Port: For us, the runway comes before any prison

Readers,

I’m thinking it snowed more heavily at Bremerton National Airport on Tuesday night than anywhere in Kitsap. I’m saying three inches.

I was there to listen to a session in which Port of Bremerton staffers gave some updates to visiting members of the Bremerton City Council, and vice versa.

Here are some news tidbits I picked up.

THE PRISON: As you know, Bremerton is one of three finalist sites the state is considering to someday build a men’s prison solely dedicated as a reception center. Once convicted, prisoners are taken to a reception center, where they stay several months before being sent to another prison where they will serve out their sentences. A portion of the Washington Corrections Center at Shelton currently serves that role, and the state projects a future need for more of that type of space.

McCleary and Shelton are the other finalist sites.

The 40-acre site would be in the South Kitsap Industrial Area on property owned by Overton & Associates. “And they are a willing seller,” said Roy Runyon, a city councilman. An Overton representative currently is working with the city.

Port leaders were receptive to the idea of a prison in theory. For one thing, it would help get some infrastructure into the vast, undeveloped SKIA they can’t get in now, they said. Maybe the arrival of the prison could bring funds to help finish a road the port is trying to build there. And it would add hundreds of jobs and inject money into the local economy. There is state money for selecting a site, but not a dime of construction money.

Port leaders were concerned however, about placement of the prison in SKIA. Like nursing home and hospitals, it shouldn’t be in a flight path, they said. People are stuck there, they said. In the event of an air crash, they couldn’t get away.

“Our first and foremost concern always will be the airport,” said Tim Thomson, port CEO.

SAFEBOATS: Thomson said there hasn’t been much movement on the effort to build port tenant Safe Boats International a bigger and more modern home. Business apparently isn’t as robust there as port officials thought earlier when a new building was on everyone’s lips.

“It looks like the expansion rate isn’t going to be as robust as we expected last summer,” Thomson said.

DRAG STRIP: Thomson said no one’s giving up yet on a drag strip in a relocated Bremerton MotorSports Park, or even retaining the one that’s on the far side of the runway now, and into the future.

“I don’t think the drag strip is out of the picture,” Thomson said.

BEDS: Runyon said the Bremerton Economic Development Study has been released. That’s the study that prioritizes 30 years of future improvements mostly along Highway 3. It doesn’t even mention rail capability along Highway 3, Runyon said. The Navy owns some track at the port, which conceivable could hook up to the Port of Grays Harbor and the national rail grid.

Runyon suggested the city or port talking to the people at the Port of Grays Harbor to encourage it to add crane capability. Costing about $3.5 billion, we could help, he suggested. If Grays Harbor had the capability to lift cargo on and off ships, Bremerton industries could ship their products out of there.

Thomson reminded Runyon that the Port of Tacoma is closer. Runyon reminded Thomson that ships save a lot of time on the water by going to Grays Harbor.

BREMERTON MARINA: According to Bremerton Marina manager Steve Slaton, the new marina continues to be mostly empty. Sixty percent of the marina slips are untaken. Only 10 percent of the slips in the Port Orchard Marina are empty.
“We’re being impacted by the economic times,” he said. Slaton said local boat sales are down 75 percent in the recession, and claimed that’s the number-one driver of empty marinas.

A Bremerton councilman questioned whether covered moorage could make a difference.

Port Commissioner Larry Stokes said, “That marina, we’re subsidizing it by $1,000 a day. As far as I’m concerned, that’s not a good return.”

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