Fort Worden Public Development Authority wrestles with recovery plan

‘You’re going to have the fits and starts’

PORT TOWNSEND — The Fort Worden Public Development Authority staff and board are struggling to make the unpredictable predictable.

“The problem with the governor’s phased approach is there are no dates certain; it’s based on a benchmark,” said David Timmons, Port Townsend’s former city manager who now serves as strategic advisor for the Public Development Authority (PDA) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“But the reality is, it works both ways,” Timmons said. “You could go into Phase 1 and then Phase 2, and then get pulled back into Phase 1. You’re going to have the fits and starts.

“Now how do you manage any kind of predictability? So we’ve gotta look at kind of coming up with something based on whatever timeline we could estimate would be reasonable.”

Timmons made his remarks during a meeting Wednesday to discuss a post-COVID-19 economic recovery strategy plan for the Fort Worden campus.

The PDA also voted to extend the Timmon’s contract through June 30 and has increased the contract from $10,000 to $15,000 with the help of a grant from the Fort Worden Foundation.

“I’m really, really grateful that David had the time and the willingness to help us out … he understands the (Federal Emergency Management Agency) mitigation process, he has been very instrumental in helping us figure out an economic recovery strategy that, I think, could provide an opportunity for us to secure some funding that normally we probably wouldn’t have been able to figure out by ourselves,” Robinson said.

Robinson and Timmons outlined three goals for keeping the Fort Worden PDA operational and afloat during this uncertain time.

The first — and primary goal for the present time — is ensuring that Fort Worden PDA survives the immediate financial crisis it is facing due to COVID-19.

The second will be to assess the timing and establish a path toward reopening the Fort Worden campus.

Once a recovery path is set and reopenings begin, the third goal would be to reassess the business model under new realities.

The primary goal entails assessing the current financial situation and what, if anything, can be done about it under current state guidelines.

To that end, staff members recommend developing a financial status report using a program budget model — examining all the programs offered at Fort Worden, breaking them down into categories, and itemizing and detailing their needs to help determine what the PDA can afford and what it can’t right now.

That also would identify other grants or revenue streams to keep those programs going.

Then information would be used to develop an operating budget for a skeleton crew through the rest of this year.

That would require a revision of the 2020 budget and not include the reopening of hospitality or food services.

The budget would identify what, if any, recoverable assets will be allowed under public assistance grants from FEMA and the state of Washington.

Incurred expenses in relation to responding to the COVID-19 crisis are eligible for assistance whereas actual expenses in response to the crisis would qualify if they occurred between Jan. 20 and April 1.

“We did create an account with FEMA,” Timmons said.

“The PDA does qualify as an eligible activity for public assistance, so that’s good news in terms of that eligibility. But they also narrowed the scope of what’s eligible for this particular event, so there’s a narrow set of costs you have to document that can be claimed.

“Loss of revenue is not a covered expense, so that’s not something you can claim,” he added.

The next recommended action is to secure financing to restart construction on the Makers Square project as soon as possible.

“Getting Makers Square up and running as soon as possible is critical because that’s a source of income that you will be able to obtain as that progresses forward,” Timmons said.

The final recommendation is that, when the Fort Worden campus reopens, which could be during Phases 3 or 4, a staffing plan would be in place to support its partners’ operations as well as its own, such as basic building and asset maintenance, the board was told.

Ken Park can be reached at [email protected].

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