Lifelong Learning Center PDA to raise funds after OK of Worden lease

By Charlie Bermant
and Leah Leach
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT TOWNSEND — Now that the state has approved a lease that sets the stage for the co-management of Fort Worden State Park, the Lifelong Learning Center Public Development Authority must come up with a total of $550,000.

Of that, $300,000 for startup costs will come from private donations and grants, while $250,000 for the first three years of operating expenses will be covered by a line of credit, said Dave Robison, PDA executive director.

Some of the money will come from revenue opportunities negotiated into the final 50-year lease agreement, he said.

The lease sets up the structure for the PDA's management of the “campus” portions of the 434-acre park — about one-fourth of the park and including most of the buildings — while State Parks will continue to manage the camping, beach and recreation areas.

Under the lifelong learning center concept, the academic campus will be managed by the PDA to offer educational and recreational options.

A $300,000 mobilization fund is required for startup costs for a new reservation system, a new website, marketing and other expenses, Robison said.

Taxpayers will not be asked to approve money for the PDA. The PDA is not a taxing district and under state statute cannot raise taxes, Robison said.

It does have the ability to bond “but we have to have the financial wherewithal to have bonding capacity and since we're a startup organization, bonding would come down the line,” he said.

“We've been funding the PDA for the last year with donations, so now we will go back and ask some of key supporters to step up and invest in the long-term health of the lifelong learning center,” Robison said.

The $250,000 line of credit is for cash-flow purposes for the first three years, he said.

“We've been working with a financial institution to secure [a line of credit],” Robison said.

“I don't think that will be a problem for us at all.”

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission approved the lease in a unanimous vote in Anacortes on Thursday.

“This has been a long, long process,” Robison said.

“We have come up with an innovative and exciting agreement that will lay the foundation for what happens next at Fort Worden.”

The lease agreement is expected to be signed after it is vetted for consistency by lawyers for both the Department of Interior and the Washington State Recreation Commission Office, Robison said.

This could occur within the next 30 days, park officials say, and will begin the process of preparing for the scheduled May 1 beginning of the lease.

The PDA is the state's tenant, but will pay no rent. It will have other responsibilities — such as to seek appropriate tenants for the park and execute subleases — as well as revenue sources.

During lease negotiations, the PDA originally asked the state to provide a $250,000 cash subsidy for the first three years of operation, Robison said.

In lieu of that, the final agreement provides PDA with revenue opportunities that were not part of the original proposal, he said.

For example, the PDA is taking over the administration of the campgrounds. That is expected to bring in more than $50,000 annually.

The PDA also will renovate ranger housing and rent it out, generating an additional $40,000 annually, Robison added.

Also, State Parks will cover maintenance for the first three years, Robison said.

Robison said the PDA has created four committees — covering host services, technology, marketing and business development — which will begin meetings in the next few weeks.

Committee recommendations will be incorporated into the startup plan.

Donations for the PDA have come largely from “retired people in Port Townsend who care deeply about our community, about the potential of Fort Worden State Park and of the lifelong learning center,” Robison said.

“It's a tremendous community that wants to invest in its future.”

Robison said that the commissioners “seemed to get more and more comfortable” with the lease as the discussion continued and members were satisfied with the final product.

“This is a bold agreement and a risk for both sides,” Robison said.

“But the master lease really does reflect a win/win for both parties.”



Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Managing Editor/News Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3531 or at leah.leach@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: August 11. 2013 6:36PM
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