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NOAA could give Bay a boost

Posted: Friday, May 1st, 2009




Officials giving Port of Newport serious

consideration as homeport



The Port of Newport has emerged as a serious contender to provide the new site of homeport operations for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Marine Operations Center - Pacific (MOC-P).

Port officials returned from an April 29 negotiations session at the NOAA Western Regional Center in Seattle buoyed by what they heard.

“They asked us to give them a final and best offer,” Port Manager Don Mann told the News-Times Thursday morning. “We have all the ingredients. Now we need to refine our proposal.”

If successful, the port would become the landlord with NOAA as tenant under a 20-year renewable lease.

Mann, port commissioners Ginny Goblirsch and David Jincks, Newport City Council member Patricia Patrick-Joling, Mike Schmidt and Craig Totten from KPPF Consulting Engineers, and Bill Vermie and Paul Cederwall from Pacific Northwest Consultants met with NOAA representatives to discuss details of the port’s proposal, and what they must do to enhance their chances of earning the final nod. James Barrows, NOAA’s contracting officer, requested the in-person meeting in an April 21 letter to Mann that included a list of topics for discussion to make the session “as productive and interactive as possible.”

According to Barrows, the list represented “some of the weaknesses and deficiencies” in the port’s proposal.

Mann said the three-hour discussion focused on how port officials could overcome those issues. “They seemed very interested and enthusiastic, and offered some pointers on how to refine our response,” he said, noting that NOAA officials plan to send a letter within a week formalizing the request for a final bid.

One of their concerns centered on the port’s cost analysis for managing the facility. NOAA officials considered the cited costs “low in some areas” compared to the other proposals, and questioned how realistic those costs might be.

“Our numbers were real,” Mann said. “We made our proposal based on this being a great economic development opportunity for Oregon.” Looking beyond immediate economic benefits and considering the potential long-term development possibilities helped them craft a plan that would generate enough revenue without imposing an excessively high rent, he noted.



Fine-tuning

NOAA officials are evaluating all proposals based on price and technical considerations. Location, site compatibility, site configuration and management, past performance, project financing, and quality of life are among the vital factors beyond price.

Port officials submitted their initial proposal in February. They now have 30 days to fine-tune and submit the revised version.

Initially considered a major drawback, the current lack of facilities - buildings, docks, piers, and more - requiring as much as a $25-million to $30-million investment, could emerge as somewhat of an advantage. NOAA officials prefer having their own compound, not something cobbled together from existing facilities.

“We’d be starting from scratch, not renovating old property,” Mann pointed out. “So we could really contour it to their desire and needs, and we would be able to work with them closely” on pier design and upland development. While the port has certain criteria to meet, Mann said they could work on alternative designs that “provide what they want, but cost less.”



Backing the bid

A key aspect of the process is to show evidence of the port’s and community’s ability to build and maintain the facility. Top-to-bottom community involvement and backing is vital.

“The more community support we can show, the better our chances,” said Mann, asking for letters and e-mails of support that focus on the benefits NOAA would derive by locating in Newport - something compelling and unique well beyond the stated award factors.

The original proposal featured 17 letters of support, among them missives from county commissioners Bill Hall, Terry Thompson, and Don Lindly; Newport Urban Renewal Agency Chair Patricia Patrick-Joling; and Newport Mayor Bill Bain.

Mann said an April 28 letter - signed by Gov. Ted Kulongoski, Senate President Peter Courtney, speaker of the House Dave Hunt, Rep. Jean Cowan, and Sen. Joanne Verger and carried to the negotiation session - made a great impression. The letter cited the state’s commitment “to assist in any way possible” by working with NOAA and the port to identify resources “to ensure a successful relocation.”

Mann said port officials and their consultants and community partners must now take full advantage of their second chance to make a good impression. “We need to make our best pitch,” he noted.

A show of community support could buoy the proposal enough for it to float to the top.

Those who back the endeavor can mail a brief (no more than one page), concise, persuasive letter to: Don Mann, General Manager, Port of Newport, 600 SE Bay Blvd., Newport, OR 97365, or fax them to 265-4235. E-mails should go to portman@portofnewport.com. Anyone with questions about the proposal or support letter contents should call the port office at 265-7758.



Terry Dillman is the assistant editor of the News-Times. Contact him at (541) 265-8571, ext 225, or terrydillman@newportnewstimes.com.



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