Two buildings on Port front burner

Jan. 26, 2011

After a quick swearing-in of newly-appointed commissioner Rich McBride last week, Port of Hood River commissioners went quickly down the list of items at their most recent board meeting. Among the many projects the agency has their hands in, a few stood out over the rest.

The History Museum of Hood River County:

Connie Nice, History Museum director, addressed the board about the museum's future plans at its current location. The building is owned by the county but the Port owns the land and has leased it to the county for many years.

After exploring the possibility of moving the museum to a new location off Tucker Road, adjacent to the Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum (WAAAM), the museum board decided the best option was to stay at the port location and renovate the building.

"We've scaled our plans down quite a bit from what we originally presented," Nice said to the board last week. "As you know, this has been a long and slow process; but pending your approval, we are ready to go on phase one of the project."

Nice said that the economy over the last few years influenced the museum board to change the original five-phase expansion plan into a two-phase plan; the first being a retrofit of the building and the second a modest expansion.

Nice also said that through fundraising, the museum has the roughly $300,000 needed for the expansion. The board agreed to continue working with the museum on the first phase, but before work can start a couple of issues need to be resolved.

The first issue is Oregon Department of Transportation property lines cut through the museum's parking lot and near the entrance on the south side of the building. The board said it would like to see an easement arranged with ODOT to move that line farther from the building to avoid any conflicts in the future with either increased traffic or a phase two expansions.

The second issue is the lease of the property with the Port. The current lease agreement runs through 2017, but both the museum and the port agreed that investing any significant money in the building would only be appropriate if the port committed to continuing the lease agreement for the long term future.

Another concern from the board was the economy and decreasing county general funds that help fund the museum.

"Given the state of the county budget, how stable do you feel your operations are," commissioner Sherry Bohn asked Nice.

"I don't have a crystal ball, but I think the worst scenario would be losing my position," Nice said. She later explained that about 50 percent the museum's funding comes from county general funds, and that with renovations cutting down on operation costs and increasing attendance, and a planned admission fee starting this summer, that percent should go down even more.

The Halyard Building:

For several months, the Port was working with Hood River-based Advanced Navigation and Positioning Corporation on a deal that would see the brand new 20,000 square-foot building leased to one tenant. Timing on the deal, however, did not line up as both sides had originally planned.

ANPC, a high-tech company that develops transponder landing systems for small and usually isolated airports/airstrips, needs to land at least one of three major contracts it is expecting before making the move from its current Third St. location. The contracts are still in the works, however, so the Port has moved to consider leases with other tenants.

"The bottom line is, we're just not ready yet," said Jeff Mains, ANPC president and CEO. "It's only a matter of time; but unfortunately we can't control the speed of these contracts … If we don't end up in the Halyard Building, too bad. We've gone pretty far down the path as far as planning for that space."

Mains said his company is working on major contracts in Brazil, Bangladesh and Nigeria; any of which would be a "major game changer" for the company. Until then, however, things are pretty well on hold for ANPC's staff, many of whom were furloughed earlier this month until a contract is secured.

"It literally could be any day," Mains said. "And they are going to be big-time game changers. This is the culmination of years and years of effort that are finally about to pay off."

In the mean time, however, Michael McElwee, Port executive director, said other tenants are pursuing leases for the Halyard Building.

"It was originally designed for multiple tenants," he said. "We have two tenants that are seriously interested; we're in final negotiations with one … ANPC has been a terrific group to work with and they have some exciting prospects on the horizon; unfortunately the timing just wasn't right."

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