Citizen Journalism: Port of Bellingham Meeting Report for Feb. 19, 2019

In Economy, Local Government, Local News, News by CTNW News

The possibility of terminating an agreement to bring Western Washington University to the waterfront was one of the main points of interest at the Port of Bellingham Commission regular meeting on Feb. 19, 2019.

The public meeting was called to order at 3:30 pm and immediately recessed to a closed executive session so board members could discuss pending litigation pursuant to RCW 42.30.110 (1) (i). The meeting reconvened at 4:30 pm. Board President Ken Bell, Vice President Bobby Briscoe and Secretary Michael Shepard were all present with Shepard attending by phone. No formal action was taken during the closed executive session. Link to Port of Bellingham meeting, full video.


First Public Comment period –

Jim McKinney spoke about the Whatcom Business Alliance’s Youth Engagement Initiative – an effort to inform local youth about businesses and opportunities available here in Whatcom County. Video starting at McKinney presentation.


Presentation –

Bellingham International Airport (BLI) Air Service Development Presentation:

Airport Consultant Jack Penning spoke about BLI’s strengths and challenges and laid out some strategies for future air service. He described how passenger traffic at BLI is affected by the exchange rate as half of its passengers come from Canada. He said BLI has the second-lowest fares in the state but the low profit margins have made it hard to recruit new carriers. A nation-wide pilot shortage is the single biggest challenge that faces the airport over the next 10 years.

Board President Ken Bell said the Port’s direction should be to attract high-quality companies to the airport rather than subsidize it. Video starting at Commissioner Bell comments.


Second Public Comment period –

Steve Walker told the commission he would like a change in the waterfront district sub-area plan that would allow maritime recreation infrastructure in the future where the Port Maintenance Shop currently sits. Video starting at second comment period.


Ten  items were on the consent agenda. Approvals on a 3-0 vote were the following:

A. Approve the minutes of the February 5, 2019, regular Commission meeting.
B. Approve an increase in the base salary of the Executive Director by 3.0% over his 2018 annual salary, effective immediately.
C. Approve Surplus of Equipment to the needs of the Port and authorize staff to sell same following Resolution No. 1322-B.
D. Authorize the Executive Director to execute a FAA agreement for transfer of entitlement funds from FY2017 and FY2018 accumulated primary Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds to Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport’s sponsor, the City of Pullman Washington and the City of Moscow, Idaho.
E. Authorize the Executive Director to execute an Allegiant Airlines Marketing Fund and Air Service Incentive Program for the Bellingham to Anchorage air service.
F. Approve an Amendment to the Port of Bellingham’s Air Service Incentive Program Agreement for the Bellingham International Airport (BLI).
G. Authorize the Executive Director to accept a grant from the Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) for the rural broadband feasibility study.
H. Authorize the Executive Director to execute Amendment No. 3 to Action Order No. 6834 for Cleanup Action Plan remedial design work at the GP West Chlor-Alkali Remedial Action Unit.
I. Approve a rental rate increase for the Bellingham Cruise Terminal meeting room and Squalicum Boathouse hourly meeting rate.
J. Authorize the Executive Director to enter into an Economic Development Investment (EDI) Program Interlocal Loan and Grant Agreement between the Port and Whatcom County pertaining to the Walsh Marine Building project in Blaine.


Presentations –

Western Crossing Update:

Western Crossing Development is a non-profit corporation that was organized by Western Washington University and the Port of Bellingham in 2009 to develop a waterfront campus area for WWU. When the Port acquired the GP site it saw WWU as an “anchor tenant” to the waterfront that would attract companies and jobs.

One year ago the Port and Western Crossing laid out a vision for an education facility that would provide useful STEM and trades-based education. Commissioner Bell said a “Building of the Future” document that Western Crossing recently provided to the Port showed “exactly what we saw a year ago,” and that it was not an adequate response.

“Needless to say I’m not happy with the progress that Western Crossing has made in this regard,” Bell said. “And, quite frankly, I’m not convinced today that given the vision that we have for the waterfront and the educational institution, that Western Crossing or Western Washington University can deliver on what we would like to see as a commission on the waterfront.”

Commissioners discussed the possibility of ending the agreement with WWU and what their next steps should be.
Video starting at Western Crossing Update presentation.

Weblocker Update:

On Nov. 6 the commission directed Port staff to open up weblockers for active commercial fishers. Port Manager of Marinas Alan Birdsall told commissioners that since then staff has validated the weblocker waiting lists, reviewed types of weblocker customers, and contacted all but 3 off the 185 locker holders. A total of 10 lockers have become available. Birdsall also discussed some possible policy changes for weblockers.
Video starting at Weblocker Update presentation.

4th Quarter 2018 Financial Update:

Finance Director, Tamara Sobjack, provided an overview of the Port’s 4th quarter and year-to-date financial and non-financial results. Sobjack told commissioners that the Port has more assets and fewer liabilities in December 2018 than December 2017. She also shared the stormwater program results, public records requests, open claims, and the costs of the Dec. 20, 2018 windstorm.
Video starting at 4th Quarter 2018 Financial Update presentation.


Action Items –

Action Item 1: Ratification of the finding of an emergency and the contracts issued to Swan’s Clean Care and Restoration and Belfor Property Restoration for services associated with the Declaration of Emergency from two weather-related water line failures on February 5 & 6 at the Bellingham International Airport (BLI) commercial terminal.
Port Director of Aviation Sunil Harman spoke about the pipe failures and water damage at BLI. Three-quarters of the terminal was under 3 or more inches of water but no flights were affected. The repair costs are estimated at $300,000. Item passed 3-0.
Video starting at discussion of Action Item 1.

Action Item 2: Authorize the Executive Director to execute a Professional Services Agreement with the Zervas Group, Inc. for preliminary design for the Bellingham International Airport Rental Car Quick Turnaround (QTA) Facility project.
Item passed 3-0.
Video starting at discussion of Action Item 2.

Action Item 3: Approve the 2019 Moorage Rates, per the adopted Resolution No. 1330 Moorage Model.
Item passed 2-1; Commissioner Briscoe voted no.
Video starting at discussion of Action Item 3.


Other Business –

Commissioner Shepard spoke about the Alaska Marine Highway and the governor’s plans to cut it’s budget, increase privatization and possibly decrease service to Bellingham. The Alaska Marine Highway is a state-run ferry service that travels from the Aleutian Islands to Bellingham.
Video starting at discussion of Alaska Marine Highway.

At the closing of the evenings session the commissioners continued their discussion on: the Whatcom Business Alliance’s Youth Initiative Program, the emergency declarations to shelter the homeless; which were declared by the Bellingham City Council and Whatcom County Council during the extreme weather in February, Broadband infrastructure, SB-5617 regarding Gillnetting, Chinook salmon, and Orca populations, and the Western Crossing.