Boatyard announcement sparks new rift

Councilors say the mayor spoke too soon in touting an accord with the ferry system.

The city isn’t as close to an agreement with the state ferry system over a public boatyard as the mayor would have residents believe, according to some city councilors.

“We’re not at all close,” said Councilwoman Deborah Vancil on Monday. “Nothing has been decided – nothing at all.”

Vancil and Council Chair Bob Scales took issue with comments Mayor Darlene Kordonowy made last week to local press indicating that the city had “turned the corner” in negotiations with Washington State Ferries, reaching a “conceptual agreement on a strategy for designing” a boat haul-out facility.

In this tentative agreement, WSF will likely release about 1 acre of its Eagle Harbor maintenance facility for public boatyard use.

But councilors contend that Kordonowy overstepped her authority and could weaken the city’s position during ongoing negotiations with WSF.

“I don’t feel we’ve turned any corner,” Vancil said. “This is not the official city position. It is the mayor’s personal opinion. Official city opinion on policy must come from the council.”

But Kordonowy believes her comments fall within the authority of her position.

“I am the mayor,” she said. “I do not ask the City Council. I am the official spokesperson for the city. I believe I stated an accurate position for the city. I did not overstep my authority. I do not use my authority as much as I should, in my opinion.”

Kordonowy said she fills a key position in negotiations over various issues between the city and WSF, including the proposed public boatyard, Winslow ferry terminal redevelopment and maintenance yard upgrades.

“The city does need to have an official position because Washington State Ferries is moving forward” on various projects that require decisive action on the part of the island’s interests, she said.

But the council is key to any official city position, according to Vancil, who did not learn of the mayor’s announcement until she read about it in the press.

According to Scales, the mayor’s public comments “have undermined the city’s negotiating position and could be detrimental to the city’s interests if there is any litigation in the matter.”

Scales also expressed concern over the mayor publicly discussing matters that are and will be in closed-door executive sessions.

Vancil said she’s not yet ready to settle for the 1 acre WSF offered for the boatyard. She would like to explore the legal implications of a 1974 state Shoreline Hearings Board ruling that instructs WSF to allow more than 2 acres for the facility. Vancil is awaiting an official position on this matter in the coming months from the state Attorney General’s office.

Kordonowy said she expressed favor toward WSF’s 1-acre boatyard offer to “ensure that this clear obligation doesn’t evaporate.” She is also awaiting the Attorney General’s opinion, which was recently requested by Sen. Phil Rockefeller, and said her tentative agreement will not dampen negotiations for more boatyard space.

“One acre is a required and acknowledged obligation that the ferry system has agreed to,” Kordonowy said. “They also agree it has to be ‘viable.’”

The issue of financial viability could mean the boatyard may require more than 1 acre, she added.

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