the film
Commentaries and editorials

Tri-City Ports are Prospering

by Jeff St. John, Herald staff writer
Tri-City Herald, November 28, 2004

After a busy 2004, the Tri-Cities' three public port districts have approved 2005 budgets that reflect big plans for the coming year and consolidation of the growth this year has brought.

With property tax rates holding steady at the Port of Benton, Port of Kennewick and Port of Pasco, there's still plenty of activity on their drawing boards, including a potential new business park near the Tri-Cities Airport, continued development at Clover Island and planning for a new Science and Technology Park in north Richland.

Port of Pasco
The Port of Pasco's 2005 budget approved this month includes $5.65 million for operations at the Tri-Cities Airport, Big Pasco industrial area and Columbia River barge terminal, up from $5.2 million in 2004. That increase includes salary and benefits cost increases and the possibility of hiring a new property development employee, said Jim Toomey, port executive director.

That operations budget is about $80,000 more than the $5.57 million in rent and other operations revenue that would pay for it. But Linda O'Brien, port finance director, said the conservative budget doesn't include likely new revenue sources that should more than cover the shortfall.

Then there's a long list of capital projects for 2005, paid for through about $3 million in bonds, grants, including a $1.9 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration, and an expected $1.12 million in property tax revenue.

Still, the port's levy of 45 cents per $1,000 assessed value, or $45 for the owner of a $100,000 home, remains unchanged from last year. That leaves the port about $1.5 million in reserves.

"It's a busy capital year," Toomey said, with about $7.5 million in projects on the drawing board.

First, the port, in conjunction with the city of Pasco and Columbia Basin College, is planning a series of connections between Argent Road, Highway 395 and Interstate 182. The port has set aside $500,000 to $1 million for its share of that project, and also to build infrastructure for a business park on the north side of Argent Road near the Tri-Cities Airport.

Tenant interest in the business park will dictate how much ends up being spent, Toomey said.

Another project on the "to do" list is a $1.5 million to $1.8 million replacement of the Pasco fire station near the airport. Another $400,000 is set aside for smaller airport improvements.

Also, the port has set aside $500,000 for its share of a $7.8 million, federally funded project to build a railroad overpass for Ainsworth Avenue to avoid backups caused by passing trains, he said. Then there's about $900,000 for improvements to Big Pasco tenants' buildings.

Further down the list is a plan to improve railroad infrastructure at the Big Pasco barge terminal, Toomey said.

With the future viability of Columbia River barge traffic placed in some doubt with the pullout of major overseas shippers from the Port of Portland, strong rail transport infrastructure could be very important to the terminal's future, he said.

"I don't have a price tag on that yet," he said, "but a significant amount of planning will go on in 2005."

Port of Kennewick
The Port of Kennewick approved a $7.9 million budget for 2005, including operations and potential new capital projects.

Operations next year are expected to cost about $1.6 million, up from 2004's $1.5 million, with the increase mainly due to salary and benefit cost increases, said Tim Arntzen, port executive director.

That money will come partly from the $752,000 in rental income the port expects to collect next year and partly from the $2.4 million it expects in property tax collections.

The port's tax levy of 40.3 cents per $1,000 assessed value, or $40.30 for the owner of a $100,000 home, will remain unchanged, Arntzen said.

While the port hasn't yet achieved the goal of paying for all operations costs through rental and other operations income, "we're getting closer," he said. He said he expects increased rental income from the former Metz Marina, which the port bought and renamed the Clover Island Marina this year, and income from a new business development building at its Oak Street Industrial Site to help in that goal.

The lion's share of the port's $6 million capital budget wish list is taken up with $4 million for the ongoing redevelopment of Clover Island as a mixed-use residential, retail and recreational boating site, he said.

Not all of that money will be spent this year, but plans are in the works to see about $2.4 million in projects next year, he said. Some key items on the list for next year include about $1.7 million for a new port office and boating-oriented retail building, along with about 90 parking spaces, he said.

That new building would allow the port to move out of its office at the west end of the island, clearing that ground for a future office building or other development.

Then there's $150,000 to build a new boat haul-out facility on the island's south side, and about $590,000 to begin the first phase of building pathways and boardwalks along the island's shore.

Other capital items include a potential $234,000 land purchase to add to the port's property at Kennewick's Vista Field airport, $122,000 for a hangar purchase at the airport and $165,000 for pilot amenities, including a 24-hour restroom, lounge and possible expansion of the port's Vista Field building.

Port of Benton
After a very busy 2004, the Port of Benton is looking to 2005 as a year to consolidate its gains.

The port, which operates airports and industrial sites in Richland and Prosser and an industrial park in Benton City, passed a 2005 budget this month that will largely follow through on a spate of land sales and leases this year, said Scott Keller, executive director.

The port's 2005 $2.4 million operations budget, with an additional $420,000 in debt service, is in line with its 2004 operations spending.

With an expected rent and operations revenue of $2.1 million, the port is "near covering our operations at the port with our rental income," Keller said.

Rental income will be quite a bit higher than 2004's $1.55 million, due in part to about 15 new tenants at the Richland Airport and increased rents at the Hanford Central Stores Building, also known as the 1163 Building, he said.

The port's expected $1.6 million in property tax revenue leaves unchanged its levy rate of 50 cents per $1,000 assessed value, or $50 for the owner of a $100,000 home.

On the capital projects side, the port has planned for up to $2.2 million in possible new projects, with about $1.5 million coming from the port's coffers and the remainder covered by grants and other funding sources. v Prosser Airport is due for a $460,000 runway extension, with 95 percent to be paid through a Federal Aviation Administration grant. Also on the drawing board is $150,000 for building purchases to house the airport's fixed base operator. The port's North Prosser Business Park and Prosser Wine and Food Park can expect about $120,000 on water service and other upgrades.

At the Richland Airport, "we're out of land" for new tenants, Keller said. Potential activity for 2005 includes $100,000 for a new master plan that includes buying 40 more acres for development, as well as a $60,000 new public restroom and about $170,000 more on landscaping, maintenance and other "clean up" activities, said Marv Kinney, airport director.

The port also plans to spend about $131,000 for repairs at its 1171 Building at its Richland Manufacturing Mall, and another $50,000 for a master plan for further development there. And at its Technology and Business Campus along George Washington Way, about $200,000 in property development, landscaping and road improvements will be joined by a $175,000 Small Business Administration grant to plan a new Science and Technology Park in north Richland.

As if that's not enough, the port may spend $200,000 on plans for industrial parks in Prosser and Paterson, Keller said.

Jeff St. John
Tri-City Ports are Prospering
Tri-City Herald, November 28, 2004

See what you can learn

learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs
discussion forum
salmon animation