PORT TOWNSEND — Port of Port Townsend commissioners adopted the 2018 budget during their Tuesday night meeting and received a briefing from staff on possible options for the Point Hudson breakwater repair for the commissioners to consider over the holiday weekend.
Over 50 people attended the meeting; however, there was no public comment on the budget since public comment had been closed at the public hearing Nov. 8.
“I don’t believe tonight’s deliberations and discussion were advertised as a continuation of the public comments,” said Eric Toews, director of planning for the port.
“We have done this twice before,” added Commissioner Pete Hanke.
The commissioners did accept public comments regarding the 2018 budget during public hearings Nov. 8 in Port Townsend and Oct. 24 in Quilcene.
The commissioners unanimously voted to approve the fourth and final draft of the 2018 budget. The budget currently has no rate increases for moorage or leases but does account for an expected drop in Point Hudson moorage revenues due to the planned jetty replacement in that marina.
In total, the port expects $5,875,075 in revenue in 2018, which is higher than last year’s revenue due to expected moorage revenue growth based on the consumer price index, currently at 3 percent.
One of the sticking points for commissioners was the port’s operating expenses, specifically personnel costs. Hanke in particular was concerned about the cost of personnel but agreed to approve the 2018 budget anyway.
“Moving forward we need to level out or reduce our expenses,” Hanke said. “I do trust you guys [port staff] and I do trust you to do this so I’m willing to move forward.”
The personnel costs for 2018 are estimated at $3,212,985 with is slightly higher than the $3,013,738 from 2017. However personnel is still by far the port’s largest operating expense and has been since at least 2014.
Port staff noted in the fourth draft of the budget that they were able to cut back slightly on 2018 personnel expenses including accounting for a delay in hiring a new security guard. There was a $3,640 decrease in the expected personnel costs after staff evaluations and confirmation that there would be no increase in medical costs.
The commissioners also approved the capital budget for 2018 which includes the engineering and permitting for repairs to the runway at Jefferson County International Airport, an estimated $262,000; $150,000 worth of new equipment; and the replacement of the south jetty in Point Hudson, at an estimated cost of $3,603,827.
Commissioners were also given updates from staff on the options the port has if it plans to move forward with the Point Hudson jetty replacements in 2018.
Port director of operations and business development Greg Englin said the south jetty replacement will have significant impact on port operations during construction and also on businesses in downtown Port Townsend.
Port staff has been working with the Port Townsend Economic Development Council to help address and mitigate that impact — but staff members including Englin, Toews and director Sam Gibboney noted that delays in the project, such as shutting it down for the Wooden Boat Festival, could increase project costs dramatically and make it difficult for port officials to find an affordable contractor for the work.
“This is a significant enough project that I think people will be interested but there’s a tremendous amount of work in the Puget Sound right now,” Gibboney said. “If we make the project unattractive enough we could struggle to get responsible bidders.”
Toews also noted that the port received grant money for the project and delaying the project could tarnish the port’s reputation, making it more difficult to apply for grants in the future.
Brian Kuh and Peter Quinn of the Economic Development Council asked that the port look at a way to work with businesses and the city to deal with the impacts of construction, especially because the Point Hudson project is scheduled to start in July, just after the city finishes up their Water Street Enhancement project.
Commissioners are expected to discuss the issue further in December and port staff hopes to send the project out for bids in January.