Port of Pasco OKs new lease for Green Power

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 15, 2013 

Port of Pasco commissioners have decided to give Green Power another chance, but they put CEO Michael Spitzauer on notice.

The new six-month lease agreement for port property at Big Pasco Industrial Park was passed in a 2-1 vote Thursday. The approval came with a series of conditions that Spitzauer must meet.

Spitzauer recently was evicted by the port for failing to pay his rent for two bays and a building. It was the second time the port had started eviction proceedings.

Commissioner Ron Reimann, who voted against the new lease, told Spitzauer that he does not think Green Power has operated in the best interest of the port or honored its past leases.

"This was not an easy decision to make," said commission President Jean Ryckman.

Spitzauer told commissioners they would not regret their decision, explaining that he had customers who had not paid him at the time. Now, he said he has the money to pay the rent, sufficient operating funds, and potential customers willing to pay for his waste-to-biofuel system as soon as he can show it to them.

"I know it took longer than expected to get the money together," Spitzauer said.

Spitzauer gave the port's attorney, Dan Hultgrenn, a cashier's check for $496,000 on Thursday. That covers the $234,000 from a Franklin County Superior Court summary judgment, which doubles the unpaid rent for September, October and November, and covers the port's attorney costs and utility fees.

The $496,000 also includes rent for less space from Jan. 1 to June 30 and a $100,000 increase in the security deposit, Ryckman said.

Spitzauer also has 20 days to come into compliance with the allowed use of the premises or be evicted again, Ryckman said. Port officials found garbage, hay, mulch and mice in the facilities after the last eviction.

Commissioner Jim Klindworth asked why Green Power was storing the amount of material found on the premises when the company is not licensed by the Department of Ecology to operate its system.

Spitzauer said the company is using a small bench model of a system that turns waste into biofuel for testing. They normally shred the material, prepare it and then test it. It is not typically stored, but was left behind because of the eviction.

The lease is dependent on Spitzauer signing an agreement that would in theory allow the port to evict Spitzauer with three days notice, said Port Executive Director Jim Toomey. The most recent process took from Sept. 1 to Dec. 26.

The three-day notice clause was something Spitzauer proposed, Toomey said. That agreement is expected to be signed today.

Ryckman said the new lease means the port will have a high enough security deposit to cover cleanup of the premises if another eviction occurs. The earlier $200,000 deposit was not going to be enough.

It also means the port received what it was owed from Spitzauer, she said.

Spitzauer owes about $20 million to investors and a former employee, according to court records.

He owes $42,000 to the state Department of Ecology for an unfinished biofuels plant and more than $28,000 to the state Department of Labor & Industries, including unpaid wage claims.

Klindworth said the port has given Green Power and Spitzauer a chance to prove his project.

"Now it is up to him to show us that his word is good," he said.

-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com

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