By Tuesday of next week, the Port of Astoria plans to have a log export lease with Westerlund Log Handlers ready for commission approval.
"We've got it pretty well ironed out," Port Commissioner Dan Hess said Tuesday night.
After an executive session, the board scheduled a special meeting for 6 p.m. Tuesday to revisit the lease, which is currently confidential.
In the meantime, the Port Commission agreed 4-0 to buy the Pier 1 building for $1.7 million to settle its lawsuit with Columbia Bank, parent to Bank of Astoria. Commissioner Floyd Holcom abstained from the vote, citing his ownership of Pier 39 as a possible conflict of interest.
The three-story commercial building on Pier 1, also known as the Taggart Building, was built by former Port Commissioner Glenn?Taggart and his father, Charles Taggart. The Port owns the ground underneath the building and leases space inside the building for its marina offices. Columbia Bank, based in Tacoma, Wash., foreclosed on the building in 2008, and the?Port has been trying to buy it from the bank ever since. Last year, the Port put the bank in default of the ground lease, and the bank sued the Port.
The building's value dropped from $2.1 million when it was first built to $1.56 million in an appraisal completed last summer.
"We've been through foreclosure, bankruptcies, and sheriff sales with the Taggart Building," Crider said. "We've been through a lawsuit with the bank."
Crider said the best the Port could get through settlement negotiations with the bank was $1.7 million - which is well within the $1.8 million the Port budgeted for the building purchase. Clatsop Community Bank agreed to finance the purchase with temporary interest rate relief to give the Port time to get tenants in the building and start making rent money.
The Commission also heard hints Tuesday that the Red Lion Inn in Astoria is looking at terminating its Port land lease early - before the 2013 end date - following a second building inspection. A hotel room balcony collapsed in November, sending several guests into the marina below. The hotel has been closed a few months.
Crider said a recent inspection showed a need for repairs that might not end up paying off within the three-year lifespan remaining on the lease.
"It's a tired hotel," he said. "We still feel it can be open, but we're not too excited about running a hotel."
The hotel has submitted options to the Port for reopening as well as opting out of its lease with the Port. The options were not presented Tuesday, nor were any decisions made on the hotel's future.
After an executive session, Crider said Port has an operational, storm water and truck routing plan for the Westerlund log-export project, and the lease could be ready for a vote next week.
"We've got just a couple of legal issues we need to address," he said.
Among the legal issues is an approval needed from the state of Oregon to use Pier 3 for cargo operations. The Westerlund project would store logs on Pier 3 and ship them off Pier 1 for at least the first two years of operation.
When the Port pledged Pier 3, along with Pier 2, as collateral on a $10.5 million state loan for the Bornstein Seafoods processing plant, the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department held the Port to a specific list of uses for those piers.
Anything outside the uses listed in the Port's master plan would need a separate state approval, the collateral agreement says. The Port is still operating under its 2003 master plan, although a new one is nearly complete.
Log exports were a staple of the Port's business plans for decades, but they weren't included in the 2003 master plan, which was focused on developing a marine services center, tourism and seafood processing on the central waterfront.
Loud complaintsBornstein Seafood managers have complained loudly about possible conflicts between their business and the Port's plan to lease Pier 1, Pier 3 and a roadway in between to ship logs to Asia.
A draft of the log export plans will be shared with Port tenants, excluding financial information.
Westerlund Vice President Roger Nance asked that some elements of the lease remain confidential until the deal is signed.
"It's not the tenants I'm concerned about so much as the competition," he said.
Kurt Englund of Englund Marine & Industrial Supply asked the Port Commission to make sure tenants have "ample time" to review the log export plan before it's signed. He was the only person who spoke about the log plan Tuesday.
In other business, the board:
? voted 5-0 to apply for a $50,000 upland disposal grant of matching grant funds from the Oregon Marine Navigation Improvement Fund. The money would help pay to turn the city of Warrenton's north sewer lagoon into an upland dredge disposal site for the lower Columbia River. Upland storage is required when dredge material is too contaminated to be pumped into the Columbia River channel.
? announced it will wait for an updated draft of a settlement agreement with Oregon LNG, which is suing the Port for breach of contract over its lese of 92 acres on Warrenton's Skipanon Peninsula.
? heard updates on fire safety at North Tongue Point, where the Port may have to change its zoning designations with the city of Astoria to meet fire codes. Two boat-builders, J&H Boatworks and Pacific Expedition Yachts, are leasing space from the Port inside a hangar at the North Tongue Point industrial facility, but the zoning doesn't match the new uses for the space.
? heard a brief report from cruise ship coordinator Bruce Conner of Sundial Travel, who said the first cruise ship of the spring season is due to arrive Sunday. On April 28, the Port and cruise hosts will have a "practice round" of arranging activities on Pier 1 as if there is a log yard there, he said.
? heard a report from Crider that construction work has begun on the pedestrian trail through Port property.