and all love,” he said. “It’s going to change unless we can keep it local and keep it ours.”

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Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56052, or at [email protected]

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