The Port of Astoria Commission on Tuesday approved an updated strategic business plan more than two years in the making, inching closer to the possibility of more state funding to help fix crumbling infrastructure.
The Port contracted Mary McArthur, executive director of the Columbia-Pacific Economic Development District, to create the plan, which focuses on returning the Port to financial stability and public credibility over the next two years.
An approved plan is required for the Port to get more grants and loans from Business Oregon, the state’s economic development agency, which has funded many of the Port’s infrastructure improvements.
The highest priority is repairing the rapidly deteriorating Pier 2, where seafood processing companies employ hundreds during busy fishing seasons. Port staff have estimated the pier needs at least $7 million in repairs.
Commissioner Robert Stevens had taken issue with references throughout the document to the Port’s past misdeeds and political dramas. McArthur took a hard line that the references to the past were a necessary acknowledgement to show the Port is making amends and moving forward. Stevens on Tuesday asked for some minor, last-minute changes but otherwise joined other Port commissioners in praising McArthur’s work.
“It’s just my job,” McArthur responded with a smile.
“I think she’s done more than her job,” said Dirk Rohne, the commission’s president. “I think she’s gone above and beyond to help us move forward.”
Melanie Olson, a regional development officer with Business Oregon, said it would take four to six weeks to approve the plan. Approval could be delayed by the recent retirement of Dave Harlan, former director of ports for Business Oregon.
Rohne called on the Port to continually refer to the strategic plan and make changes as the agency’s situation hopefully improves.
“If there’s more good than bad, we’ll take out bad and put in good,” he said.
Sue Transue, the Port’s director of terminal and commercial services, said the Port is reviewing its professional services agreement with Bruce Conner, the agency’s cruise ship marketer.
Conner was recently fined by the Oregon Government Ethics Commission for not disclosing his role with the Port and how it might benefit his company, Sundial Travel, which markets shore excursions to cruise lines. The Port is also working on new leases for Sundial Travel and the Clatsop Cruise Hosts, she said.
The Port will begin next month moving out of its offices on the third floor of Pier 1 and back into its former headquarters in the Gateway Building on Gateway Avenue. The Port will lease the third-floor offices on Pier 1 to health care group Watershed Wellness starting in December.
The Port is keeping open applications for a permanent advisory finance committee it is forming to help advise the agency. Applications for the committee closed Wednesday with only three candidates from the community out of the five necessary.