It can finally be said: The port has bought the farm.
A unanimous decision for the Port of Port Townsend to spend $1.4 million to buy the Short’s Family Farm was passed at a special meeting …
It can finally be said: The port has bought the farm.
A unanimous decision for the Port of Port Townsend to spend $1.4 million to buy the Short’s Family Farm was passed at a special meeting of the port commissioners on Wednesday, Feb. 15.
“I look at this farm as returning so much more to us, and that is to the health of our county and the wealth,” said Port Commissioner Pam Petranek in the lead-up to the vote.
The purchase price falls in line with an earlier appraisal of the property.
During the meeting’s public comment period, questions continued to arise about buying the 253 acres of farmland in Chimacum, and commissioners did their best to make clear the complaints were heard.
“It’s a tough way to make a living, I get that,” said Port Commissioner Pete Hanke, recalling how his father went bankrupt from farming.
FUNDING THE FIELDS
In defense of this expense, however, port commissioners repeatedly mentioned that the deal would be contingent on $1 million in funding from the state.
“If we can use that money almost to leverage ourselves, it makes return on investment a lot easier to do,” Hanke said.
That sentiment was echoed by Petranek.
“I think about return on investment, that’s important. This is not the port buying the farm and giving it away,” she said.
“We are basing it upon state funding; contingent upon state funding. The remaining part, we would be looking at pulling from capital reserves,” Petranek added.
She went on to note that the port’s capital reserves do not come from property tax payments or the port’s special industrial development levy.
“It’s not directly coming from the taxpayers. That’s my understanding,” Petranek said.
She then looked to Eron Berg, the port’s executive director, for confirmation.
“Well, I think that’s certainly a reasonable way to look at it,” Berg said.
Berg noted the additional $400,000 for the purchase will come from revenues from port operations.
“If you follow the cash flow, it’s net operating income that’s used to fund the port-wide capital reserve fund,” Berg said.
FISH VS. FARM
Other difficulties were also raised that have followed the project, mainly those on the conservation easement which constricts use of the property and the seasonal flooding which has continued to worsen with each year.
Some went so far as to say fixing the flooding and rehabilitating Chimacum Creek’s salmon run, which runs directly through the length of the property, would conflict with the terms of the easement.
“The fact of the matter is that farming and salmon restoration are incompatible,” said Keith Norlin.
Norlin seconded the comments of Janet Welch, who has worked on soil surveys throughout Jefferson County.
Welch had earlier quoted from the easement itself and said that she believed rehabilitating the salmon run could reduce the ability to do agricultural work on the property, which would break the terms of the easement agreement.
“I think that the worst thing that can happen here is that the port loses the trust of the community. And if it gets itself in between fish and agriculture, there’s going to be a lose-lose for everybody,” Welch said.
WELCOMING THE WORRIES
Port staff replied that they were aware there would be challenges.
Berg noted an email exchange he’d had with Erik Kingfisher, the stewardship director for the Jefferson Land Trust which holds the easement.
“He did provide in his email that Chimacum Creek is going to be a challenge because of the topography and elevation; that will be a difficult reach to thread the needle with drainage, salmon enhancement, and farm activity. But I think he, like most of the people I’ve talked to, is excited about the possibility of trying to get to the finish line,” Berg said.
Not only did the criticisms receive a response, but even thanks.
“I really am grateful for the community support and for the criticism,” Port Commissioner Carol Hasse said before the vote.
After the resolution passed, Petranek repeated that praise.
“Thank you for your criticism. It makes us really work and think outside the box,” she said.
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Make no mistake about it.....you are spending taxpayer money....and in a very irresponsible manner. The demographics of this farm have been obvious from the beginning. Unfortunatley it's been a loser in the past and will be in the future. The real question is who benefits from all this...not the taxpayer that's for sure. I have one question...would the the commissioners spend this money if it were theirs....I think not. Its always easier to spend other peoples money. Wake up people!!
Monday, February 27 Report this
The first thing the port should look at is, can you make a return on your investment.
I mean the tax payers investment. It almost appears like this investment is going to be more of a hobby than a well thought out project that the port should take on. If we make money cool, if we don’t, we may have bought the farm financially (pun intended). Has the port commission even looked at what they are going to do with the land. How much more will they have to spend to turn the property in to something that can make the port money or at least pay back the investment and break even. This seems like a huge waste of money. It is my hope that the state has some financial sense and says no to the million dollars. Well, I can hope anyway. If the port goes through with this I will certainly remember this at election time.
Tuesday, February 28 Report this