By Rachel Alexander, April 27, 2013, Walla Walla Union Bulletin
Port of Columbia commissioners voted 2-1 on Wednesday to authorize the Port to issue a general obligation bond to cover the cost of constructing the artisan food center at Blue Mountain Station.
The Port originally budgeted $900,000 for the building, but the low bid came in at $1,098,000, and after sales tax, that cost would increase to $1,184,000. Commissioner Earle Marvin cast the dissenting vote.
The bond is being treated like a loan by Banner Bank, and the Port will be able to borrow up to $300,000 over the next six months. Port Manager Jennie Dickinson said the bond would be paid back out of existing Port revenue, so no additional taxes would need to be levied in order to cover the cost. The bond is expected to close on May 3. Because of the delay in receiving funding to begin construction, the artisan food center will likely not open until November. Initially, it was expected to be completed in September or October.
Once completed, Blue Mountain Station’s artisan food center will host five local food processing businesses, including Mace Mead Works and Gypsy Girl Granola. Several business owners attended the Port meeting to speak in support of the bond. The majority of community members in attendance at the hearing spoke in support, although several asked questions without taking a position, and one was opposed.
Dickinson said the Port was working to identify cuts, and had already lowered the project cost by $25,000.
“We have identified some cost-saving measures that will be implemented,” she said. She anticipated that the Port would borrow $250,000 to $275,000 through the bond.