Peninsula ports requesting federal money for projects

Funds for Marine Trades Center, Point Hudson jetty

PORT ANGELES — Chris Hartman, the Port of Port Angeles’ engineering director, hit the send button Wednesday on an updated $7.3 million federal grant application that is moving toward approval but has yet to clear the final hurdle.

The Port of Port Townsend expects information on a grant today.

In Port Angeles, the Economic Development Administration funds would pay for infrastructure for the port Marine Trades Center on Marine Drive including “all necessary utilities for boat manufacture and repair,” Hartman said Wednesday.

The Port of Port Angeles application so impressed EDA officials that Kerstin Millius, EDA acting regional director, notified Hartman in a Nov. 13 letter that the agency has made a “competitive preliminary selection” of the project, saying the agency was pleased to inform the port that the application had been selected for further consideration.

The Port of Port Townsend will get its own update today on an EDA grant application to replace the Point Hudson breakwater during a phone call with an EDA economic development specialist, port Executive Director Eron Berg said Wednesday. The EDA reached out to make the appointment.

The port has applied for $9.3 million in EDA grant assistance from the agency’s Disaster Recovery Program.

“I don’t know if it’s the big decision or an update or what,” Berg said.

“We’re having at least a follow-up conversation.”

The EDA had deferred the Port of Port Townsend’s prior application Oct. 2 to an unspecified future date, saying they would reconsider the application if the port increased its match for the $14 million project to 34 percent of the total cost, or $4.8 million, which port commissioners did four days later.

Far from the Port of Port Angeles receiving a deferral, Hartman was asked to submit more information by Wednesday, including preliminary tenant agreements, a 20-year business plan and a proposed master lease or model lease.

Millius reminded Hartman that reaching that threshold “does not guarantee final approval or legally bind EDA to make an award.”

An EDA official did not return calls for comment Wednesday about what it means to be made a competitive preliminary selection to receive funding from the agency’s Economic Adjustment Assistance Program, which befuddled Hartman.

“I’ve been struggling with that this whole time,” Hartman said Wednesday.

“From my standpoint, we have a good chance of receiving [the funding].

“Their mission is to create jobs, which is what the port wants to do.”

So confident are Port of Port Angeles officials that the award is forthcoming that the $7.3 million allocation is anticipated as part of the 2021 budget commissioners approved in November.

The spending plan includes $2.3 million in new capital projects focused on Marine Trades Center infrastructure development.

To account for the tentative nature of the EDA grant, “there’s an asterisk next to the project,” Hartman said.

He said port officials are negotiating with Brix Marine, formerly Armstrong Marine USA, to be a tenant at the site. Brix is not a port tenant.

The EDA asked Hartman to provide additional legal information that included a form indicating Brix’s willingness to maintain job records.

Hartman said the port also is negotiating with port tenants Jack and Terri Harmon to expand their company’s presence, Arrow Launch Service, on the Marine Trades Center parcel.

“Arrow’s goal is to move its operations to the property,” Hartman said.

Earlier this year the Harmons moved the company’s dispatching, management and administrative services to the 18-acre Marine Drive parcel in a small office building occupied by the property’s last tenant, Peninsula Plywood.

The failed company’s departure led to extensive environmental cleanup and it rebranding as the Marine Trades Center with a vessel washdown facility already installed there.

Arrow Launch Service’s Jack Harmon and Brix Managing Director Perry Knudson did not return calls for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Other information being sought by the EDA includes clarifying what entity will own and operate the property for its useful life, any relevant studies of cultural resources, projections for operational and administrative costs, and for net income.

“Final approval of an award is conditioned upon EDA’s assessment of the additional information requested, project feasibility, funding priorities and the availability of funds for obligation,” Millius said in the Nov. 13 letter.

The port had applied for a $14 million EDA grant with an 80-20 federal grant-port funding split that included $11 million for site development and $3 million for a sandblasting-painting building that the EDA was unwilling to fund.

The EDA then said it would consider funding $7.3 million for site development, leaving the port to cover the remainder of $11 million in improvements.

Hartman hopes to hear yay or nay on the funding by Jan. 31.

Port officials want to develop the site to make it ready for marine-trade tenants by 2023, with project design in 2021 and construction beginning in 2022, Hartman said.

Without the grant, the time line will be longer and the port will seek other grants.

“The port is always in need of funding partners because infrastructure development there is so costly, and we don’t have the financial ability to go out and develop the site on our own,” Hartman said.

The Port of Port Townsend’s $4.8 million allocation for the new breakwater would be drawn from general obligation bond indebtedness, industrial development district levy proceeds and port reserves, according to the port commissioners resolution.

Notification of a decision from the EDA “is not anticipated until later this year,” according to the resolution.

With Dec. 31 three weeks away, that notification could come today.

________

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

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