Kalakala’s Everett stay uncertain

SEATTLE — The Kalakala might not be coming to Everett after all.

The owner of the rusting ferry, Steve Rodrigues, said at a press conference Monday that the boat might end up somewhere else for repairs if he can’t persuade city and union officials to back his restoration plans.

With the 1935 art-deco ferry in the background, Rodrigues said he plans to move the ship out of Lake Union this morning. The boat is scheduled to arrive in Neah Bay, on the Makah Indian reservation in the northwest corner of the Olympic Peninsula, on Thursday.

In August, Rodrigues hopes to move the boat to the Snohomish River to begin three years of repairs. But he said he won’t do so if community opposition is strong. City officials oppose Rodrigues’ plan unless he guarantees that he has enough money to finish the repairs. He has yet to present the city with a detailed financial plan.

Mayor Ray Stephanson fears that, should Rodrigues run out of money, Everett could become a long-term "parking lot" for the boat, much as Lake Union has been for the past six years.

Rodrigues’ Plan B is to hire the Everett Shipyard to work on the ferry near Naval Station Everett for four to six months and then tow the boat elsewhere for the rest of the repairs.

But he said Monday that, if union officials don’t agree to lower their normal wage rates, he might not be able to afford to have the ship repaired in Everett. Rodrigues said that, if his plans to restore the ship in Everett fall through, he has two restoration sites outside Everett in mind. He declined to say where those sites are.

Rodrigues said that when he asks union officials to lower their wage rates he will argue that, by participating in the project, workers would be contributing to the historical preservation of a local icon.

Chuck Hughes, business manager of Boilermakers Local 104, the union that represents workers at the Everett Shipyard, said the union would be willing to negotiate with Rodrigues. But he said it would be "difficult" to alter the union’s wage agreement with the shipyard.

The rare times that the union has lowered its wage rates in the past were for huge long-term projects, he said. Rodrigues is proposing to do only part of the restoration at Everett Shipyard.

Cherie Kidd, president of the Port Angeles-based Kalakala Alliance Foundation, predicted that after the ferry emerges from its exterior paint job in Neah Bay, more people will contribute money to the restoration.

"People will be able to see it has possibilities," Kidd said as she walked over boards that covered rust-encrusted holes in what had been the passenger observation area of the ferry.

She then strode past buckets, ladders and chairs that were strewn about the decaying vessel and motioned at the cavernous room in front of her.

"There used to be ballroom dances here," she said. "You know, 30 years ago, people said Pike Place Market couldn’t be saved. Now it’s one of the top tourist attractions in the state."

Reporter David Olson:

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