Port of Port Townsend commissioners during the port’s meeting Wednesday directed staff to move forward on securing a $3.2 million bond to complete the Point Hudson South Breakwater Project. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Port of Port Townsend commissioners during the port’s meeting Wednesday directed staff to move forward on securing a $3.2 million bond to complete the Point Hudson South Breakwater Project. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Port to move ahead on bond for breakwater repair

PORT TOWNSEND — Port of Port Townsend commissioners Wednesday directed the port to work toward securing a $3.2 million bond to complete the Point Hudson South Breakwater Project, which could begin as early as mid-July.

They also directed staff to check with the state Recreation and Conservation Office to see if the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife would allow the port to keep a $900,000 Boating Infrastructure Grant if it extended the project.

During public comment, several people cautioned the port against taking on more debt. They argued there wasn’t yet a plan for how the port would repay the debt and said development of Point Hudson is not the solution.

Commissioner Bill Putney told staff that while it isn’t clear if the grant extension would be granted, the port needs to keep moving forward on the project.

“We don’t want to restart the process from scratch,” he said. “If we want to keep Point Hudson open as something other than a flower pot we need to progress along the lines we’ve talked about.”

He said there’s concern the jetty could fail, though it isn’t known if it will fail within a week or in several years.

The cost for the entire project is estimated at $3.7 million. The port will work with Northwest Municipal Advisors and bond counsel K&L Gates to prepare the bond package.

The bond would need to go before commissioners again for final approval. If approved, it would leave the port with about $1.5 million in non-voted debt capacity to address other capital needs.

Its current debt capacity is at about $4.7 million.

When the project goes to bid, the port will ask contractors to provide two separate bids. One bid would be for a July 15 start date. The other would be mid-September — after the Northwest Maritime Center’s Wooden Boat Festival.

“If it’s within the port’s capacity, the preference is to initiate the project after the festival,” said Director of Planning Eric Toews. “We want to make sure it’s within the port’s financial capacity to do so.”

Abigail Berg, port finance director and auditor, told the commissioners the bond would mostly be supported by the port’s property tax levy.

“There is a small portion of the debt service that will not be covered by the levy,” she said.

The estimates for what wouldn’t be covered include $92,000 in 2018, $134,000 in 2019 and $140,000 in 2020, she said. That would be covered by operational revenues, commissioners said.

Port Executive Director Sam Gibboney said the port has been looking for ways to increase revenues at Point Hudson as a way to service the debt, adding the plan isn’t yet complete.

“We originally had a time frame to sync these two things up,” she said. “Those two things became unsynced, so now we don’t have that plan.”

The port is planning to bid on the project in early March and award a bid in early- to mid-April.

Toews told the board there is no way to know if the federal government will allow a grant extension and that it should move forward as if there is no extension.

He warned against postponing moving forward on the bond as it awaits an answer from U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

“Bearing in mind that the timing and response from U.S. Fish and Wildlife is entirely uncertain, you could in theory get a response back in April of this year denying the request and still be held to a March 2019 project deadline for completion of the south jetty,” he said.

“I’m not saying that I expect that to happen, but until it’s signed, sealed and delivered, we have nothing.”

________

Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

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