Council berates WSF over its plans for facility

Councilman Jim Llewellyn says WSF is ‘disingenuous’ with its boat yard plan.

State ferry officials stood firm on plans to keep the system’s maintenance yard in Eagle Harbor, despite a torrent of criticism from the City Council this week.

“It looks like information was cherry-picked (and) facts were developed to form a conclusion,” said Councilwoman Debbie Vancil, of WSF research that supports the maintenance yard’s continued presence in the harbor.

Ferry officials, appearing before the full council at a Monday evening presentation, strongly denied the accusation.

“I disagree with that,” said Lisa Parriott, WSF’s maintenance yard project engineer. “It was not a forgone conclusion. It’s what the facts say. Let the facts speak for themselves.”

Despite an independent study’s recommendation in 2002 that the yard move elsewhere, ferry officials conceded that various costs and other factors were not considered. Parriott said the study did not include accurate leasing information or pollution clean-up costs for other sites, among other factors.

Councilman Nezam Tooloee said contradicting the study causes residents to question whether WSF “just didn’t like the answers and set about finding different answers that (support) staying in Eagle Harbor.”

Tooloee called on the ferry agency to be more transparent in their decision-making, and to include more public input as it upgrades its maintenance yard with almost $40 million in state funds.

WSF plans to spend the money on earthquake retrofits, dock improvements and workshop upgrades over the next few years.

Ferry officials also said they plan to set aside about an acre on the yard’s western edge for public haul-out use. The proposed area does not include a former public pier that the WSF presently uses to dock foot ferries.

Boat yard advocates say WSF was mandated by the state in 1974 and through an agreement between the city in 1995 to provide the facility.

“We’ll give up our precious real estate to set aside an area in good faith as a boat yard,” Parriot said.

But Councilman Jim Llewellyn said the boat yard should include a pier that was already on the property when the state acquired it though condemnation in 1995.

“(WSF) rises to the level of being disingenuous unless you connect” the public haul-out property to the pier, which Llewellyn said is “the only way to haul a boat out of there.”

Parriot said giving up the pier, currently used for passenger ferry maintenance, is highly unlikely.

“It’s a very valuable resource for us and will not be considered for public use,” she said.

Ferry officials said sharing the pier was also out of the question due to security concerns. That position also drew fire from Llewellyn when he accused WSF of continually “ducking under homeland security” to justify plans that run counter to community desires.

WSF Director Mike Anderson said there’s “no way to change” security rules mandated by the federal government.

“These are rules and regulations we must live by, and we must continue to follow those rules,” he said.

Councilwoman Christine Rolfes questioned WSF officials over whether they had considered the economic impacts to the island in their decision to stay.

Parriot said the yard supplies a multi-million dollar workforce unlikely ever to be shipped out-of-state or overseas.

“You cannot tell me having a $7 million payroll in your backyard is not a positive benefit in the community,” she said.

Despite the rising flood of questions and criticisms directed at the ferry maintenance yard, Councilwoman Deborah Vann said the facility appears firmly planted on the island’s shore.

“I think it’s important for the community to understand that (WSF) is going to be here,” she said.

Anderson agreed, adding that the community is welcome to help craft the maintenance yard’s future under the underlying premise that that future is rooted on Bainbridge Island.

“We’ve gone farther down the road enough that now we’d like to make (the yard) the best it can be,” he said.

WSF will now seek city permits for changes to the yard.

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