Guest opinion: Marina presents dubious opportunity

  • Wednesday, October 2, 2019 1:30am
  • Opinion

Apparently eager to compound ongoing civic discord with fiscal insanity, Sequim city officials are exploring ways to take sole ownership of the financially troubled John Wayne Marina.

Having become the Port of Port Angeles’ spinster daughter, the cost for the marina’s future upkeep is untenable in Port officials’ eyes. The 300-slip facility with its park and restaurant requires millions of dollars for repairs by 2038. Most of the work is for piling, breakwater and float upgrades. The Port simply does not have the funds, nor does it want to ask West End residents to help pay for a public marina on the East End.

An earlier and more reasonable scenario envisioned the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and Sequim taking joint ownership, with the tribe managing the marina. But indications are that relations between the city and tribe may have cooled of late. Besides, the Wayne family – which deeded part of their Sequim Bay property to the Port in 1981 specifically for a public marina – will accept no entity but the Port as owner. Port officials disagree and say they can sell to whomever they choose. In response, John Wayne Enterprises has lawyered-up.

And now comes suitor Charlie Bush and the Sequim City Council, bumbling into the middle of a $26 million minefield and a potential legal battle.

I bet that figure of $26 million caught your eye, didn’t it? It’s the estimated cost for repairs the marina needs between 2023 and 2035.

Let’s break down the numbers. First, toss the estimate of $26 million into the trash; government estimates are as reliable as a Trump promise that he’ll stop using social media. Tack on 40 percent for cost overruns, bureaucrats’ and contractors’ incompetence, and unanticipated inflation. That will leave Sequim taxpayers liable for more than $36 million to rehab the marina’s infrastructure.

Sequim has about 7,800 residents, so every man, woman and child will be on the hook for $4,600 spread out over 15 years, or $307 a year per person in today’s dollar. That’s more than $1,200 a year for a typical family of four. All for a marina the vast majority of us don’t use, a park most of us rarely visit, and a restaurant at which few can afford to dine.

What a deal, eh? And just at a time when opponents of the tribe’s proposed medicine-assisted treatment (MAT) clinic for opioid addiction are expressing concerns that Sequim doesn’t have sufficient police and EMT protection for future anticipated needs.

According to Bush, other funding options for marina repairs include a metropolitan park district or public development authority. Whatever. It’s the same scenario: tax dollars taken from Sequim residents. Maybe the state will come through with a grant of several million dollars. Another genius idea: taxes from folks in Walla Walla, Colfax and Lynden pay for a marina here, while our money goes to some other state pork-barrel project.

Before Bush and his crack seven-person squad of rubber-stampers on the city council take another step toward getting us into a financial and legal mess, Sequim voters should have a say at the ballot box with an advisory vote. Hopefully, they’ll respond with a resounding “No.”

I don’t want to see the John Wayne Marina become a memory. But the stark reality is that Port ownership is no longer feasible. And it’s certainly beyond the means of our small town. Perhaps the tribe – with its undoubtable business acumen – can persuade the Wayne family to see sense and reach a purchase agreement with John Wayne Enterprises.

I must say there’s a certain degree of irony in that scenario.

Paul Schmidt first moved to Sequim in 1974 and is a graduate of Sequim High School. He currently works in the railroad industry.

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