Port of Olympia could seize former state ferry after owner falls behind on payments

It turns out the owner of a former Washington state ferry, which has been docked at the Port of Olympia for more than a year, has some financial challenges after all, according to emails requested by The Olympian.

Those emails show that Jones Broadcasting, which paid $300,000 for The Evergreen State in 2017, has missed making recent “dockage” payments to the port since April that now total about $8,000.

That’s according to marine terminal director, Len Faucher, who emailed an update to the port’s executive director, Sam Gibboney on May 2.

“Our next timeline according to the delinquency notice is 5/17, at which time we can arrest the vessel if it comes to that,” Faucher writes. “As ugly as that process could be, the presumed value of the asset sold will cover our costs and revenues associated to berthing the vessel, and, as of now, there is no current opportunity lost to having it tied up alongside.”

Faucher said Wednesday the port had yet to receive the payment. If the owner does not pay by the end of the week, the port could seize the vessel and put it up for public auction.

“At the end of the day, we are responsible to taxpayers and can’t give away public money,” Faucher said.

In separate emails, the port has reminded Gregory Jones, the apparent owner, about the delinquency.

Jones replied that he has an unspecified medical issue.

“Currently, as the result, I have no voice,” Jones writes. “... With that said, we are working hard to get things moved but have run into an issue that we are trying to work through as fast as a possible. He later writes that “my doctor is saying I will need surgery,” but adds that he is also getting a second opinion.

Faucher said the owner has articulated a plan to hire a captain and transport the ferry to Florida, but that has yet to happen.

This is the second time that Jones Broadcasting has missed a payment with the port.

“In July of last year (2018), he went past due and received this same (delinquency) notice and quickly paid and has remained on time in payments until April,” Faucher said in his update to Gibboney.

The ferry first arrived at the port in April 2018 and was expected to stay for only two months.

The Olympian reported in March that The Evergreen State, at the time of its sale, was the state’s oldest ferry at 63. Built in 1954, it was powered by surplus drive motors from a Navy destroyer escort and served on several routes, including Seattle to Bainbridge Island and San Juan Islands inter-island routes, according to the state.