Sequim-area Port of Port Angeles commissioner candidates Colleen McAleer and Michael Cobb participated in their first general election forum Friday. (Paul Gottlieb/Peninsula Daily News)

Port of Port Angeles candidates discuss selling assets, other issues

SEQUIM — The two candidates for Port of Port Angeles commissioner took different tacks on the direction the port should take on selling the tax district’s public assets in their first general election forum.

Incumbent Port Commissioner Colleen McAleer and challenger Michael Cobb participated in the 45-minute Sequim Sunrise Rotary breakfast meeting on Friday.

The two will vie in the Nov. 7 general election.

“Let’s explore what assets we do currently have that someone else could purchase potentially, whether that’s a municipality or whether that’s a private entity, so that we could take those financial resources, reinvest in some properties, and sell it off and be a job creator,” McAleer told about 60 meeting participants.

Cobb disagreed.

“I don’t really like to see the sale of port property,” he said. “They are not making any more of it. Many of those locations are key.”

Cobb also was critical of the Composite Recycling Technology Center, to which port commissioners have committed $1.35 million and which runs out of port money in January.

“This is a nice venture with a lot of money being spent on it, but I do not see any results,” Cobb said. “I’d like to see a plan for success on this if the port is going to continue to support it.”

In an interview with the Peninsula Daily News, Cobb said that he would like to see a business plan, marketing plan and sales person.

The port has $107 million in assets, including Sequim-area John Wayne Marina, which is valued at $7.8 million based on cost to operate, John Nutter, port director of finance and administration, said later Friday.

A market analysis of the John Wayne Marina has not been conducted, and it’s not for sale, Nutter said.

“Various people in the community want to raise that issue,” he said. “It’s never been offered for sale.”

In earlier interview, McAleer said it would be “important” for a public entity, such as the city of Sequim, to operate the marina, estimating that $7 million-$10 million will be needed in the next five years or so to upgrade the facility.

“There’s been no active intent or decision to sell it,” said McAleer, president of the Washington Business Alliance.

She said Friday both John Wayne Marina and the Port Angeles Boat Haven should stay in public hands.

Cobb, a sailing instructor with the Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend, is the former CEO of Robbins Auto Top Inc. in Oxnard, Calif.

He said the port also should give more attention to recreational boating and emphasized that efforts should be made “to make the port look good for cruise ship opportunities.”

“It would be neat to have a pier here,” he said.

McAleer said the port allows cruise ships to use the port dock, that the ships are good for downtown Port Angeles, and that the port supports the activity but that they won’t stop in Port Angeles if they are assessed dockage fees.

“That’s a loss leader,” she said.

While recreational boating is important, “locally, our biggest issue in my belief is the lack of high-wage paying jobs,” McAleer added.

Cobb responded that recreational boating does create jobs and that marinas “are cash cows for the port.”

The port commissioner position pays a $245-per-month salary, or $2,940 a year.

It also pays $114 per day for port meetings and other business for up to 96 days, or up to $10,944 a year.

Commissioners and their eligible dependents receive the same medical insurance as port employees.

The three port commissioners decide on an annual operating budget that in 2017 is $8.96 million.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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