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Port mulls purchase of former milk processing plant

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Port of Sunnyside Commissioner Jim Grubenhoff (L) discusses a possible interlocal agreement to take over operations at the Sunnyside airport at last night's Port meeting with fellow Commissioners Arnold Martin (center) and Jeff Matson.

The Port of Sunnyside could soon own the property where the Carnation industrial milk processing plant once set, at 111 E. Lincoln Ave.

The key word is could, since the Port of Sunnyside will first need to complete a study of just what type of contaminants are on the property and what it will cost to clean it up.

This work will be offset by a $200,000 grant the Port received from the Department of Ecology earlier this month. The grant will be used to study contamination remediation and future development use.

Most recently, the plant had been used by Cream Wine of Yakima, but the firm has since moved its operations elsewhere.

The property is known to be contaminated with petroleum and solvents, it's just not known how severely. If the property does need to be cleaned up, then the Port of Sunnyside could apply for other grants to help offset those costs.

The grant money has already been awarded to the Port, but last night Port commissioners agreed to terms with U.S. Bank, which owns the property, to enter into an option to purchase.

The bank foreclosed the property from WHC, Inc. and feels there isn't any market value to the property because of the contamination. The option to purchase gives the Port of Sunnyside 60 days to study the property. If after 60 days the Port decides it would like to own the land, U.S. Bank will give the property to the Port of Sunnyside free of charge.

The agreement gives the Port of Sunnyside exclusive rights to the property over the next 60 days. U.S. Bank won't be able to market the property to any other entity during that time. Port officials will also be able to request additional time to consider the option once the 60 days is up, but there are no guarantees U.S. Bank will agree to that.

Currently the land is zoned for industrial use only.

Also at last night's meeting, Port of Sunnyside commissioners discussed a possible airport agreement they might submit to the city of Sunnyside.

The inter-local agreement calls for the Port to manage the property around the airport and the airport operations itself for a term of five years. After that, if the Port determines permanent ownership is feasible, and it's in the best interest of the community, it would take over ownership of the airport.

This agreement has not been presented to the city of Sunnyside or its council at this time, but is only a rough draft of what will be a round of negotiations if the city is even interested.

Port Commissioners Jim Grubenhoff and Arnold Martin were on board with the proposed agreement. Commissioner Jeff Matson liked most of what he read, but took issue with one paragraph. This section outlined the possibility of the Port taking ownership of the airport and its operations. He said he felt it didn't need to be in the document.

Regardless, Port of Sunnyside staff will take the document to the airport committee meeting tonight (Tuesday) to float the idea. It will then be up to city of Sunnyside staff to run with it or tweak the document itself.

Before the meeting broke up last night it was stated that the sixth annual Port of Sunnyside appreciation BBQ will be held on Friday, July 22, beginning at 11 a.m.

Scheduled speakers include Washington State Sen. Jim Honeyford, Washington State Representatives Bruce Chandler and David Taylor, Yakima County Commissioners Rand Elliot, Mike Leita and Kevin Bouchey, as well as many others.

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