By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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The Lifelong Learning Center Public Development Authority board members, meeting at the Cotton Building on Wednesday morning discussed the boundaries of the proposed agreement as well as what to leave out.
“We have a lot to do before our next deadline, and I don't know how we are going to address all these issues in the level of detail that we need,” said PDA Board Chair Cindy Hill Finnie.
Added PDA Executive Director Dave Robison: “This is a business plan and not a management agreement or a budget document.
“After the business plan is approved, we will develop these other plans.”
The public development authority aims to manage a lifelong learning center at the park, using existing buildings for educational purposes.
Under the plan, the state parks system would continue to operate and maintain the campgrounds and park area while the public development authority would manage a lifelong learning center “campus,” which consists of about 100 historical business.
The final draft plan will be submitted to the state Parks and Recreation Commission on Oct. 25 and is expected to be addressed at the commission's Dec. 6 meeting.
In preparation, the board will submit a draft plan on Oct. 15 to Gov. Chris Gregoire's office.
The draft will incorporate suggestions gathered from independent consultant Rick McPherson and Jim Cahill, senior budget assistant to Gregoire.
On Wednesday morning, the public development authority board passed a motion for two teams to implement the suggestions from each source.
The result is to be presented at the PDA's next scheduled meeting at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Cotton Building, 607 Water St., Port Townsend.
The next draft of the plan, with input from both documents, is expected to be posted on the PDA's website, www.fwpda.org, by Monday.
In his written comments, McPherson said that the financial impact on the park system needs to be specified and whether the agreement could have a negative effect on park operations.
McPherson also asked what would happen if the financial forecasts in the plan didn't come true, and how the outstanding liabilities would be covered.
“We don't think it will fail,” said PDA board member Scott Wilson, who is also the publisher of the weekly Port Townsend Leader.
“But what we will do if it does fail is something that will have to be determined.”
In a worst-case scenario, the public development authority would manage areas of the park for a period of time but fail to generate the projected revenues.
At that point, the PDA would return control of Fort Worden to the parks system.
While the beleaguered parks system might not be equipped to resume that responsibility, the public development authority would have made improvements during its stewardship that would not occur if the parks system had maintained uninterrupted control of the park, Wilson said.
Robison said that the successful management of the parks by the public development authority would be a positive outcome for both entities.
“State Parks does not have a Plan B,” Robison said.
“There is no plan in place for the continued maintenance of Fort Worden if the PDA does not take over the management of the campus,” he added.
In his comments, Cahill said that more detailed financial information is needed.
“The current draft does not clearly describe or compare the current levels of the [state parks] commission operating and maintaining the Fort Worden Campus Area,” Cahill wrote.
“This information must be provided to make informed decisions related to the management of the campus by the PDA.”
Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.