Fort Worden Public Development Authority working to fix its structure

Board concerned about city changes

PORT TOWNSEND — The Fort Worden Public Development Authority approved a motion Wednesday that will allow the co-chairs, executive director and staff to finish drafting a concession agreement with the future Fort Worden Hospitality Corporation.

During the same meeting, the board members read through a memorandum that will be sent to the Port Townsend City Council outlining concerns about potential code changes the council is considering in regard to its charter agreement with the PDA.

The concession agreement will eventually grant the hospitality group non-exclusive concession rights on the Lifelong Learning Center campus and would make the separation between the PDA and hospitality official, said David Timmons, PDA interim executive director, in a phone interview after Wednesday’s meeting.

PDA officials are working to separate the hospitality arm from the administrative and asset management arms of the organization to help it recover from financial shortfalls last year. The shortfalls were due to revenue losses during the COVID-19 pandemic and financial mismanagement, officials have said.

The hospitality portion of the PDA is the only one with a current sustainable business model, Timmons said during the meeting.

Plans to separate it in July from the PDA board to its own entity overseen by a separate board of governors will help maintain that sustainability and expected increased revenues over coming years, he added.

The PDA is still working on recovery loans and other financial resources to make asset management and administration of the Life Long Learning Center mission more sustainable, Timmons said.

Fort Worden Hospitality will have the current hospitality employees shifted over to that entity, Timmons said.

The drafting of the agreement is expected to be completed by the end of April. Officials will issue notice seven days before the hearing so members of the public will have time to read through it and submit comment before the board makes a final decision, Timmons said.

The agreement may change after the final approval, he said.

“This will evolve,” he said. “It’s not going to be set in stone once it’s given approval. I expect to see changes coming forth as we learn more and experience more.

“They’ll be back and forth, fine-tuning things.”

The agreement was about 80 percent complete as of Wednesday, Timmons said.

During the meeting, Timmons highlighted concerns that the PDA had with potential code changes with their agreement with the city council that are explained in a memorandum that is being sent to the council, as they deliberate on the code.

As of Wednesday, it was unknown when the Port Townsend City Council, which made no decision on possible changes to the agreement earlier this month, will discuss them again, but they will be discussed further at some point, said City Manager John Mauro.

PDA officials feel the proposed financial oversight and budget approval provisions are overreaching, Timmons said.

The Fort Worden PDA is a separate entity and the city does not provide financial support, unlike other municipalities overseeing PDAs that do provide financial support and finance oversight, he said.

The budget addition “essentially gives fiduciary responsibility to a committee whose majority is not composed of FWPDA board members. This makes the City the FWPDA’s fiduciary parent and may violate the intent of the Charter and the FWPDA’s Master Lease with State Parks. This addition involves much more than a report; it mandates more control than oversight by the City,” the memo said.

The PDA also has “serious concern” about how the change vests PDA board appointments and removal in the mayor, and not the council as a whole, as that is the standard for the other boards the council oversees, and the current changes outline no causes for what triggers a board member removal and provides no due process, Timmons said.

The full memorandum and current draft of the agreement can be read at https://tinyurl.com/PDN-PDAMarchMeeting.

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]

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