Who runs the Port of Olympia – staff or commissioners?

September 26th, 2022 by Ken

“It’s Deja Vu all over again.”  This quote from Yogi Berra about sums up the recent flap between the staff of the Port of Olympia and KGY radio, over the historical significance of the KGY Building.

The Olympia Heritage Commission had proposed that the 60-year old KGY building on port property be added to the city’s heritage register.  All members of the commission were in favor of such an action, when a last minute e-mail from Port of Olympia staff, objected to the inclusion of the building.

The argument (from the staff) centered around who had the authority to control the use of the building.   KGY owns the building.  The Port of Olympia owns the property on which it sits.  Port staff were concerned that including the 60-year old building on the heritage register would complicate staff efforts to use the property when KGY’s lease expires in 2024.

Complicating matters even more is that not one single member of the Olympia Port Commission knew anything about staff’s action in regards to KGY.  But they should have been notified and they should have had input.  Because it has a major impact on their political future.

Lets go back to 2006.

KGY’s lease on the property was expiring.  The station’s owners wanted a renewal.  Port staff said no.  The building did not fit into the future use the port had for that property.  At the time, a developer was eying the property for construction of a “hotel”.  The hotel fit into the future plans of the port.

When word went out to the community that KGY was being ousted, an out-cry of community support for keeping the station at its present site galvanized the public.  Port Commission Steve Pottle, who had supported the hotel, resigned his commission seat.  Bill McGregor, a KGY supporter was appointed to fill that seat and elected to that seat in 2007.  Port Commissioner Bob VanSchrool, ran for re-election and was defeated by George Barner, also a KGY supporter.

Economic conditions led the hotel to be unworkable and KGY was granted a lease extension.  Several lease extension have followed.

None of the three current port commissioners had even heard of staff arguments against putting the building on the heritage register until the article appeared in the pages of “The Olympian” last Sunday.

There is and continues to be great community support for KGY, the oldest radio station in the State of Washington and one of the oldest in the country.  KGY is owned by the Kerry family and the fourth generation is now running the station.

When you think of community Icons for Olympia, only three stand out – – the state capitol, the old state capitol and KGY radio which has been on the waterfront in its current location for 60 years.  The building is an Icon representing continuity and stability to a city in constant change.

The Olympia Heritage Commission was right to see the historic nature of the KGY building and to place it on the Heritage Register.

Staff, from the port, have taken it upon themselves to make a political decision that affect all three current port commissioners. While no port commissioner is in danger of being ousted like 2007 – – they are responsible to the citizens of Thurston County.

I ask two questions – – Why didn’t executive director Sam Gibboney see fit to notify port commissioners about the potential for conflict with the community?   And, why are staff so set against putting the building on the Heritage Register?  After all, even if KGY leaves the building, the building is still a historical icon and should be on the register no matter who owns it.

Posted in Business, Government, History, Informational, Local Politics, The Real News

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