Port Commissioners respond to community concern

Submitted by Greg Hertel, Mike Ahrenius and Barbara Marrett

Commissioners, Port of Friday Harbor

We, the port commissioners, recognize the concern of some community members in understanding restructuring at the Port of Friday Harbor. It is a situation we do not take lightly.

The No. 1 job we tasked our new executive director with was to complete the Spring Street Landing project. He had overseen rebuilding of infrastructure at the Port of Brookings Harbor after a tsunami and has a 20-year history of construction management and negotiation.

This skill set rendered redundant of the activities at the Spring Street Landing project of the marina facilities manager, who was acting as the port’s representative. By all accounts, the change was successful in getting the project moving quickly.

As the building neared completion, staff and commission intensified attention given to the projected finances of the port. The previous executive director left us with a good budget forecast. However, the 2016 third quarter financials and 2017 preliminary budget showed us dipping into our reserves with no major projects budgeted. We needed to adjust because of less SSL building income and higher debt than anticipated.

Currently, two spaces in the downstairs of SSL are available for rent.

This was before a full accounting for delays and lost days was submitted by the contractor. These unanticipated charges may significantly add to the cost of the building and are being negotiated.

In late summer the FAA required a new airport master plan. While substantially funded by the FAA, a portion of the cost of the master plan and resulting construction must come out of port funds.

The commission gave the new executive director broad guidelines to look for ways to increase revenue and reduce expenses. The elimination of the position of marina facilities supervisor was implemented as part of this restructuring.

We’re sorry that the loss of this position at the port has caused uncertainty. It’s never easy eliminating a position. A generous severance package was offered by the commission and was accepted several weeks ago by our former staff member.

Still, we understand change is difficult. Is the port in financial crisis? No. It’s our job to manage the expenses we can control now to avoid unanticipated changes later.

The commissioners’ delegation of authority gives the director the authority to run the port. Our budget is published on our website.

We encourage you to attend meetings and take an interest in port activities. Discussions regarding personnel, lawsuits and real estate negotiations take place in closed executive sessions.

We continue to work with our new executive director to familiarize him with the culture of our community and port.

We ask that you get to know him and his capabilities.