Port OKs increased budget

The agency's $15.4 million spending plan includes money for work in Burbank and at the airport.

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WALLA WALLA -- Port of Walla Walla commissioners approved a roughly $15.4 million budget that will continue the development of the economic development agency's Burbank Business Park with major utility work in 2012.

Other capital projects on the agenda for 2012: aviation ramp repairs at the Walla Walla Regional Airport, additional improvements for the new Dell Avenue artist colony, water line and fire hydrant extension on Dodd Road and a much-needed expansion of the airport parking lot to accommodate air travelers, officials said.

The new budget, which includes funding for Port and airport operations, is about $3 million more than the Port started with at the beginning of this year. Officials said they expect to end this year with nearly $3.4 million in reserves, which contributes to the budget hike. The agency is also working on a sale of its Melrose Avenue plant to Columbia Rural Electric Association in a more than $5 million deal.

"We had a good year financially," Commissioner Paul Schneidmiller said in an interview. "We're going to try to do some good things with the finances that came from that."

The 2012 budget was adopted, 2-0, by Schneidmiller and fellow Commissioner Ron Dunning during a roughly 11/2-hour special Port Commission meeting Tuesday. Commissioner Mike Fredrickson had a planned excused absence from the meeting.

The Port will not increase its regular property tax levy for 2012. The agency expects to receive additional revenue from new construction, property improvements, new wind turbines and increased value of state assessed property, among other things.

One item that was not discussed as part of the budget meeting was the salary of Executive Director Jim Kuntz.

Over the last several months the executive director's salary has come under fire by critics who say he is overpaid. Last year's compensation included $134,726 in annual wages plus $25,000 in deferred compensation, which Kuntz receives in whole for staying through the year.

The 2012 Port budget included $317,34 for administrative payroll overall, as well as $25,000 for deferred compensation. Schneidmiller said the deferred compensation allocation is a "placeholder" in the budget and has not been approved or yet discussed among commissioners.

In addition to the other capital projects, the budget also includes a previously reported allotment of $100,000 for new audio recording equipment and furniture so the Port can begin recording its meetings for the public.

Schneidmiller said preliminary research has shown the actual amount for audio equipment to be closer to the $30,000 range. He said it's not likely the Port will spend $100,000 for the new change.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

Capital project highlights

Walla Walla Regional Airport:

Phase 3 Aviation Ramp Repairs, $2.6 million (95 percent of the funding comes from the Federal Aviation Administration)

Traditional roof replacements and road chip sealing projects. No one project costs more than $60,000.

Port of Walla Walla

Burbank sewer line connection to the city of Pasco: $1,412,000

Burbank Phase I water and sewer infrastructure to serve the Burbank Business Park: $1,525,000 (That expense will only move forward if the sewer line connection to Pasco is fully permitted and constructed.)

Airport Terminal Building parking lot expansion of 46 new stalls: $137,700

Dodd Road water line and fire hydrant extension: $132,000

Dell Ave artist colony: Additional property improvements, $100,000.

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