Two join Port Commission
Two new Commissioners, Mike Fox and Heather Gehring, were elected in May 2021 and sworn in last July. Gehring is currently serving as Treasurer and represents the Port on the Airport Advisory Committee and Urban Renewal Board. Fox serves as Secretary on the Port Commission and co-chairs the Bridge Replacement Bi-State Working Group.
Numerous staff changes at the Port
Greg Hagbery joined the Port last June as its new property and development manager. Hagbery brings construction and development project management experience to the Port with a background in planning and architectural design. He’s responsible for developing, marketing, leasing, and overall management of the Port’s real estate portfolio. Most recently, Hagbery worked as the Land Development Manager for Curtis Homes, LLC in Hood River. He has lived in the area for over 10 years.
Two recent retirements of key personnel have taken place at the Port.
Louie Ambers retired from the Facilities Department in December 2020, after 15 years of dedicated service. “Louie was a tremendously knowledgeable and dedicated employee,” said Port Executive Director Michael McElwee. Ambers was the department lead and head of the biological controls systems for Port parks and landscapes. He was also the lead bridge operator charged with the handling controls for all bridge lifts.
Chief Financial Officer Fred Kowell retired at the end of 2021 after nearly 10 years of service. Kowell’s expertise has been invaluable for strategic planning and bridge replacement efforts. The Port will announce his replacement in March.
Genevieve Scholl is the Port’s new deputy executive director after serving seven years as communications and special projects manager. Scholl will take on additional administrative, supervisory, and human resources responsibilities while continuing communications and project management responsibilities.
John Mann, the Port’s facilities manager since 2014, was recently promoted to facilities director, a new position at the Port. His new role brings increased public contracting, capital construction project management and administrative responsibilities.
Patricia Rosas was promoted to the new role of contracts administrator. Rosas has been with the Port since June of 2020, starting as an administrative specialist.
For all current job opportunities at the Port, visit portofhoodriver.com Job opportunities are listed in the “About” section.
Bridge work update
Commuters may remember a series of planned bridge closures for live load testing performed on the Hood
River-White Salmon Interstate Bridge last October.
The project followed the Oregon Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) bridge load rating that was put in place on March 3, 2021, based on ODOT formulas. Since several local commercial freight haulers were impacted by the new limitations, the Port worked with its bridge engineer HDR to carry out live load testing in an effort to verify ODOT’s results. HDR contracted with the firm BDI to perform diagnostic tests and determine subsequent field-verified load ratings. Results from the extensive study are still being analyzed and the Commission received the engineer’s report in February.
The bridge’s semi-annual bridge deck maintenance and repair welding project also resulted in intermittent single-lane closures for two weeks in November. The work was completed by Bulldog Welding on the steel grate deck of the Hood River-White Salmon Interstate Bridge.
Finally, overhead telecom cable repairs required daytime closures in November to allow helicopter crews to perform the repairs safely.
Waterfront recreation and safety
2021 recorded one of the busiest seasons for Port-owned recreational properties to date. Waterfront Manager Daryl Stafford attributes this partly to continued high use of outdoor facilities by residents and metro-area day trip visitors as the pandemic continued.
As reported in the Port’s 2021 Waterfront Annual Report, Stafford noted that while the number of kite, SUP, and windsurfing rentals and lessons were flat or down slightly compared to the previous year, there was a notable increase in “wingers and foilers,” the Gorge’s newest wind sports.
Increased usage also brought issues of garbage, off-leash dogs, parking scarcity, restroom sanitation and water safety to light. A staffing shortage for summer help was problematic for most of these issues.
With the busy season also came a sharper focus on waterfront safety. The tragic drowning death of a young girl in Nichols Basin occurred on a very busy day on the waterfront, not far from the beach and from family members. This followed the drownings last year of two members of an out-of-town church group near the Marina Beach. The Port of Hood River has formed a new committee to focus on waterfront safety and sought the input of waterfront recreation safety expert consultants. Additional signage, life jacket stations, public information and warning messages using universal symbology are some of the measures being taken to address these hazards.
In related waterfront news, a $35,000 grant was received from Travel Oregon for construction of a new rigging area at the Hook, increased sanitation facilities, and safety signage at the waterfront.
The Port has issued a solicitation to bid on a Hood River Marina boat launch float and ramp project that will replace two dock floats followed by ramp upgrades. The project is funded in part by an Oregon State Marine Board (OSMB) grant.
A record number of Event Site passes were sold in 2021 with revenue up 34% compared to the pre-pandemic summer of 2019. To read more about the 2021 waterfront season, visit the Waterfront Recreation homepage at portofhoodriver.com/waterfront-recreation.
Last spring, the Port issued a Request for Developer Interest for Lot #900, commonly referred to as the Barman property, for a public-private partnership that includes leasing land long-term from the Port and developing the commercially-zoned property to best suit the community. Six proposals were received that reflected mixed and single-use concepts involving hotels, residential, retail, offices and/or restaurants. The Port is moving forward now toward a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreement with the finalist developer.
Lot #1 development also gained traction recently. The Port of Hood River received a $500,000 grant award for the E. Anchor Way extension project from the Immediate Opportunity Fund administered by ODOT and Business Oregon to support transportation projects directly tied to economic growth and business expansion.
Additionally, the Port obtained a $500,000 grant from the State of Oregon Coronavirus Fiscal Recovery Fund, a result of the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). This project funding was allocated through the 2021 Oregon Legislature with advocacy by Senator Chuck Thomsen for E. Anchor Way and/or a commercial hangar at the Ken Jernstedt Airfield. Staff has been pursuing opportunities for grant funding for both projects.
The Port of Hood River has selected contractor Precision Approach Engineering for its Airport Engineering Master contract.
Greg Hagbery has taken on the role of staff liaison to the Airport Advisory Committee and newly elected Commissioner Heather Gehring is now the Port Board representative on the committee.
A purchase contract with Mascott Engineering was finalized last summer for the purchase and installation of a new AV Gas Tank that will feature a self-serve card reader payment system.
The Commission held a special work session focused on the Airport Fixed Base Operator contract and Through The Fence Agreements on July 19. The meeting featured a presentation by UAS Consulting, Inc.’s Mike Davis who presented a report on his 2021 Strategic Recommendations project for the Airport.
Port Facilities crew completed the installation of a new irrigation system covering about 25,000 square feet near the north T-Hangar block in August, work required to preserve irrigation rights.
Consulting architect Aron Faegre continues his work on plans and specifications for the potential new commercial hangar development. Mr. Faegre was successful in obtaining a grant from Energy Trust of Oregon to evaluate the potential for roof-mounted solar panels on the building.