Port of Pasco District 2 president to face challenger in November election

Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldOctober 13, 2013 

The Port of Pasco's commission president, Jean Ryckman, will face Herb Brayton in the Nov. 5 general election.

Ryckman, a retired Franklin PUD manager, aims to be elected to the District 2 seat she was appointed to in July 2012 after former commissioner Ernie Boston retired.

Brayton, 64, a senior buyer for Bechtel, hopes voters will give him the opportunity to serve in the six-year office instead. He was one of five other candidates for the 2012 appointment.

Brayton is looking at retirement and wants a chance to give back to the community, he said. He has not been able to attend commission meetings, but has been reading the minutes. He served in the U.S. Army from 1971-73.

The port is running smoothly, Brayton said. He's been impressed with the port's decision-making process and wants to be a part of it.

He lauded retiring port Executive Director Jim Toomey and the port's present and past leadership. He also said Ryckman has been a good leader and role model in the community.

Brayton wants to bring his perspective of managing government contracts and dealing with business on a large scale to the port commission, he said.

Ryckman, 68, who has served on the Pasco School Board, said she's seen the importance of expanding Franklin County's tax base. That's something she hopes to address as a port commissioner. She cited her skills at listening and proactively weighing options.

Among the port's current priorities is planning and paying for a $40 million expansion of the Tri-Cities Airport terminal in Pasco. Construction is expected to start next year.

The expansion of the undersized terminal is critical to business industries and tourism, Ryckman said. The port wants to make sure the terminal expansion is paid for using airport dollars only.

Brayton agrees that the airport terminal expansion is necessary. He supports the port commission's efforts to get the airport to stand on its own financially, he said.

But he also thinks the airport's needs may have overshadowed other economic development efforts, he said. Something needs to be done to spur businesses such as food processing in the northern part of Franklin County, considering the county's agricultural strengths.

The current commission's goals also include trying to buy property in the northern part of the county for an economic development project, Ryckman said. She agrees that food processing or ancillary services such as bottle manufacturing would seem a natural fit for Connell.

Pasco is a natural hub for food processing with its access to air, rail, freeway and barge transportation, Ryckman said. And the port needs to look at trying to attract businesses that provide services food processors need.

One of the port's economic development projects in Pasco has been Osprey Pointe Business Park along the riverfront east of the cable bridge. The office building was finished in 2011 but has not yet rented out the space the port is not using.

Part of what is holding Osprey Pointe back is the cleanup efforts at the marine terminal between the development and the cable bridge, which are nearing completion, Ryckman said.

Port officials are considering adding an economic development position to port staff as part of next year's budget. That person could help with business recruitment to Osprey Pointe and other areas.

Brayton said the port has to wait for the right businesses to make Osprey Pointe work. The port has done a good job setting the tone on what will be expected and the property in that area is valuable, he added.

A port decision Brayton does disagree with was allowing Green Power to continue to rent space at Big Pasco Industrial Park. The current lease will end this year. The port has started eviction processes on the troubled biofuels company twice, once in 2010 and once earlier this year.

Green Power has not lived up to its business responsibilities and should not be able to lease space from the port at Big Pasco, Brayton said, describing the company as a nuisance to the port.

Ryckman said if the port had continued to evict Green Power, port cash would have been used to clean up the building. Now all the back rent has been paid, the deposit has been increased and the current six-month lease was paid in advance. The warehouse area has also been cleaned up.

Port commissioners will earn $9,600 per year plus $114 per meeting.

-- For more election stories, go to tricityherald.com/election.

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

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