Is there a future for county’s PDA?

MONTESANO — What should the county do with the Grays Harbor Public Development Authority?

As of Dec. 31, the Port of Grays Harbor officially assumed control of all of the Public Development Authority’s assets and liabilities, which includes the Satsop Business Park. But that still leaves a fully functional government corporation and a board that could be tasked with other duties.

Board President Steve Poler joined attorney Art Blauvelt and Public Development Authority CEO Tami Garrow during a special presentation before the county commissioners Monday afternoon.

“Even though it does not have any assets, it can still be used by the county commissioners for various purposes throughout the county,” Blauvelt told the commissioners. “It would be your decision as county commissioners whether or not the Grays Harbor PDA as a public corporation comes to an end, whether or not it is re-purposed for something else or if you let it lie dormant for a period of time.”

Blauvelt said whatever the commissioners decide, he will work with the commissioners and the deputy prosecutor who advises them to make sure the transition goes smoothly.

Although the purpose of the authority has always been to deal with the Satsop Power site on Fuller Hill, the articles of incorporation actually grant the organization broader powers that the county could use to either deal with other economic development issues or even help manage recreational assets.

“The Authority shall acquire and manage real property; secure financing; undertake the development, construction and maintenance of structures and facilities, including public amenities like public cultural institutions, appropriate open and recreational spaces; and enter into agreements with cultural, public or private entities or with private developers proposing to develop public facilities or commercial, industrial or residential projects on the Satsop properties,” article four of the authority states.

Blauvelt says those articles could be easily amended to focus on a different property or task.

Blauvelt noted that, as of now, a quorum of the Grays Harbor Public Development Authority could still be convened. However, come July, most of the board would need to be re-appointed or there could be a problem establishing a quorum as terms expire.

One option is to do nothing. If that’s the option chosen, and six months elapse, Blauvelt said that the PDA basically enters a dormancy phase that could be resurrected by the commissioners at a later time.

County Commissioner Herb Welch said after the meeting, he’s still trying to decide what the future holds for the PDA.

“You know, we could have the next Bill Gates come to us and look for some help that a PDA could provide,” Welch said. “So, I’m not so sure I would just want to disband it.”

Commissioners Wes Cormier and Frank Gordon said they also favor an approach that would just let the body be dormant until it’s needed again.

Garrow has been part of the development park since July of 1999 and has been CEO since 2001.

She’s retiring at the end of March.

“The public development authority, itself, is kind of just a floating body out there,” Garrow told the commissioners. “… As you think about the ability to use a public development authority as a tool to develop other sites, I would personally encourage you to do that. Just be aware the likelihood is you’ll need to approve a different board once the process is done to establish a different charter.”

Garrow continued, “In the last 14 years, with the vision that has really come from the county commissioners in partnership with the Port and PUD commissioners, the leadership at that time, those nine individuals showed a tremendous amount of creativity and courage in agreeing to take on the Satsop site, at that time, about 1,711 acres of land and buildings and really a gigantic question mark of asset or liability for our county and sort of what it’s future is going to be.We’ve spent the last decade-plus demonstrating that it’s an asset. …

“Our job was to take apiece of property that had some risk and remove the risk and turn it into a producing asset that would benefit the citizens of Grays Harbor County and we were able to do that,” she added.