PORT ANGELES — The Clallam County commissioners have agreed to sign a lease with the Port of Port Angeles for the land under the county’s Juvenile & Family Services Facility, setting rent at market value for the first time in 25 years.
This means the county’s rent for the property at 1912 W. 18th St., adjacent to Fairchild International Airport, will increase from $936 per year to $28,812 annually.
“It’s a significant increase,” County Administrator Jim Jones said Tuesday.
“But again, that was the existing lease for 25 years of paying way less than the land was worth and the port has a need under federal rules with the [Federal Aviation Administration] … they have to charge market rate.”
Commissioner Mark Ozias did not attend the meeting due to a family emergency.
Dan Gase, real estate and business manager for the Port of Port Angeles, told county commissioners the port is giving the county no special consideration in the deal.
“We’ve been going through a process of identifying lease values for all the proprieties inside the airport area,” Gase said, adding the port had looked at ways to soften the blow.
The county and port negotiated a new lease instead of renewing the previous lease. Had the county just renewed its lease, rent would have been $38,246.40 per year, about a 4,086 percent increase.
By negotiating a new lease, which includes rental adjustments based on changes in the Consumer Price Index, the rent was reduced to $28,812 annually, which is about a 3,078 percent increase.
“This is a lot of sticker shock based on decisions that were made 25 years ago, and we wanted to do whatever was legally possible and realistically possible to soften that blow as much as we could,” Gase said.
Commissioner Randy Johnson said that though the county and port have worked well together, he is concerned that the county is renting the property.
“Being honest, long term, we need to figure out something other than a lease with the port,” he said. “To me, that’s going to benefit the county and juvenile services long term.”
He said it doesn’t make sense for the county to make capital improvements on the property when it’s the port’s property.
The lease is set for 20 years with two 10-year renewal options at the county’s discretion. The port can’t say no.
“I don’t want to lose all of juvenile services and I don’t know what the port would do with the facilities anyway,” Johnson said.
Commissioner Bill Peach echoed Johnson’s concerns.
Peach said there has been a sharp decline in the state’s support for juvenile services.
“The day this was written, 25 years ago, the government was contributing to the bricks and mortar,” Peach said. “Today, it’s the local taxpayers making that contribution and I’d like to be able to protect that asset.”
Jones and Gase said there has been talk about a potential land swap between the county and port, though nothing has been decided yet.
“The port commission really wanted to make sure that you understood, and I know you do, they wanted to work every angle we could to make this an easy transaction because this ultimately comes from the taxpayer dollars,” Gase said. “That’s why the topic of a potential swap came up.”
He said if the county had surplus property the port could purchase at market value, “it would just make sense.”
Gase told the commission the port’s top goals are to create and maintain job growth in the area.
Peach highlighted the importance of protecting the jobs at Juvenile and Family Services.
“Those are stable jobs and fairly decent pay,” he said.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].