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Slowik to sign DNR lease agreement this week

The Oak Harbor City Council unanimously authorized Mayor Jim Slowik to sign an updated aquatics land lease with the state Department of Natural Resources that will allow the Oak Harbor Marina to continue to operate at its current location.

“If we don’t have a lease, we can’t move on with the improvements,” said Councilwoman Beth Munns at a special meeting Tuesday morning. “I think this is a good step forward.”

The council members had hoped to settle the reduced-fee, 20-year lease during last week’s meeting, but a number of the contract’s requirements raised concerns. They, in turn, tabled the issue and set two special meetings to further discuss their concerns and negotiate the lease terms with DNR staff.

By the second special meeting Tuesday, the council and DNR had ironed out two of the three concerns, typographical errors and ownership issues, and agreed to negotiate the city’s third concern, ambient lighting at the marina to alleviate the DNR’s “biological concerns.”

The DNR initially wanted the city to replace the marina’s docks with a grated-style dock that allows sunlight to filter through, at a cost of millions of dollars. The replacement would have to be done within the next 10 years; however, dock replacement was not in the first phase of the city’s marina redevelopment project, according to Paul Schmidt, city administrator.

Since the dock replacement is not part of the first phase redevelopment project, the cost is not figured into the 2009-2010 city budget.

The new working agreement will allow the city to replace old, solid-style docks on an as-needed basis, with the new, grated-style dock, Schmidt said.

In response to the council’s authorization, Slowik will continue negotiations with the DNR this week and, if an agreement is reached, sign the lease no later than June 12, the legislative deadline to enter a 10-year, rent-free lease agreement.

Councilmen Bob Severns, Jim Palmer and Danny Paggao supported the council’s motion that allows the mayor to sign the lease; however, Severns said he still holds reservations over the final cost to the city, which remains unknown.

Steve Powers, city development services director, said the cost to the city won’t be available until later on in the negotiating process.

“The short answer ... within a week or so,” he said.

According to Shannon Kinsella, Oak Harbor’s consulting engineer for the upcoming marina redevelopment project, the DNR’s proposed lease agreement may require the city to spend up to $4.3 million in redevelopment costs.

A March 2008 bill, supported by Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen and signed into law by Gov. Christine Gregoire, qualified the Oak Harbor Marina for the decade of free rent that adds up to a $500,000 long-term savings.

However, the anticipated high redevelopment costs that may result from the new lease agreement could cancel out the 10-year cost savings and possibly require the city to spend more than it saves.

The city and DNR have worked on the aquatics land lease for over a year, according to Powers.

If the lease is not signed by June 12, the city will lose out the opportunity to sign a free lease; however, city officials expected to sign the contract by Tuesday evening.

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