About the Public Development Authority
Frequently Asked Questions
Public Development Authority
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1. What is a Public Development Authority?
2. Why do we need a PDA at Fort Worden?
3. Will the PDA develop Fort Worden?
4. Will the PDA restrict public access to campgrounds, beaches and trails?
5. History of Fort Worden State Park
6. What is Fort Worden's economic impact?
7. What about co-management with State Parks? Why does the PDA want the whole Fort?
8. What will happen to Fort Worden jobs?
9. What about Kate Burke?
10. What are the next steps?
11. Who is on the PDA, and what are the committees?
1. What is a Public Development Authority?
A Public Development Authority (PDA) is a unique, independent government entity, usually created to accomplish an enterprise mission that sustains public goals.2. Why do we need a PDA at Fort Worden?
A PDA can be created by a government entity, but once created it operates independently of that entity. The Fort Worden PDA was created by the City of Port Townsend in October, 2011 and an independent, volunteer board was appointed. The City has no direct oversight power. The PDA is designed to accomplish public purpose activities, completely outside the regular functions of City government. While charged in its charter with a public purpose, the PDA is more flexible and business-like than a government agency. It can negotiate and enter into leases with businesses. It can borrow or issue bonds for funds. It can generate revenue for its own operations. It can make Fort renovation projects eligible for tax credits to support renovation of the historic buildings on campus. But it is transparent - its members and meetings are guided by open government laws. Examples of PDAs in Washington State are the Pike Place Market, the Seattle Art Museum, and the Burke Gillman Place, which manages the former Coast Guard property in northeast Seattle near Children's Hospital.
A PDA can help Fort Worden become self-supporting, as it is capable of responding to changing economic conditions in ways State Parks is not. In fact, a new managing entity like the PDA has always been envisioned in State Parks' long-term plan for Fort Worden, which was adopted by the State Parks and Recreation Commission in 2008.3. Will the PDA develop Fort Worden?
Washington State Parks has managed Fort Worden since the early 1970s, maintaining both the built campus and the campgrounds with generous care. Recognizing that Fort Worden's built campus - its 100 historic buildings, many of them unused - is unique in the State Park system, Parks spent the last eight years developing a business plan for Fort Worden to transform it into a Lifelong Learning Center. The goal was to make Fort Worden financially self-sustaining. In the last four years, the state's fiscal crisis has slashed General Fund support for State Parks from $100 million (of $150 million total operating budget) to $17 million. This is slated to go to zero in the next biennium. The fiscal crisis has accelerated the long-term plan for Fort Worden. State Parks recently cut $11 million from its budget, slicing 175 jobs. Further cuts could result in more layoffs or close some of state parks. One result was the "bumping" of a qualified and experienced manager at Fort Worden, Kate Burke. The PDA was created to act as the enterprise agent envisioned by State Parks' planning process. The PDA has a business-oriented board, a capable staff and a mission to make Fort Worden self-supporting as a Lifelong Learning Center and to maintain the cherished and unique qualities of the Park.
Develop is the wrong word. Re-develop is more accurate.4. Will the PDA restrict public access to campgrounds, beaches and trails?
The PDA's mission is to help renovate and fill the unused or under-used buildings of Fort Worden's built campus (100 historic buildings) by finding new educational or cultural enterprises that will put on programs that bring people to Fort Worden. Picture college programs, woodworking programs, trades-oriented workshops, and educational programs for public school students for weeks at a time during the school year. The immediate goal is to complete the renovation of a little-used barracks, Building 202, into Jefferson County's first fulltime, permanent college center. New construction may happen one day, if a new facility is needed, but all new uses must fit into the lifelong learning center model, and support the historical and cultural values of the Fort.
No.5. How will the PDA help Port Townsend and Jefferson County?
The PDA is committed to sustaining the campgrounds and public access to beaches and trails. Under PDA management, Fort Worden would not be subject to the day-use fees connected to the State Parks Discover Pass.
Port Townsend and Jefferson County have much to gain from a PDA role at Fort Worden, in terms of access, educational opportunity, new businesses, job growth and preservation of a crucial heritage site.6. What is Fort Worden's economic impact?
The PDA will implement the Fort Worden Master Plan to preserve public access, assure that the recreational and natural resources of the park are maintained, and create a Lifelong Learning Center. Fort Worden is more likely to become the nexus of new, clean economic activity with the PDA, as existing educational and cultural partner companies will be expanded and new ones will be sought. Success means new family wage jobs in a clean and growing industry. It means renovation and preservation of the Fort's historic built campus will be funded through private investment instead of through tax dollar support. It will keep public access to campgrounds, trails and beaches open. The PDA board is also more likely to be responsive to local and regional concerns than the statewide Parks board.
State and community partners employ over 200 people at the Fort, 32 of whom work for State Parks.7. What about co-management with State Parks? Why does the PDA want the whole Fort?
As part of ongoing collaboration, the PDA submitted three possible management options to State Parks for consideration, one of which included transfer of the Park to the PDA. All options furthered the goals of maintaining access to the Park, preserving historical buildings, and advancing the mission of the lifelong learning center. The idea of a total transfer of Fort Worden to the PDA at this time came from State Parks' Administration, not from the PDA. Talks continue between the PDA and State Parks on the benefits of independent versus co-management of Fort Worden.8. What will happen to Fort Worden jobs?
For the PDA to have any chance of success at making Fort Worden financially self-supporting within the lifelong learning model, and to sustain public access to campgrounds, trails and beaches, it needs to be able to attract and negotiate with current or new business prospects in a nimble, business-like way. Layers of state bureaucracy do not allow long-term leases or reliable assurances that allow most businesses to invest in the Fort. State Parks itself recognizes it now needs an enterprise approach to financially sustain its parks without General Fund support. The PDA is what that enterprise support looks like. A partnership is possible, given the right terms.
It is too soon to tell with accuracy, but there will be a jobs impact.9. What about Kate Burke?
If the PDA becomes, in part or whole, manager of Fort Worden, it will be necessary to operate the Fort as efficiently as possible. Remember that the PDA would need to erase a $700,000 annual operating deficit, which is currently subsidized by tax-payers. The PDA would seek to fill this gap by finding new revenue-paying partners, to seek grants and donations, and through operating efficiencies. It is likely that the total number of jobs would be reduced, although this decision is in the future and would be up to a professional park and conference center manager hired by the PDA. It is likely that most current employees would be asked to continue working at Fort Worden in their current roles. Specifics would be up to the hired manager.
Should there be fewer jobs, and should some current employees leave Fort Worden, longtime employees would have the same protections as they have now in terms of the right to find other jobs within the State Parks system. The alternative? It's to somehow find $700,000 in public money to fill the operating gap.
Kate Burke, the effective former manager at Fort Worden, was removed from that post effective Feb. 15 by State Parks' budget shrinkage and "bumping" rules via civil service law.10. What are the next steps?
She is will be employed via contract with the PDA, beginning March 1, as the PDA seeks to come to final terms with State Parks about future management of Fort Worden State Park. It is the expectation of the PDA that, if given a bona fide management role, Burke would most likely become that professional manager, barring her departure for other opportunities or other unforeseen prospects.
The PDA and the State Parks Commission are continuing discussions toward a management arrangement that both can support.11. Who is on the PDA, and what are the committees?
This arrangement might come through a direct agreement between the two entities, or it might come through legislation. Fort Worden State Park is the gem of the Washington State Parks system, enjoyed by locals, state residents and global visitors for 40 years. Full public involvement in the next steps is essential to a successful new model that allows the park to be self-sustaining, while maintaining public access to the park. Both the PDA and State Parks invite public involvement as we move toward a solution.
Please see our About the PDA page for a complete list, updated as needed.
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Content Updated March 16, 2012
Minor update June 13, 2014