Friday, August 3, 2012

Port of Astoria in Financial Peril, Audit Says

An audit has shown that the Port of Astoria has been losing about $1 million annually in recent years, according to a new investigative report by the Daily Astorian newspaper.

The audit, which was conducted by West Linn, Oregon-based Merina & Co. concluded that the port is still losing money, even though revenue has been rising faster than expenses, the paper said in a story published in late July as part of an investigative series. The reasons for the financial downturn include heavy investment in upgrades and expansion, as well as expensive legal battles.

Most significantly, after the port invested heavily in upgrades to a pier for export company Westerlund Log Handlers, the market for logs to Asia dropped significantly. About four months went by last fall without a single ship coming in, according to the newspaper.

Also, the port spent more than half a million dollars over a four-year span, according to port finance manager Colleen Browne, in battles over various issues, including with the developer of a proposed natural gas terminal, litigation against the port’s former attorney and with the Bank of Astoria over offices.