Port approves bonds to fund projects

$4 million to be used for waterfront trail and Steigerwald Commerce Center

The Port of Camas-Washougal Commission has approved the issuance and sale of $4 million in bonds, to finance several improvements projects.

The commission voted 2-to-1, during its Jan. 20 meeting. Bill Ward cast the dissenting vote.

One series of limited tax general obligation bonds in the amount not to exceed $1 million (tax exempt) will be used for the waterfront trail project.

A series of bonds not to exceed $3 million (taxable) will finance construction of Building 17, in the Steigerwald Commerce Center and renovations to the building leased by Westlie Ford, at 40 Marina Way.

Port Finance Director Kim Noah said there is a cap on the maximum interest rate that the port will accept for each bond. For the tax exempt bonds, the interest rate cap is 3.65 percent. For the taxable bonds, it is 5 percent.

After some discussion, Ward said he wanted to postpone the vote.

Commissioner Bill Macrae-Smith made a motion to approve the bond issue, and Mark Lampton seconded the motion.

“I had asked for, and was promised, an explanation of why the proportion of tax exempt bonds — carrying a significantly lower interest rate translating into much lower costs to the port — was so low, roughly only 25 percent,” Ward said. “I wanted to explore how more of the bond total could be made tax exempt, thus reducing carrying costs over many years.

“I am ashamed of the commission’s action,” he added. “There was no urgency to sign. As elected representatives of the public, it’s the duty of commissioners to understand terms being agreed to. It’s also our job to manage the expenditure of public funds. There is no excuse for rubber stamping approvals in order to go home early.”

Prior to the vote, Noah said she would be concerned about the port’s cash flow if the bond issuance was not approved that evening.

Port Executive Director David Ripp said Building 17 is expected to cost $2.8 million.

The project is scheduled to break ground this summer, and construction is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

“It’s February, and June is right around the corner,” Ripp said.