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Who's running for Port SLO Harbor District Commissioner

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If you care about what’s happening with the Harbor Terrace recreation project or the Avila Pier’s reconstruction, take a close look at the ballot on Nov. 8. There are four individuals running for two seats on the Port San Luis Harbor District, and those two projects are at the top of their platforms.

The Harbor Terrace project is a campground slated for the waterfront along Avila Beach Drive. Over the last two decades, project proposals have failed to move forward on three separate occasions. It has received pushback from the community concerned about water availability and increased traffic. HomeFed Corp., the most recent preferred bidder to build and operate the project, withdrew from the project last year. Currently, the district is negotiating with Red Tail Acquisitions of Newport Beach on a new bid for the campground. 

The Avila Pier was shut down last year in June due to concerns about the pier’s structural integrity, and repair is estimated to cost more than $10 million. According to current Commissioner Jim Blecha, who’s running for re-election, the district is currently looking toward grants and fundraising to get the project started. 

Blecha has been a commissioner for almost three decades. He’s running again because he wants to “monitor new individuals within the department” and make sure the Harbor Terrace and Avila Pier projects make forward progress. Being involved with the district for as long as he has, Blecha said he’s helped get the harbor and pier to what they are today. 

“If you like the Harbor District and you like the way it is, I’d appreciate the vote,” he said.

Bill Barrow is also running for another term as commissioner, with the position of wanting to keep the harbor’s focus on the locals. Barrow told New Times that he doesn’t want the harbor to turn into a tourist attraction filled with shops and restaurants that completely disregard the different uses the harbor has to offer fishermen and locals. When looking at the Harbor Terrace project, Barrow said that he felt the Harbor District should have taken on the project without a contractor to keep the revenue solely for the district. If the project were to fall through for the fourth time, Barrow said he would rather work to have the district build the campground over time without a contractor.

New to the ballot is Richard Scangarello, a retired commercial fisherman with a background in business. He formerly owned a coffee shop at the harbor and currently owns a commercial boat and fishes for salmon. 

“I spend all my days at the port; I get up in the morning I go down there; I have coffee and I hang out at the port all the time,” he said. 

Scangarello’s main focus is getting Harbor Terrace off the ground, operational, and profitable. What he brings to the table is his understanding of the local businessmen and commercial fishing. 

Another fresh face is Bob Vessely, a civil engineer who believes he can bring a completely different approach to the board. He has been closely involved with the district as an engineer working on the restoration of the Port San Luis Lighthouse. Vessely said that he would be the best choice to assist with any of the district’s future construction projects. His main goal is putting emphasis on infrastructure, prioritizing these projects,  and bringing in revenue for the district.  

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