Jefferson County Commissioners have approved a forgivable $ 150,000 loan to the Fort Warden Community Development Agency, which will be used to study what is needed to convert the old barracks into a workers’ dormitory at the fort.
Commissioners initially approved a $ 150,000 grant for the same project in 2019, but the KPC never used the grant and it expired.
Although the initial $ 150,000 request was approved as a grant two years ago, Fort Worden PDA chief executive David Timmons has since asked for it again as a forgivable loan, which would be converted into a grant if the organization could provide some funding. goals.
Funding will be used to fully verify Building 203. to identify repair needs. The ten-year loan will be structured so that interest is deferred for the first three years with interest and principal payments for the remaining seven years of the project if KPC ultimately decides not to carry out renovations.
If the project is funded within the first three years, the loan will be forgiven.
The renovation will provide sleeping areas on the ground floor for 32-64 seasonal employees and students, and up to 100 beds on the second floor, which will be used for large group events that Centrum and other organizations host at the fort.
The KPC plans to receive historic tax breaks similar to those used for the Makers Square project to pay for repairs.
The building’s renovation is currently estimated at $ 9 million, Timmons said, with a third of it coming from tax breaks.
The 19,344-square-foot century-old barracks has 32 bedrooms and
Capacity 136 people. The interior was converted into a juvenile correctional facility earlier in the 1960s, but the electrical, plumbing and heating systems are outdated.
The County Public Infrastructure Fund Board met earlier this month to review the funding request and recommend loan approval.
The loan request did cause some concern before it was approved by the commissioners on Monday.
Tom Thirsh said the Fort Worden PDA has been on the brink of financial ruin since last year due to lower revenues amid the COVID-19 pandemic and debts caused by transferring money earmarked for construction projects to day-to-day expenses. daytime transactions – no government money should be given away until the CCP has cleaned up its financial house.
The PDA is currently being reviewed by the State Auditor and the results of the fraud investigation have not yet been published.
“If you give them a loan, do you really think they will pay it back?” Tirsh asked the commissars. “The CCP, as far as I understand, does not deserve anything in terms of government funding until they pass a clean check.”
“This organization is an example of misconduct, malfeasance, misappropriation of public funds,” he said.
“This place is a complete mess. He doesn’t deserve any support from public funds until they get their finances in order.
“People who screw up have serious consequences; The board and everyone else who makes decisions about this, ”he added.
Thirsh urged the board to reject the public infrastructure loan request.
“This is just the wrong thing to do at the moment,” he said.
After further discussion of the loan application, the committee members voted to approve the loan.
“I thank them for taking on this,” said Commissioner Heidi Eisenhour of the renovation project.