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Port of Tracyton's future could be in doubt

The usually sleepy Port of Tracyton Board of Commissioners has been shaken awake by new member Walter Fitzpatrick, who is demanding the port be dissolved.

Fitzpatrick ran unopposed for a seat on the Tracyton Port commission in November and started seeking an end to the junior taxing district at his first meeting in January.

“There is no activity there,” Fitzpatrick said. “There is nothing going on. Nobody cares, because there’s nobody at the meetings. We’re collecting money and not giving back anything in return.”

Another port commissioner, Steve Hofman, said Fitzpatrick was “very disruptive” during a recent meeting, “almost to the point of calling the police.”

Fitzpatrick cites a 1988 letter from the state Attorney General’s Office stating the port did not file a budget for several years during the mid-1980s. That means the district is inactive, and should be dissolved.

Fitzpatrick brought the letter to the attention of county Auditor Karen Flynn. According to state law, the auditor must file a motion in county Superior Court seeking to disband small taxing authorities that have been found inactive.

Flynn said she is seeking the opinion of the county prosecutor’s office on the matter and was awaiting a response.

“They weren’t collecting taxes at the time the letter was sent,” Flynn said. “Sometime after that they became active and began submitting budgets. My experience is that we might have been able to move when they were inactive but there is nothing in the state statutes to dissolve an active, elected board.”

For 2002, the port submitted a $54,200 budget, including $37,000 in an investment fund for future purchases. It will collect $10,300 in property taxes this year.

State law charges port districts charged with the economic development.

“We must have a core community activity that supports us being in existence,” Fitzpatrick said. “We don’t have a core activity.”

“We’re the smallest port district in the state, but we have some small things going on,” Hofman countered. “We’re trying to maintain some autonomy while trying to help the constituents in our community. People have been happy with the job the port has been doing.”

Flynn called the need for a core community activity a “matter of opinion.”

She said there are 12 port districts in Kitsap County and outside of the ports of Bremerton, Brownsville, Silverdale, Poulsbo and Kingston, most exist only for recreational purposes.

The port currently owns a piece of property on Katherine Street, which it leases to the county for use as a boat ramp. Hofman said the district is looking to expand its holdings, and is eyeing the dilapidated Tracyton Community Hall on May Street and the ballfields on Bunker Street.

“We have been working on taking over properties from the Tracyton Water District for six or seven years now and we’re finally to the point to do that,” Hofman said.

“The community hall could be a meeting place and there’s some interested parties that want to do things there.”

Water District officials have expressed doubts that the port officials could afford to update the building to modern codes with only $40,000.

“There’s no future for that building even if you could buy it,” Fitzpatrick said, citing that it would take thousands of dollars just to make the building handicapped-accessible. “You would save money by tearing it down and building a new building.

“It’s an emotional decision. But they’ve had plenty of opportunity to do this and they just didn’t get it done.”

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