Port of Kennewick asked to shave millions, prioritize projects

For the first time, commissioners asked to do two-year budget

Kristi Pihl, September 28, 2014, Tri-City Herald

Port of Kennewick commissioners are preparing for a tough task — deciding which projects won’t be a priority during the next two years.


The port has traditionally created one-year work plans and budgets, but beginning this fall, it will plan for two years out.


The 20 or so projects on the draft work plan for 2015 and 2016 are estimated to cost about $11.6 million, according to port documents.


Port commissioners will be asked to shave off $2 million to $4 million, and then prioritize the postponed projects in case more funding becomes available.


Port staff already cut $10 million in proposed projects before delivering a draft work plan to port commissioners last week. Port commissioners have said they want to live within the port’s revenues and avoid accruing debt for upcoming projects.


It’s the first time port commissioners have been given a draft work plan where the port doesn’t have enough revenue to cover all of the listed projects, said Larry Peterson, the port’s director of planning and development.


Revenue projections for the next two years won’t be available until an Oct. 13 evening workshop meeting, where port commissioners are hoping to get feedback from the public on which discretionary projects should rise to the top.


The port could see more revenue, as the port has about $920,000 in pending land sales, Peterson said. That revenue won’t be counted on in the work plan since the sales haven’t closed yet.


Port Commission President Don Barnes would hate to aggressively start working on a project and then lose momentum by hitting the pause button to wait for dollars, he said.


“I think we need to pick the projects we can complete with the resources we have,” agreed Commissioner Skip Novakovich.


Port commissioners already have committed the port, through contracts, to about $5.2 million worth of the draft work plan.


Commitments include about $3 million on Columbia Drive for three winery buildings, a shell building for the city-funded winery wastewater pretreatment plant and other site work. It’s the first phase of a joint project by the port and the city of Kennewick to create a boutique wine village dubbed Columbia Gardens.


The port also could reserve $1.8 million for a second phase of Columbia Gardens and about $1.2 million to buy other strategic properties along the corridor, according to the draft plan.


Another $895,000 has been pledged on Clover Island for bathrooms, parking and other work at the boat ramp, design and planning to finish rehabilitating the island’s shoreline in partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers and artwork celebrating the heritage of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.


The port already has committed to spending about $425,000 on master planning for the redevelopment of Vista Field, including developing financing suggestions.


But port staff have suggested the port could earmark an additional $200,000 to plan roadways and save $1 million to help pay to build the roads.


“To me, there is no more important thing we could be doing for the port and for the Tri-City community than the redevelopment of Vista Field,” said Commissioner Tom Moak.


But commissioners would need to consider what can realistically be done in the next two years to further redevelopment of the former general aviation airport near the Three Rivers Convention Center, Moak said.


The port also has committed to spending at least $750,000 to remodel a building at the Vista Field Industrial Park currently used by Bruker Elemental.


The port hasn’t committed to spending anything on a Richland project next year. But the port could reserve $425,000 for Richland projects, with most going to helping pay for additional parking adjacent to the Badger Mountain reserve and buying land in Richland for a future economic development project.


The port also could spend up to $150,000 on a project to evaluate the Port of Kennewick’s brand. The port’s boundaries include Kennewick, West Richland, south Richland, Finely and rural Benton County south of Kennewick.

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