Local News

Three compete for seats on Petersburg’s harbor board

The only contested race in Petersburg’s municipal election October 2nd will feature three people seeking two seats on the harbor board. The three are boat owners and harbor users. The candidates include two board incumbents and one seeking his first term on the board.

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Bob Martin is a 44-year-old commercial fisherman. He was appointed to the board three years ago, then elected to a two-year term and hopes to continue. “I was just concerned. It seemed like our harbor was getting a little bit, it was deteriorating and I didn’t see a plan to bring things back up where they should be,” Martin said. “And it seems like things are going pretty well now and I thought I might as well stay on and try to see some of these projects through.”

Martin said his top priority is following through on replacement of Petersburg’s North Harbor, which is over 50 years old. The city has secured seven million dollars in state and local funding to redo the docks and floats but the latest cost estimate puts the project price tag at eight point seven million dollars. The harbor board has discussed options for trimming the project’s cost and Martin said he hopes the city can secure addition money for the work.

“We did everything we could,” he said. “We had our best estimate from the engineers and we thought seven million dollars was the price tag and there was a mistake somewhere. If we had gone out with that nine plus million dollar number maybe we would have got full funding for that but now we’re short and we can’t really change the design we can just cut pieces off to try and get the price down and that just leaves us coming up short and if we don’t get it done now I worry we might not get it done in the future.”

Martin also supports purchase of the Reid marine property in Scow Bay for use by the harbor department. “I think it’s a very good long-term plan to allow that, the downtown industrial waterfront area that’s being used for bait shed storage to be developed for businesses and move the storage out to Scow Bay and the only way to really do that is to have a deep water access point to the Scow Bay industrial area,” Martin said.

That purchase is one of three ballot questions voters will decide October 2nd. All three candidates support that purchase. One potential newcomer to the board, Peter Schultz thinks the community should acquire the property but thinks the one-point-four million dollar asking price is too high. “It would be nice if the Reid family would donate this property because it serves the entire community,” Schultz said. “And we in return would name it the Reid harbor or anything along those lines. And the Reid family should make it very attractive to acquire this property.”

Schultz does not think the city should pay more than the assessed value at the most. He’s a 73-year-old retired printing engineer and former printing company owner. He’s visited many harbors on the Pacific coast in his sailboat and said that gives him insight that will help on the board.  “I do think that I know what people expect from a harbor. I like our nice harbor. I think my background, my analytical mind, my way to evaluate whatever the findings are, to come up with suitable solutions, qualify me to contribute.”

Schultz said Petersburg’s harbor compares well with other facilities on the west coast. “Our harbor is a fishing harbor primarily,” he said. “It’s not a marina so it doesn’t have the fancy aspects and it does not need the fancy aspects. We have to serve our fishing fleet and as our fishing fleet is the major industry in our town, it’s the livelihood of our community. We should do and must doing everything to serve our fishing fleet and to make sure that our harbor is well built and well suited for whatever our fleet needs. That of course includes all the pleasure boaters and the transients as well.”

The most experienced board member of the three candidates, Kurt Wohlhueter, was elected to the board in 2001 and has been re-elected three times since then. The 57-year-old commercial fisherman said he wants to continue on the board to see the harbor projects finished. “I’d like to see the North Harbor get finished and the drive down dock get finished and the possibility of the expansion of the dump area where you got the cold storage, you know, I’d like to see that finished you know eventually, do some sheet pile, another working area, like a north wall situation, you know where guys can have more areas to load pots and I’d also like to see the Reid property finalized for the harbor expansion for the commercial fleet, so I’ve got a vested interest you know with boats that I own and I wanna just make sure it’s the best harbor in Southeast,” he said.

Among that list of work, Wohlhueter said north harbor is his top priority. “I have to kind of agree with John (Jensen) and Mark (Jensen) on the council there about, ‘let’s finish this project that we started.’ Every year we drag our feet and talk about this, which we’ve been talking about for years, it costs you about a million dollars,” he said. “If you got a seven million dollar project, you talk about it for one year, it costs you eight by the time you get to it. And the longer you discuss it, another year goes by now its gonna cost you nine. And so, we’ve talked about this long enough. I think, if we don’t do it now it’s not going to be any cheaper.”

Like the other candidates, Wohlhueter also supports purchase of the Reid marine property. The ballot question asks voters whether to fund the purchase with contributions from several city funds and a potential increase in harbor rates. Wohlhueter said rate increases would be OK with him. “With the way  the economy is now I think we need to start putting up some of our own money I think. I mean I’m not afraid of harbor rate increases and if anybody’s got any concerns at all with harbor rate increases it might be me with the lineal footage I’d have to be paying for each year. That doesn’t bother me as long as I know its going towards infrastructure and making the town more valuable, which just makes all our equipment more valuable when you have infrastructure.”

The top two vote winners will serve three year terms on the city’s harbor advisory board.

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