Too Early for Port of Friday Harbor Rebuilding Decisions

By Sharon Kivisto, August 22, 2013, San Juan Islander

Port of Friday Harbor Commissioners Barbara Marrett and Mike Ahrenius listened to community members comments about the Downrigger’s fire and requests for the future.

Marrett and Ahrenius, who are both long-time islanders, were reluctant to make any commitments regarding the Port’s plans for rebuilding without all three commissioners in attendance. Commissioner Greg Hertel is out of the county on a previously planned trip. He is planning to cut his trip short and return in early September.

Both commissioners expressed their sympathy to the business owners and the community and their personal feelings about the disruptions caused by the fire.

Port Executive Director Marilyn O’Connor and the Port’s attorney are discussing the lease agreements. She believes the language allows for termination of the leases in the event of the building destruction.

At this point the leases haven’t been terminated but she expects they will be. “There is no building to lease,” she said.

Asked if Downriggers restaurant and the other three businesses will have first dibs if a new building is constructed. O’Connor said that is a Port Commission decision.

She noted it has only been five days (at the time of this interview) since the fire. There is much that is unknown at this time i.e. the cause of the fire, what the options are for replacement of the second floor of the building – is a completely new building needed or can what remains of the current one be reconstructed.

The port’s focus at this time has been safeguarding the public and providing space for the three businesses on the first floor – San Juan Safaris, Friday Harbor Marine and San Juan Excursions. All three sustained smoke and water damage. Their computers and keys to the boats were retrieved by firefighters during the blaze.

At the August 21 meeting the commissioners approved the funds for cleanup and emergency expenses. O’Connor has permission to spend such funds when needed, but needs approval from the Port afterwards.

The commission also passed a motion to issue a Request for Qualifications for architecture and engineering services. Unlike other government agencies which are limited to choosing contractors who meet the requirements and submit the lowest price , ports can select based on qualifications.

“That doesn’t mean we won’t consider the cost,” said O’Connor.

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