A state ferry passes by Point Hudson on Wednesday. Preliminary election results show the Port of Port Townsend’s Industrial Development District levy passing with an approval rate of nearly 53 percent. Point Hudson is among the sites, which also include the Herb Beck Marina in Quilcene, that would benefit from the $15 million levy. (Brian McLean/Peninsula Daily News)

A state ferry passes by Point Hudson on Wednesday. Preliminary election results show the Port of Port Townsend’s Industrial Development District levy passing with an approval rate of nearly 53 percent. Point Hudson is among the sites, which also include the Herb Beck Marina in Quilcene, that would benefit from the $15 million levy. (Brian McLean/Peninsula Daily News)

Port of Port Townsend’s $15 million levy passing

Commissioners to decide annually how to prioritize

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port of Port Townsend may have its funding source for projects within its Industrial Development District.

Approval by Jefferson County voters surpassed the simple majority needed for the port’s $15 million levy when preliminary election results were released Tuesday.

An updated count with about 4,000 outstanding ballots is scheduled for about 4 p.m. Friday, the county auditor’s office said.

The election will be certified Nov. 26.

“Obviously, we’re very encouraged and excited,” Jim Pivarnik, port interim executive director, said Wednesday. “However, we’ve been in this business long enough to know the first count isn’t the last count.”

Port commission Chair Bill Putney was surprised.

“Historically, this goes back to 1960s,” he said. “When this legislation was passed, in all that time in the state of Washington, none of these has ever passed at the ballot.”

Commissioners had approved the levy earlier this year. A citizens group calling itself the Committee for Port Accountability successfully circulated a petition to put the measure on the ballot even though it was not required to receive voter approval.

Voters were asked to authorize the new property tax, which would be capped at 45 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value but likely would be much less than that, according to port officials who said that commissioners are considering a formula at a rate closer to 13 cents per $1,000.

The measure requires a simple majority for passage.

Tuesday’s night’s margin isn’t a guarantee of final passage.

But it is a large margin. Approving the measure were 4,751, or 52.94 percent. Rejecting it were 4,223, or 47.06 percent.

After 9,553 votes were counted Tuesday, 528 ballots separated the sides.

The $15 million could be collected over a multi-year period up to 20 years.

“One of the things about the IDD is that it’s not a regular general tax levy that gets collected every year,” Putney said.

“Every year, the commission has to come together and decide what projects we have to do, and decide how much of that tax levy to take.”

As part of the port’s capital plan, a list of 18 projects that total about $14.7 million have been identified. They include infrastructure both in Port Townsend and in many other areas of the county, including Quilcene and Port Ludlow.

Some of the projects include the rebuilding of both the north and south Point Hudson jetties, which were constructed in 1934 ($7.5 million), dredging the Quilcene marina entrance ($250,000) and rebuilding the boat ramp at the Herb Beck Quilcene Marina ($400,000).

The commission will vote annually on how much of the total levy amount to take, and it will be assessed at no greater rate than 45 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Putney said the commission likely will choose to levy less than half of that rate.

“This is something that we don’t want to levy a tax just because we can,” he said. “We’re taking the lightest touch we can commensurate with getting the things done we absolutely have to do.”

Pivarnik said the port wants to use it as seed money to fund matching grants and for loans on down payments.

“I don’t believe it’s the commission’s intent, nor the staff’s intent, to take the $15 million and just spend it,” he said.

One of his top priorities is to start the permitting process for the dredging at the Quilcene marina, an investment that will cost $40,000, Pivarnik said.

“The best thing is, it really shows that the public trust of the port isn’t as bad as a lot of people think it is. People value the port, and the value the heritage.”

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Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected].

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