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Consultants criticize conference center proposals

"Although a Silverdale Chamber of Commerce proposal to build a conference center at Dyes Inlet has enjoyed substantial public support, two consultants hired by the Public Facilities District (PFD) board to help evaluate proposals dealt the plan a harsh blow at an Aug. 27 meeting.Gregory Easton of Property Counselors and Andrew Olsen of the Chambers Group, Inc. told the board that the Silverdale proposal was based on an unrealistic timeline. They said the chamber plan didn't allow sufficient time to obtain land east of the WestCoast Silverdale Hotel or to obtain necessary permits - the group allotted just six weeks to obtain shoreline and building permits. Projected revenues and expenditures for the conference center also came under fire, and Olsen said It appeared that expenses would exceed (the budgeted amount) from the start. If there are any hiccups in the negotiation of the easements or permits it could be a problem, Olsen said.The PFD board currently is reviewing four proposals for a sales tax rebate permitted by state law. The group that receives the money must break ground before Jan. 1, 2003, and time is quickly becoming critical. Consultants also challenged a fundamental assumption the PFD board has held about the project since the beginning of the proposal phase. The board originally thought it could offer $9.5 million in revenue bonds, but the consultants said only $7.5 million is available.For every dollar in debt service, $1.50 must be collected to pay it back, Easton said.That twist could mean proposals to upgrade facilities at the county Fairgrounds and to build a conference center on McCormick Land Co. property in Port Orchard, are asking for too much money - $9 million and $9.5 million respectively.But if the project was funded by general obligation bonds issued by the county, the PFD board could offer the full $9.5 million, Easton said.Silverdale was not alone in bearing tough criticism. None of the proposals examined by the consultants passed muster. One of the state requirements to qualify for the sales tax rebate is that one-third of the total cost of the project must be covered by a local business or government agency.Consultants told the PFD that the Fairgrounds project was shy of the required one-third match. A proposed ice arena to be built at the Fairgrounds wouldn't count toward the match unless the facility was handed over to the public sector. The city of Bremerton's time line for a conference center at Sinclair Inlet also was questioned because of the need to obtain shoreline permits - it allotted nine months.With the clock ticking on the sales tax funding, the McCormick Land proposal is appearing to become more likely, primarily because the company already has a draft design and most permits in place. For the other three (besides McCormick Land Co), it's a leap of faith that they could get done on time, Easton said.The groups making proposals will have the chance to submit proposal revisions to the PFD before the board's Sept. 10 meeting. "

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