SEQUIM — The Sequim City Council has made official the city’s desire to take ownership of the John Wayne Marina.
Council members agreed on Tuesday night with a 6-0 vote — with council member William Armacost excused — to ask the Port of Port Angeles to transfer the marina to the city.
In the city’s proposal to the port’s request for information (RFI), it asks that ownership and management of the marina be transferred at no cost to the city and that, starting Jan. 1, marina profits beyond expenses be placed in a fund for future marina improvements and be included in the transfer.
David Garlington, Sequim public works director, said Tuesday the city’s intent is to maintain public access to the waterfront, keep public input in the policy decision process for the property, maintain and/or expand recreational and commercial opportunities through the boat launch and maintain sustainable marine services.
Following a study, city staff estimate the marina needs about $23 million in infrastructure investment over the next 20 years, Garlington said. That estimate, he said, is why the city is requesting the transfer at no cost.
“The only way we’re going to be able to do that is one, be creative, and two, expand economic opportunities down there that exist,” Garlington said.
“That means the property itself, or working with (John Wayne family members) or some other group to expand economic opportunities adjacent to the property.”
Garlington said at an Oct. 28 City Council meeting that if the marina was transferred to the city, staff would create a plan in five to 10 years to cover costs, and that the docks have about a 15-year lifespan.
At Tuesday’s meeting he said the city would evaluate all elements of the marina, including moorage rates.
In March, Port of Port Angeles’ commissioners agreed to send out a RFI asking for potential owners/managers’ proposals on how they’d operate and make repairs (estimated by the port at $26 million) at the marina.
They plan to begin reviewing proposals at their commissioner meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10.
John Nutter, the port’s director of properties, marinas and airports, said as of Wednesday, port officials had not received any proposals but were aware of Sequim city plans.
He said port officials haven’t had discussions with Sequim city staff since the RFI was issued because they want to remain neutral to all parties who might send in a proposal.
Garlington said if the port and city do enter into contracts talk, it wouldn’t be until “well into next year.”
One element of the RFI that limits applications is that the city’s Shoreline Master Program doesn’t allow private ownership or private management of marinas.
City Council members unanimously passed a resolution in April 23, 2018, expressing their interest in potential ownership of the marina while maintaining public access.
In September, City Manager Charlie Bush announced the city planned to send a proposal on its own rather than in a proposed management partnership with the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe.
Ron Allen, chairman of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, confirmed this and said the decision was mutually agreed upon.
Garlington said in an interview city leaders found it important to maintain public ownership and that the city has all the qualifications to run the marina on its own. It is possible City Council members may want to partner with the tribe in other capacities later, he said.
“The tribe is a great tenant and (if ownership is transferred), it’s a great opportunity to work with them and other tenants to make (the marina) more profitable and take care of that looming bill.”
Because estimated maintenance costs exceeds income, staff member said that change may be necessary. This could be economic expansion adequate to maintain the facility, or perhaps physical reorganization — reducing infrastructure to a level that can be supported, or most likely a combination of both.
Some of the city’s proposed business model to the port includes:
• Creating an enterprise fund to reinvest marina revenues only into the property
• Keeping a positive relationship with existing tenants, Dockside Grill, Jamestown Seafood and the Sequim Bay Yacht Club
• Using a 10-year window before major replacements are implemented to develop additional revenue sources for the marina.
• If revenues don’t support the current marina configuration, reduce costs in various capacities including downsizing slip capacity.
City staff said in the proposal they plan to review several elements of funding for the marina including marketing efforts, grant opportunities, bonding options if a Metropolitan Parks District was created, and evaluating current revenues, including slip fees.
They’d also seek out and work with new partners to contribute to additional leasing fees, and work with John Wayne Enterprises to see if off-site development could produce new income.
The city’s proposal states if revenues and reserves didn’t cover costs, leaders would evaluate decommissioning and/or reducing some facilities.
“There may be a ‘right size’ for the marina, that can be sustained financially, that is different than the current size,” the proposal states. “It is the goal of the city to continue to operate John Wayne as a marina, but it will take some creativity.”
For more information on the city’s proposal to the Port of Port Angeles, visit www.sequimwa.gov or call 360-683-4139.
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].