|Richmond Council Delays Port Security Project, Continues to Weigh Options
May 2, 2012
The City Council party of “NO,” Nat Bates and Corky Booze continued their personal attacks against me last night and rallied their support “groupies” to pile on as the City Council voted 5-2 to postpone a policy decision on the location of a grant-funded Port Security and Operations Center until full information is provided about the feasibility of alternate sites.
They both suggested, without citing any evidence, that my quest for full disclosure about the pros and cons of each site was motivated by some personal gain, hidden agenda or conflicted interest. That’s what you do when you have no facts to support your position.
The speakers, who were motivated by Corky to show up and advocate for an option that even the Port didn’t even support, were trying to turn the Port Security and Operations Center siting issue into a plea for jobs.
Even Port Executive Director Jim Matzorkis, to his genuine credit, confirmed that the Riggers Loft location would result in more long term jobs than the Port preferred Harbour Way location.
Richmond council delays port security project, continues to weigh options
By Robert Rogers
RICHMOND -- A divided City Council halted a grant-funded port security construction project Tuesday, opting to put plans for the site on hold while exploring the feasibility of a nearby location.
The move delays a nearly $4 million project to build a security and operations center for first responders at 1411 Harbour Way South, the Richmond Port's current main offices. Councilman Tom Butt lobbied for more than a month, first to initiate a $40,000 engineering assessment of Riggers Loft, and now to await the results.
Butt said Riggers Loft may be a better site not only for the center but also for other businesses and historical operations related to the city's World War II Homefront attractions.
"There is not some kind of well-thought-out plan" for the Harbour Way site, Butt said. "It's premature to make a conclusion that one site is superior to another."
The council weighed three options for the project over more than two hours of often sharp exchanges. The first option was to reaffirm the current project with contractor Alten Construction but renegotiate to a price within the state grant's $3.7 million total.
Option two, which Executive Port Director Jim Matzorkis said was crafted to meet Butt's concerns, would explore the feasibility of moving the security and operations center to Riggers Loft, a vacant 26,000-square-foot building constructed during World War II.
Matzorkis and his staff recommended a third option
"The reason we continue to recommend (Harbour Way) is that from the very beginning, local law enforcement and fire (department) believed that a site overlooking the Richmond inner harbor and with good accessibility is the best place," Matzorkis said.
The council declined the staff recommendation, voting 5-2 to get more information about a possible center at Riggers Loft. Councilmen Corky Booze and Nat Bates dissented.
"We need to have fuller information," Mayor Gayle McLaughliln said. "Right now, there are too many unknowns."
More than 20 public speakers weighed in. Virtually all supported the staff recommendation to go ahead with the project at Harbour Way, arguing that a delay would jeopardize construction jobs.
Bates chastised Butt for what he called "bully tactics" in waging a public campaign to halt the port's project in favor of Riggers Loft. In recent weeks, Butt has publicly criticized Matzorkis' management of the port, accusing the longtime director of not running the facility efficiently.
"The city manager and city staff have every right to make recommendations, and they made good recommendations to award the contract" for construction at Harbour Way, Bates said. "But then Mr. Butt started throwing his weight around, going after staff."
Bates also noted that the city has spent more than $500,000 of the state grant in preparatory studies of the Harbour Way site, an amount that Matzorkis said the city may not be able to recoup if it shifts construction to Riggers Loft.
The grant's deadline for construction was recently extended to June 30, Matzorkis said. Whether the Riggers Loft will be deemed an acceptable site by the grantor is not known, Matzorkis added.
City Manager Bill Lindsay admonished the council that a decision about where to begin the project must come soon.
"At some point, we don't have a project," Lindsay said.
The council is expected to revisit the issue next month.