By Cynthia Washicko
In a Jan. 14 meeting, the Port of Chinook appointed Gary Kobes as the commission’s newest member and chairman. Kobes called for the formation of two port committees to support the commission and encourage community engagement with the port.
The commission also unanimously voted to make the port a member of the Washington Public Ports Association, authorized Port Manager Guy Glenn to represent the Port of Chinook at various meetings, and appointed Tricia Needham as the port auditor. Glenn was appointed as manager for the Port of Chinook under the recent interlocal agreement between the ports of Chinook and Ilwaco, and Needham is also the finance director for the Port of Ilwaco.
Kobes took the place of former commissioner Corky Wilson, who resigned in December. His appointment as chairman rounds out a port commission that is now comprised of three new commissioners. Kathy Colvin, who mounted a successful write in campaign against former commissioner Les Clark, assumed her post effective Jan. 1, and Jerry Cox was appointed by the commission to fill Ken Greenfield’s position after Greenfield resigned in October.
One attendee asked whether the Chinook financial advisory committee would continue to function, raising concerns about what the port would do to prevent running into similar financial issues in the future.
Kobes, who chaired the finance committee, said the group will continue to be in place. The committee, however, is not there to provide a counterbalance to the commission, he said.
“The checks and balances is primarily the auditor,” Kobes said. “The finance committee will continue to function and they’ll have access to all of this information.”
Needham added that it will take time before some of the formal processes to keep port financing in check can be fully implemented. At the time of the meeting, the ports of Chinook and Ilwaco had only been working together on the previously passed interlocal agreement for fewer than 15 days.
“We’ll have regular financial reporting,” Needham said. “That will all come in time, and we are very aware of what the financial condition is.”
In addition to the existing finance committee, Kobes said he would like to see the formation of two additional committees to support the port commission.
One would be an operations committee to deal with issues related to use of the harbor by recreational and commercial fishers. The other would be a long range planning committee to focus on building up the port over the coming years.
The committees would not only give support to the commissioners moving forward, but would also open up chances for more community involvement in the port, Kobes said.
Pacific County approved two short-term loans to the Port of Chinook in November,
according to Pacific County commission
One of the loans is for up to $100,000, according to the agreement between the port and Pacific County. Most of the funds from that loan will go to paying off the remainder of the port’s debt to Wilcox & Flegel Oil Co., Kobes said.
The port still owes Wilcox roughly $88,000, and the deadline to pay that amount was set for the end of January, Glenn said.
The loan agreement must be approved by the port commission, and then by the county commission, but was projected to be finished by the end of the month to allow the port to meet its deadline with Wilcox, Needham said.
“(The county is) aware that Wilcox has been promised that we have a do-or-die deadline at the end of January or it will cost the port significantly more in late fees and penalties,” Needham said.
The first loan must be paid in full by July 31, according to the agreement.
The second loan, is a $50,000 working line of credit for would give the port a financial cushion for its 2016 finances. The interest on both loans will be 3 percent, according to the agreement.
A representative of the Washington State Auditor’s Office visited the Port of Chinook on Jan. 19.
Deputy Director of Communications for the SAO Adam Wilson said in an email that the office is conducting an accountability audit at the port. The accountability audit is the same procedure the office regularly conducts, he said, but work began earlier than scheduled at the port commission’s request.
Commissioner Kathy Colvin previously said she has seen red flags in documents outlining past port finances, and that she would push for an audit of the port as commissioner.