WALLA WALLA — “Building” is the buzzword for the Port of Walla Walla as it starts the new year with a bigger-than-usual budget.
Bolstered by the 2012 sale of the Port’s Melrose Street property to Columbia Rural Electric Association for about $5.3 million, the economic development agency plans to spend more than $10 million on infrastructure projects in 2013, according to projections pending and approved.
An elevated water tower in the Dodd Road Wallula area is pending, as are $2.1 million in rail improvements and a $2 million sewer transmission line in Burbank.
Projects that have been given the green light for the year include the Railex Road extension to Raindance Road at $489,338; development of the new Waitsburg Business Park at $370,000; expansion of the airport parking lot at $194,000; and the relocation of a well in Burbank at $184,587.
The roughly $23.5 million budget for the Port and Walla Walla Regional Airport was approved at the end of November and was further clarified during the last meeting of December when the three Port commissioners also approved a 1 percent salary increase for Port Executive Director Jim Kuntz.
The raise brings his salary for 2013 to $151,500, despite a request from Walla Walla resident Carlan Bradshaw during a Dec. 13 meeting to forgo any increase.
The Port commissioners voted not to increase the regular property tax levy for 2013. The actual levy amount from 2012 was $1.8 million. Port officials expect to receive additional revenue from new construction, property improvements, new wind turbines and increased value of state assessed property, among other things.
The more than $23 million budget is up nearly $8 million from last year. But Port Commission President Paul Schneidmiller said that’s largely because of last year’s sale of the Melrose Street property.
“It’s a little bit of a unique situation for 2013,” he said. “I think that’s more of a one-time thing. I don’t believe we’ll see this as much in future years.”
Other projects on the horizon for the year include extension of Railex Road to the new wine warehouse at Railex ($60,000); roofing replacement at Cott (formerly Cliffstar) ($48,000); removal of an abandoned gas line in Burbank ($40,000); and roofing at Burbank Frontier Transport ($30,000).
A couple of the major projects are holdovers from 2012. That includes the expansion of airport parking with more than 45 new stalls and work on the Burbank sewer connection to Pasco.