Port of Kennewick starts chopping 2015-16 project wish list

By Kristi Pihl, October 14, 2014, Tri-City Herald


Port of Kennewick commissioners will need to cut about $3.7 million worth of projects from a list of proposed capital projects for the next two years.


The draft work plan for 2015-16 already has been narrowed down to a little over $11 million, commissioners were told Monday.


An estimated $7.4 million is available for capital projects during the next two years, said Tammy Fine, the port’s finance director and auditor. That includes current cash and some property tax revenue from the next two years.


Port officials really only have a little more than $2 million to play with. That’s because the port already has committed to about $5.2 million worth of projects, with the bulk headed to Columbia Drive for the boutique wine village being developed in partnership with the city of Kennewick.


Redeveloping Vista Field is a top priority project for the region, said Commissioner Tom Moak.


“I think we need to be prepared to move forward,” Moak said.


Moak was in favor of saving up $1 million in the next two years for road and utility construction at the former airport, but commissioners tentatively dropped that to $500,000.


Commission President Don Barnes said it’s early to save money until the port knows what it will take to build the infrastructure to attract private developers to the project.


The port already has committed to spending about $425,000 on master planning for the redevelopment of Vista Field, including developing financing suggestions. Port officials will have a better idea of the cost and financing options for that infrastructure in another nine months.


Port staff have suggested saving about $500,000 for the construction of shoreline improvements along Clover Island. The port is working with the Army Corps of Engineers now on a plan for restoration. The corps could spend up to $5 million on the project including planning and construction, but the port would need to provide some matching funding.


Commissioner Skip Novakovich said he wouldn’t want to risk losing the port’s place in line for those grant dollars.


Port commissioners got close to identifying enough projects Monday to postpone until more funding is available.


One suggestion included delaying a $1.3 million project to remodel an existing building on Columbia Drive into an arts incubator building. Officials said that could complement the boutique wine village that will be built next year.


Commissioners suggested cutting out buying new land on Columbia Drive and in Richland from the capital plan for now. That would save more than $1.3 million.


Barnes suggested buying new land, paid for by future port land sales.


The port already has about $920,000 in pending land sales that are not included in revenue estimates.


The work plan will be discussed at the Oct. 14 port commission meeting, but a final decision is not expected.


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