Pasco — Port of Pasco commissioners on Thursday inspected Green Power's warehouse and office building at Big Pasco Industrial park to make sure company owner Michael Spitzauer had cleaned up the building in compliance with his lease.
Getting the building back in order was one of the conditions of the latest six-month lease port commissioners granted Spitzauer -- after starting to evict him twice before.
Spitzauer in February handed the port a check for almost $500,000 to pay back rent plus court costs and an increase in the security deposit.
On Feb. 15, the port gave Spitzauer 20 days to clean up garbage, hay and mulch and to get rid of mice found in the building after the last eviction.
Green Power and Spitzauer have a troubled history that not only includes the evictions, but also an estimated $20 million in court judgments to investors and a former employee, and fines owed to the state Department of Ecology and Department of Labor & Industries.
Commissioners appeared satisfied as they walked through the warehouse building Thursday and found materials and equipment neatly stacked and no rodents in sight.
"I have always said whatever issues there are with Green Power, they have treated our facility well," said Jim Toomey, the port's executive director. "This was an aberration and has been addressed."
He noted during the walk-through that Green Power has made investments in the building, including modifications to the office space, painting and improvements to the heating and cooling system.
The warehouse building is home to Green Power's suite of offices and holds an estimated 100 tons of a white powder Spitzauer said is the proprietary catalyst in the biofuels process he claims can transform any form of municipal solid waste into fuel.
He showed jars of different waste samples to port commissioners and staff during the walk-through. One curious staff member pointed to a jar half-filled with something brown and asked what it was with a raised eyebrow.
"It's poop," Spitzauer said.
Spitzauer claims his biofuels process can make 126 gallons of fuel from each ton of waste processed -- without producing greenhouse gasses. He told port commissioners that he's close to securing environmental permits and that if they come back in a couple of weeks they can see his process in action.
w Commissioner Jim Klindworth raised questions about the port's plans for a $36 million expansion at the Tri-Cities Airport in light of federal budget cuts that could affect activity at Hanford.
Klindworth said he supports the expansion in principle and doesn't want to be a "doctor of doom," but has hesitations because of federal budget uncertainty.
"Between the fact the government won't raise our PFCs (passenger facility charges), Congress won't pass a budget and Hanford is most of our business at the airport, I have some differing thoughts on spending this much money," he said. "I think we have to go ahead, but I'm worried if the worst happens in five years."
Jim Toomey, the port's executive director, recommended the commissioners go ahead and formally vote to start the design and adjust plans later if necessary.
He added that if the Federal Aviation Administration would let airports collect $6.50 per airplane passenger instead of the current $4.50, money for the expansion wouldn't be a problem.
"If we had a $6.50 PFC, it would be a no-brainer. It's not," Toomey said.