PORT TOWNSEND — Port of Port Townsend officials say its busy construction schedule, which is expected to extend beyond this year and into the future, requires hiring an engineer to assist Matt Klontz, its director of capital projects and chief engineer.
“We’ve indicated that the time would come when we would need to add to our engineering staff, and that time has come,” Executive Director Eron Berg told commissioners at their regular meeting last Wednesday.
“What we have is a quantity and volume of projects that is really unprecedented in the port history.”
Berg pointed out that, in 2019, when the port’s capital budget was $12,496,364, it had no engineer on staff. When it hired Klontz in November 2021 as its first full-time engineer, its capital budget had increased by almost 90 percent to $23,590,361.
Today its capital budget stands at $47,621,00, which does not include upcoming projects like the $7.7 million Boat Haven breakwater replacement or the $30 million Water Walk project.
Klontz currently oversees at least 13 key port projects in various stages of completion ranging from the Point Hudson jetties to the Jefferson County International Airport airport terminal to the Gardiner Boat Launch.
Berg said a full-time engineer working under Klontz’s direction would be less expensive and better placed to expedite projects than hiring outside consultants. The position would be funded through Industrial Development District tax levy dollars and possibly grants; projects on which the engineer worked that were not eligible for IDD funding would be tracked and funded differently.
The whole cost estimate for the position would be $122,000 for May-December 2023 and $182,000 in 2024. Berg said the goal is to have a person on board in May.
Commissioner Pete Hanke said that, based on amount and complexity of current and upcoming projects, he was inclined to approve adding the position.
“I don’t like spending more money on people, but there’s no way Matt is going to be able to do this,” Hanke said. “Even with a half-time person, there’s no way it’s gonna happen.”
Commissioner Pam Petranek said her concerns had to do with the impact hiring another engineer might have on small businesses that use the port.
“What will that do when it comes time to look at our rate card?” Petranek said. “By hiring another person and getting more projects done, are we adding any kind of value where it’s gonna put another dollar in a small business’s pocket, or are we going to need to ask them to cough up more?”
Berg said the alternative would be to hire more consultants, which he said is not efficient and would still need staff time to supervise.
“On a $30 million project, you can spend a couple million dollars on consultants or half a million dollars and building a team to run it,” Berg said.
Commissioners will vote on the the issue at their next meeting on April 12.
In another report, activity at the Boat Haven is not a sign of expansion but of spring cleaning.
The port has been removing debris from the boat yard and clearing out an area previously used for storage and converting it to 15 blockable yard spaces.
That work is expected to be completed in about a week.
Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at email@example.com.