Port Commission OKs $20 Million in Bonds

By Rolf Boone, July 23, 2013, The Olympian

The Port of Olympia commission unanimously approved a plan to issue about $20 million in general obligation bonds to help pay for several key projects.

Monday’s vote followed two earlier public hearings — first in Tenino, followed by a meeting in Bucoda — plus written and public comment about the proposed bond issue.

The bond issue will help pay for four projects: a marine terminal dredge, a stormwater facility, airport facilities and an expansion of storage on the marine terminal.

In addition to approving the bonds, the commission also voted on some higher-than-expected cost adjustments tied to three of those projects: the dredge, the stormwater facility and the marine terminal storage. That vote was unanimous, too.

No one spoke against the bond issue Monday. It received support from former bank executive Mike Edwards, Olympia resident Richard Wolf, and Thurston County Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive David Schaffert.

Edwards said it was an excellent time to issue bonds because of the current low interest rate environment, while Wolf said the projects and the bond issue “bode well for the growth of the port.”

At the same time, Wolf urged the port to approve the bond issue because interest rates are on the rise.

The bond issue will have a total interest cost below 5 percent, and the majority of the bonds will be paid off in 12 years; the total bond issue will be paid off in 2029.

Although no one spoke against the proposed bond issue Monday, the port produced a list of 28 frequently asked questions that was distributed at Monday’s meeting. The questions likely were generated by those who spoke during the public hearings or submitted written comment to the port.

Chief among them was whether taxes will increase as result of the bond issue.

The Port of Olympia, like most ports, has a property tax levy. This year it will generate $4.8 million. Even though the levy might increase in the future, it does not need to be increased to pay for the bonds, finance director Jeff Smith has said.

Now that the bonds have been approved, here are the next steps: a dredging permit is expected to be issued by the Army Corps of Engineers, followed by a bond rating from the credit rating agency Moody’s. The bonds then are expected to be issued in August, with dredging expected to begin in the fall.

Finance Director Smith has said he expects the bond rating to be A1, which is not the highest rating, but still is considered a low-risk, investment grade rating.

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