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Mayor renews pitch for ferry liaison

But councilors say partial state ferry funding could split the position’s allegiance.

The mayor’s already swung two strikes, but has vowed to go to bat again for a new city position that could boost cooperation between the island and the state ferry system.

“I think I need to better explain the job to the council at our next meeting,” Mayor Darlene Kordonowy said Monday. “We need a person to help us do what we’re trying to do in the urban neighborhood near the ferry terminal.”

Kordonowy said she will again propose a “ferry liaison” job at this evening’s council meeting.

The position was cut from the mayor’s proposed 2006 city budget by the council and then dropped from the Winslow Tomorrow budget proposed last week.

The majority of councilors say the position is unnecessary, costly and could have conflicting interests as the city negotiates various land-use issues with WSF.

At issue are Winslow ferry terminal redevelopment, Winslow Tomorrow planning near WSF-owned lands around the harbor, a public boatyard and WSF’s maintenance facility upgrades.

Some councilors are frustrated with the mayor’s dogged effort to win approval for the position.

“I hate to do this,” said Councilman Nezam Tooloee on Wednesday, after learning the mayor had added the position to the Winslow Tomorrow budget after it was nixed from the city’s general budget. “We had a lengthy debate about this during the budget process. Now the rationale is that (Winslow Tomorrow) needs this position to do its job.”

Tooloee said WSF’s contribution to the proposed liaison’s salary could weaken the position’s role as an advocate for the city’s interests.

“There’s an issue of ‘where’s the allegiance?’” he said.

While stressing the importance of an “open and positive relationship” between the city and WSF, Councilwoman Deborah Vancil agreed the proposed liaison’s salary funding could create a conflict of interest and hurt the city’s ability to strike agreements favorable to the island.

Kordonowy defended the split pay structure, saying that it is common for Bainbridge city government and other cities to share costs with developers for wetland monitoring specialists and other consultants.

“I believe it is possible to have an arm’s-length relationship” with non-city entities that share the cost of consultants and scientists employed by the city, she said.

But Vancil said the city should be especially wary of the state ferry system.

“The historical relationship between Washington State Ferries and Bainbridge Island has had the island on the losing end of every single negotiation,” she said. “We’ve seen (WSF’s) promises fall through and, previously, they’ve not been trustworthy.”

Vancil would prefer that existing staff negotiate with WSF rather than boost an administrative payroll she believes is already too large.

“It’s still unclear why we need this position,” she said. “It seems like it would add to an already administrative organization. I prefer to see a tighter, better managed organization rather than new jobs (added) every time something new comes up, which seems to be the way we’re going and that’s expensive.”

Vancil said she’d be more open to the job if it was not funded with WSF money and if it “disappeared like Cinderella’s pumpkin” once a specified, limited-term project was completed.

City funding for the position could come out of the $750,000 earmarked by the council during this year’s budget process for open space acquisitions.

Kordonowy said she’s open to changing the position’s job description to alleviate the council’s concerns.

She said the council misunderstood the position’s intended role, which she says was always envisioned as a communication link between WSF and the city.

“We know we need City Hall to do much more because there’s much more work before us,” she said.

“When we look at the design plan (for Winslow Tomorrow), we know we really need somebody to assist us.”

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