The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Officials discuss combining port districts

 

February 7, 2019



Last week, commissioners from Wahkiakum County Port Districts 1 and 2 met to discuss the pros and cons of consolidating, entering into an inter-local agreement to share services, or remaining as they are. Several community members were in attendance.

“The purpose of this meeting is not to make a decision one way or the other but to have an open discussion about whether they are ideas worth exploring,” Counsel Tim Hanigan said.

Port 1 Commissioner Bob Kizziar suggested that combining the two ports could potentially save money.

“When we applied for a dredge permit,” Kizziar said, “ we could have applied for that jointly, and it probably would have been the same $80,000 as opposed to you paying that much for a permit and us paying that for a permit.”

Other benefits of combining or entering into an inter-local agreement might be the sharing of a maintenance crew, or staff sharing a reservation tool and being able to make reservations for people at either the marina or at Vista Park, or commissioners having a little more clout when they went to Olympia. There was also the possibility that might save money on expensive audits done at each port.

Kizziar thought they might save money by having a five member board instead of two boards of three, but some listeners in the audience were concerned about a loss of representation.

Port 2 Commissioner Lee Tischer believes any decision to combine the two ports should be made by the voters. Port 1 Commissioner Scott Anderson agreed.

“I think with a united front for the port, the port would be able to do more for the community instead of two fractured little entities, but I agree with Lee (Tischer) that it needs to be a decision made by the people and not the commissioners,” Anderson said.

Kizziar wondered about the possibility of combining or entering into an inter-local agreement for a year, to give commissioners and Wahkiakum County residents an idea of how it might work and whether it could be successful.

“I think there is a possibility of a big win, or just trying it for a little while, and coming out of it knowing something about what we want to do,” Kizziar said.

Port 2 Commissioner Lori Scott suggested a survey and commissioners made it clear they would like to hear from Wahkiakum County residents on the matter.

Puget Island resident Gene Healy encouraged the commissioners to consider what each of the ports owe, and what kinds of revenue streams they have.

“We need to look beyond today’s issues,” Healy said. “Are you structured and is your governance where you want it for something 20-30-50 years out? Are you in the best position moving forward?”

“The greatest thing that’s happened at the ports in the past 10- 15 years is they’ve actually taken on their mission of economic development, because that is your driving goal,” Wahkiakum resident Richard Erickson said. “It’s not to be a marina, it’s not to be a campground, but it’s economic development. We’ve seen Port 2 take on the RV park at County Line. You even talked about taking on the fairgrounds at one time and putting some businesses in there. Port 1 put in an RV lot and some cabins, and then built a brewery and now the town is looking to develop the sewer ponds which is going to give Port 1 more land to develop.

"If you combine these two units into one driving force for economic development and say eventually you did take on the fairgrounds, and you were able to put some businesses out there and do more events out there and maybe put in cabins in Port 2, who knows where you could go with that type of an engine. I think this is a genius idea.”

 

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