What Role Should County Play in Gateway Center?

Should Grays Harbor County own, manage, and/or operate the proposed Gateway Center in Aberdeen? When tenants are ready to sign a lease for space in the facility, from whom will they be leasing? 

These and other questions were on the table at this morning’s Board of County Commissioners meeting. No firm answers were provided just yet. But those engaged in the discussion – County Commissioners Vickie Raines, Wes Cormier and Randy Ross, Aberdeen Mayor Erik Larson and Greater Grays Harbor’s Dru Garson – all agreed it’s time to get the ball rolling on the matter.

Larson opened the discussion saying he thinks they “need to nail down ownership (of the proposed facility) in order to sign leases with potential tenants.” He said the easiest arrangement would be “some sort of lease agreement on a long-term basis.” Larson sees Greater Grays Harbor as an “anchor tenant of the facility,” possibly being the facility manager. He requested input from the commission “as a whole” on the subject.

Commissioner Ross asked for a “broad overview” of the organizations that have been approached or have expressed an interest in being part of the facility.

Larson responded with Greater Grays Harbor and possibly the GH Council of Governments, “depending on whether the county is a member of the Council at that point.” Garson included economic development orgs and the small business development center.

Raines said she wants to see a kiosk or space for the county in the facility “to promote tourism and visitor information.” Noting that she’s been a proponent of the gateway/enterprise concept for years (a decade), Raines expressed reservations regarding county ownership  or management of the facility. She also said conversations on potential county involvement – what and how much – need to occur.

Larson said possible county involvement is “not a monetary issue.” But “if you’re going to have county agencies housed there, it makes sense” that the county manage the facility. He said the city will “see the project through,” bring a new facility that allows these agencies to move there in exchange for the county taking on management.”Is that the route we want to go?” he asked the commishes. 

If the city can construct a facility to certain terms, Larson postulated,  can the county then take over management of certain tenants and agencies? Examples were economic development agencies. Larson added:

“I think this (the Center) is something that would benefit the area, otherwise I wouldn’t be going for it.”

Raines summed up the discussion  as a dialogue on how the county  “can lease the facility and be a landlord.” Larson indicated he wants the county to own the project.

Ross said it’s time to “vet who the  players will be” in the facility. “You can’t get anyone to sign a lease if they don’t know who they’re  signing to.”

Cormier said that while he appreciated Larson and Garson “coming to rhe table to talk,” he “doesn’t want to see the county own or operate this.” He’d rather see the city (of Aberdeen) own and maintain the facility.

The exchanges were cordial. Everyone played nice. Watch for that rolling ball.

What do you think?
Should the county have a role in the Gateway Center? If so, what?