Bergerson Construction, one of the Port of Astoria’s longtime tenants, was asked to move from Pier 3 to make way for more logs from Astoria Forest Products.
The company announced in April that it would move its equipment and office from the central waterfront to North Tongue Point, but the reason behind the decision did not publicly come to light until this week.
Bergerson has been a tenant of the Port for more than 40 years and involved in many of the region’s marine construction projects, from rebuilding the city’s 17th Street Dock to repairing much of the Port’s infrastructure. In addition to property it had rented from the Port, the company owns an office building on Portway Street just outside the Port in Uniontown.
“There was increasing pressure to get us to move off of Pier 3,” said Greg Morrill, the company’s co-owner.
The pressure was related to expanding Astoria Forest Product’s area for logs to get more ships in each year, Morrill said. Astoria Forest Products’ business of exporting logs has recently been stalled by the trade war between the U.S. and China, with no new ships scheduled for next year.
Bergerson and the Port’s boatyard on Pier 3 have faced increasing pressure for space since Astoria Forest Products began processing logs there several years ago. Bergerson wanted to stay, but saw the writing on the wall and had already begun negotiations with boatbuilder Hyak Maritime for a new location, Morrill said.
The Port recently agreed to leave its lease at North Tongue Point, where the agency estimated it had lost $2 million while renting, so that Hyak could purchase the property and begin creating a boat fabrication and repair facility.
Moving to Tongue Point had not been a viable option until the purchase by Hyak, Morrill said, but the location provides more space and safer moorage for the company’s vessels.
“I think in the end, it will be a good deal for us,” Morrill said.
That Bergerson had been asked to leave had not come to light until Tuesday, when Port Commissioner Bill Hunsinger brought the matter up while complaining about the agency’s treatment of tenants during a discussion of the Port’s closure of a failing causeway at the East Mooring Basin.
Hunsinger said he had been told the Port will make $3,000 a month more by renting the property to Astoria Forest Products, but had not yet received any evidence of the increased revenue.
“That really bothers me, because we are definitely strapped for money,” he said.
Hunsinger has been critical of the Port’s decision to leave its lease prematurely at North Tongue Point so that Hyak could purchase the property. Now the Port is giving the company its tenants, he said.
“We’re getting rid of the best tenant we’ve ever had, and probably the longest tenant we’ve ever had, and we give them to our competitor, because that’s the only place they could go, even though they wanted to stay here,” Hunsinger said. “They have protected us in numerous occasions where we were in serious trouble. My question is: Why do we continue to treat tenants the way we treat them?”
Morrill said he is still on good terms with the Port, one of Bergerson’s largest local clients for dock work. The company has vacated all its rented properties on the central waterfront to North Tongue Point. The office building on Portway Avenue will likely become available the first half of next year, Morrill said.