Port of Astoria Commissioner Bill Hunsinger rose from his seat at Tuesday night’s Commission meeting, approached the podium during public comment and presented himself as a member of the public wanting to bring the agency’s attention to a possible business opportunity.
He talked about Ocean Cold, a 95,000-square-foot cold storage and processing facility in Westport, Wash., and how Astoria could profit from a similar facility, whether via the Port, Clatsop County or another agency that takes the lead.
“The seafood industry isn’t the only one that wants this cold storage,” said Hunsinger. “In Westport, they did 1 million pounds of product last year.”
Ocean Cold, built in 2008, has 1.8 million cubic feet of freezers and adjacent processing space. It mostly stores Dungeness crab, pacific whiting, anchovies, sardines and other fish products.
Hunsinger said the Port has the land for a cold storage facility, and good locations for it include North Tongue Point and the Astoria Regional Airport in Warrenton. He added that grants and interested businesses could help pay for the facility, for which he threw out an estimate of $13 million to build.
There’s an as of yet unnamed tenant, he said, who could occupy half the cold storage space of a similar sized facility to Westport’s in Astoria.
“If it’s economical, it’s something we should look at vigorously,” said Commissioner Jack Bland.
Commissioner Floyd Holcom said four years and eight months ago, the same subject was brought up, with a lot of tenants needing cold storage and having to take their product to the Willamette Valley.
“I’ve got letters from these people” supporting a possible facility, said Hunsinger, back in his commission seat, “so it’s not just a pipe dream.”
Roscoe stumps for Regatta
In other action, former Astoria City Councilman Peter Roscoe, who was recently named president of the revived Astoria Regatta, asked the Port for its continued support of the Regatta. He said people are excited about focusing more on the Columbia River.
“We want to make the boat parade a bigger parade than it’s been in the last few years,” said Roscoe.
He asked the Port if it would be willing to offer free moorage for the day to visiting vessels and a discount to locals who put their watercraft in the parade.
“I can see that as an incentive to get people out on the water,” he said. “When it gets to the parade part, we need some orchestration on that.”
The Port of Astoria has historically given money each year to help with the Regatta, as well as helping with the parade and other organizational aspects. CEO Hank Bynaker said the monetary donation is somewhere around $1,000.
“You mention Regatta, the Port’s going to have a part in it whether they like it or not,” said Holcom, pointing to the Astoria Yacht Club now being a tenant of the Port. “Of course we like it.”
The three Port Commissioners present all exhibited support for the event, which was nearly cancelled because of a lack of volunteers. Herb Florer, director of the Port’s seaport division, said that if 20 boats went on the water, the discounted moorage wouldn’t be a significant hit to the Port.
Roscoe said he’s been heartened by community support so far, including a space offering by the Columbia River Maritime Museum and Columbia Memorial Hospital offering the former seafood center for the Admiral’s Luncheon.
“There’s even talk about bringing back the salmon derby,” said Roscoe.
Hunsinger said the Regatta should focus on the lives of commercial fishermen.
Audit results available soon
Bynaker reported that he’s received and reviewed a draft of the Port’s latest audit, and that it should be available soon.
He said the Port’s overall financial picture has improved compared to the year prior, including an increase in net assets of $548,347. He added that operating revenues increased by $894,239 (14.2-percent increase) while operating expenses only increased by $235,341 (3.2-percent increase).
“We’re going to continue our efforts to increase revenue,” said Bynaker, adding that he’s still working to defer or forgive Port loans. He said he’s going to Washington D.C. this year to drum up legislative support and to China to talk with potential partners for the rehabilitation of Pier 3.
The auditor, said Bynaker, will come to the Port meeting in February to talk about the audit.
Holcom said he needs a road map from Bynaker on how he’s going to continue increasing revenue.
“My point is we need to get the troops out there looking for business,” he said. “I’m looking for your game plan.”
In other news:
• The Port Commission voted unanimously to extend the leases of Northwest Wild Products and Total Fisherman, both tenants of the Chinook Building. Northwest Wild Products, operated by Amanda Cordero at 300 Industry St., offers all types of seafood and exotic meat products, along with meals, canned and other items. Total Fisherman, operated by Kevin Newell at 300 Industry St., Suite 144, offers fishing gear and chartered trips. Both leases start Feb. 1, end Jan. 31, 2015, and have an option to extend another two years.
• The Port heard a presentation by Tammi Fitch, who manages many of its insurance policies. She said the Port has almost no accidents, which means it can negotiate for lower rates of coverage. She added that instead of worrying about fire, theft and vandalism coverage on its piers, wharfs and docks, the Port should focus on getting floods and tsunamis covered. It’s no guarantee, said Fitch, but the Federal Emergency Management Agency has in the past covered 75 percent of the damage done to public entities by a natural disaster.
• Mike Weston, director of business operations and development, said Bergerson Construction will start by the end of January on a restoration of Pier 2, funded by a $1 million grant secured from the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Connect IV infrastructure funding program.
• Pacific Expedition Yachts, which had its lease run out Jan. 1, has still not vacated its warehouse space at North Tongue Point. Weston said he’s in contact with attorneys about how to get the company out and resolve outstanding bills. He said there are a couple of tenants interested in the space, which has been used for work on fiberglass yachts, but it needs to be vacated and cleaned. He added that the Port is trying to work on a short-term rental agreement with boat owners who told him Pacific Expedition is behind on its work and they need more time to get their vessels finished.
This story originally appeared in Daily Astorian.