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Port of Siuslaw looks for ways to right ship

Port of Siuslaw looks for ways to right ship

WASHINGTON: At Wednesday’s Port of Siuslaw public meeting, commissioners and employees attempted to renew public confidence following the contentious dismissal of former port manager Steven Leskin. Leskin’s tenure led to numerous arguments between the commission and the manager, complaints from moorage customers and public disenchantment with the port and its policies. Administrative Assistant Dina McClure, who is currently acting as interim port manager, asked to begin the process of finding Leskin’s replacement. This is the second time McClure has assumed the role of interim manager, the first following the retirement of manager Bob Forsythe. McClure has been with the port since 2009. She suggested that an individual step in as an interim manager on a part time basis, saying, “I’m already getting behind in my administrative work because I’ve been wearing two hats.”

Commissioner Bill Meyer suggested caution in hiring a new manager too quickly. “What I worry about is, we’ve had a little bit of trouble the last four or five months. An outside individual may not be sure whether the problem was with the board or with someone else,” he said. “If Dina can agree to work in her position for a while, I would like the opportunity for the port to show the world that we’ve got our stuff together.” Commissioner Terry Duman agreed. “I think we need to rest on our laurels a bit and let things get even keeled.” Commissioner Mike Buckwald stated he wasn’t interested in hiring an interim manager, with Duman adding, “We already have a great interim manager.”

The commission agreed to give McClure latitude to hire extra help through the busy season, with the caveat that she remains as interim manager. Duman then requested McClure begin looking into options to push the development of the 40-acre industrial park the port owns, located at the end of the cul-de-sac in the Pacific View Industrial Park off Kingwood Street in Florence. The park, which had been in development for over a decade, has remained largely vacant since its inception. “Right now we’ve been sitting on this property for way too long and it’s just costing us money,” Duman said. “Our role as a port is not to just own this property. Let people develop it and bring commerce to the area.” He suggested putting a call out to multiple realty brokers to come up with solutions on how to present the park to potential buyers, including ideas for redesignating the property as commercial or residential.

The commission then tackled issues surrounding moorage customers’ complaints, specifically the requirement for vessels to have insurance. Leskin, who first implemented insurance requirements the previous year, faced criticism toward his tactics to ensure compliance, including soliciting lawyers for collections. Leskin felt this was vital to restore order and consistency with moorage customers. John Murphy, co-owner and agent from Coast Insurance Services Inc., researched what similar ports along the coast require and presented his findings to the board. In Murphy’s opinion, a minimum policy of $500,000 was needed for commercial vessels, and $100,000 for recreational. Leskin set the amounts at $1 million and $300,000, respectively. Murphy said he believed that the lower insurance would “make a better economic relationship with the tenants because we would be easier to deal with.”

For uninsured or underinsured vessels staying 10 days or less, a waiver would have to be signed waving the port’s liability in case of an accident, requiring the vessels “repair, at their own expense, or to reimburse the Port of Siuslaw for all losses, breakage, or damage that occur during their stay.” To further protect long-term port tenants, uninsured vessels would need to moor outside the main dock areas, staying in the transient dock on the west end of the port or one of the outside slips away from the main docks. Lastly, new roles were assigned to commissioners: Nancy Rickard nominated Duman as chair; Buckwald nominated Huntington as first vice-president; Duman nominated Rickard as second vice president; Duman nominated Buckwald to secretary; Rickard nominated Meyer for Treasurer. All positions were approved unanimously.