By Rachel Pritchett, February 5, 2013, Kitsap Sun
If the Port of Bremerton CEO has his way, a sixth of the port’s workforce will be cut to stem losses from the failing Bremerton Marina.
Chief Executive Officer Tim Thomson made his recommendation Tuesday to commissioners less than a month after they summarily rejected two offers to privatize the marina, which prompted the owner of a yacht brokerage to say he’s closing his sales office at the marina.
Meanwhile, Steve Slaton, the port’s director of marine facilities, has resigned amid the upheaval. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday night. Slaton has been with the port since 2004.
The proposal would save the port an estimated $443,555 annually, which would at least stop the financial hemorrhaging from the marina, but not do much more. The Bremerton Marina lost $365,271 in 2011, leading to the often-repeated observation that the marina, about three-fourths empty, is losing $1,000 a day.
“It wasn’t easy to do,” Thomson told a packed meeting Tuesday.
Besides not refilling Slaton’s position, Thomson would eliminate two managerial positions and three maintenance positions, for a total of six positions. Currently, the port has about 30 workers in all.
One of the positions is director of business development, held by newly hired Rich Peterson. It’s possible he would do marketing work for the port on a contractual basis.
The other upper-level position is one of the marina-operations managers. Kathy Garcia manages the Bremerton Marina.
The marinas, then, would operate without a director and with only one manager overseeing both. That would be Garcia’s counterpart at the Port Orchard Marina, Brian Sauer.
Laid-off workers would get a week’s severance pay for every year worked.
A new port maintenance manager position would be created and filled by April. All maintenance staff would report to that person, rather than to various other parts of the port, supposedly for greater efficiency.
No one objected when Commissioner Larry Stokes announced that Thomson would have sole authority for the reduction plan, with no vote by the commissioners necessary. Thomson is expected to announce at Tuesday’s meeting of commissioners that he is putting the plan into effect. Layoff notices would go out Feb. 13.
Stoke’s crowning Thomson with that authority comes as the chorus grows for Thomson to step aside. Critics say the former Navy pilot doesn’t have a strong enough sense of economic development about him.
On Tuesday, Chris Tibbs, speaking as a private resident and not as chairman of the Kitsap County Republican Party, urged commissioners to replace the CEO.
“I certainly think under the right leadership, we could have the dynamic management necessary to build a strong economic future,” Tibbs said.
He was chided by Stokes for not being respectful.
Thomson said he looked at a number of things besides layoffs, including furloughs, prisoners on work release performing grounds-keeping, reducing workers’ hours and outsourcing, not allowed under port workers’ union contract.
Commissioner Roger Zabinski said outside the meeting that Thomson also considered mothballing the marina.
“Tim has talked about it, and I’m absolutely against it,” Zabinski said.
Zabinski also said it was “unprofessional” for Thomson to talk about staff publicly.
“You’re not supposed to talk about your people, your staff, in a public venue,” he said.
In a possible explanation why commissioners gave such short shrift to the privatization proposals, Zabinski said layoffs were inevitable under any scenario.