PDA OK’s merger plan; meeting tonight

The Satsop Business Park’s Public governing board has ratified an agreement that sets the stage for the Port of Grays Harbor to assume management and operations at the 1,700-acre mixed-use business and technology park by the first of the year.

In a 4-1 vote — with board member Tom Casey voting against the measure — the Satsop Public Development Authority approved virtually the same agreement passed unanimously by Port commissioners last week.

“It is in effect a commitment to share information prior to taking action. It is an exchange of information,” Satsop Business Park CEO Tami Garrow told the PDA board at its regular meeting Tuesday afternoon.

The PDA and the Port later jointly participated in a public work shop on the proposal, which would consolidate the Satsop facility with the Port. Garrow has announced her retirement, and the plan would eliminate PDA management because the business park would be operated as a separate division of Port operations.

Another public workshop is scheduled tonight at 5:30 at the Port offices, 111 S. Wooding St in Aberdeen.

Explaining his no vote after the meetings, Casey said he still has reservations about the consolidation and how it would affect the future of the business park, which grew out of the abandoned Washington Public Power Supply System nuclear power project.

“I have always wanted a process so we could decide if we wanted to do it,” Casey said of previous discussions about the move. “I don’t think that process has ever been adequate and I have been unable to come to a reasoned decision on the whole thing. I tend to resent the lack of discussion.”

As a result of the consolidation, the PDA decided to change its meeting dates for the rest of the year. The board decided to meet on the first Tuesday of every month at 1 p.m., starting Oct. 2. Board member Shelli Hopsecger said the move is because the Port meets on the second Tuesday of every month and the PDA is expected to take action on issues affecting the pending consolidation before it then goes to the Port for action.

“That would give us time for us to take action and then for the Port commissioners to have a chance to understand our action prior to any action they may take the following week,” Hopsecger said.

PDA attorney Art Blauvelt, who also is the Port’s attorney, briefed the board on the pending timetable for consolidation, which he has said could be completed as early as Oct. 31, but might likely not be made final until Nov. 30, with the Port taking control of the business park in 2013.

The next step, he said, is for the PDA board to draft and pass a formal resolution that will offer the Port the assets and the liabilities at Satsop.

The total value of the assets controlled by the PDA are $56.2 million, with total debts of $805,940 as of June 20. There currently are 440 developed acres with more than 1 million square feet of building space.

Blauvelt said he is starting to work on the draft of documents to convey those assets to the Port, as well as getting title clearance and approval from the state Auditor.

“We are going to be providing notice to the tenants, to the contractors and anybody who has a written agreement with the PDA,” he said. They will be notified “that this transfer is going to occur or has occurred.”

Blauvelt noted he also is seeking a waiver of any conflict of interest on his part since he represents both parties to the transaction, something already granted by Port commissioners last week.

The next formal action will be for the PDA board to consider the transfer resolution at its Oct. 2 meeting, Blauvelt said.

Blauvelt noted the business park’s largest tenant, BMT-Northwest, has indicated it approves of the consolidation with the Port and will waive a provision governing a transfer of PDA assets. He said he knew of no other lease clauses that would hold up the process but would continue to look at the documents, lease by lease.

The PDA currently is going through a state audit, Garrow added. Hopsecger asked the CEO if she had seen anything that was a deal-breaker, and Garrow said she had only had one phone call with questions about the consolidation and a request to look at the overall master plan for the business park.

“I have had constructive conversations with some of our tenants (and) I’m not picking up any concerns,” Garrow said. “I think most people are familiar with how Port industrial areas operate, how Port leases operate. Virtually, it’s the same as we do business.”

“I have not found any business reason why this doesn’t make sense,” Garrow added.

Casey said his mind was still open and posed a number of remaining questions: “Do we want to lose the diversity? Do we want to lose a different kind of culture? It creates different doors that we can open, having a PDA run a non-tax business park. It’s a different kind of board with a different kind of perspective… . My gut, my instinct and my intuition is I like that.”

Voting for the PDA-Port agreement were Hopsecger, Jack Thompson, the Port Commission’s representative on the board, Art Tanner and John Van Dijk. County Commissioner Mike Wilson, the county’s member on the board, and Steve Poler, the PDA chairman, were not at the meeting. Both Wilson and Poler have favored consolidation.

In a related matter, the size of the business park grew a bit on Tuesday with the approval of a purchase agreement for about 140 acres of property adjacent to Keys Road that is owned by Weyerhaeuser and has been for sale since last year.

The PDA tried to buy the property six years ago but the deal never materialized, Garrow said. The property is surrounded on three sides by business park property and it is relatively flat, which enhances the prospects for development, the board was told. It also is served by the business park’s utilities.

“Long-term, I’m very pleased for the economic development potential for that piece of property to add value for the community in terms of it being a great place for activity to take place,” Garrow said. “It’s a great piece of timberland, that we intend to manage as such, and it’s a nice addition to our portfolio.”