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Port begets industrial district

| September 30, 2005 12:00 AM

By BRENT SHRUM Western News Reporter

Ownership of the former Stimson mill site is being transferred from the Lincoln County Port Authority to a newly formed industrial district governed by a subset of the port authority's board.

The primary reason for the change is to allow for more discretion in the sale of portions of the property, said port authority board member Amy Guth. Under state law, a port authority cannot dispose of property without a public auction, while an industrial district can sell property to a selected buyer without going to auction.

"The port authority can't direct the growth of that property," Guth said.

In addition, an industrial district is better protected from civil suits than a port authority, Guth said.

An industrial district is intended to redevelop and rehabilitate blighted areas. The motivation for selling property won't be to simply put money in the bank but to foster economic development, said port authority and industrial district board member Stan Kargol.

"If we have a business that comes in and says, 'Hey, we can employ 200 people,' that's who we're going to sell it to," he said.

Kargol is part of a five-member governing board — all members of the port authority board — set up to govern the industrial district. The board is chaired by Jim Mayo and also includes Dan Larson, Ardell Filler and Russ Barnes. Unlike port authority board members, the members of an industrial district may not hold public office.

State law requires an industrial district to have a master plan and to make annual reports to the county commissioners, under whose authority the district was formed. An existing site plan for the mill property will be used as a starting point for the development of the master plan, Kargol said. He said the board also plans to hold a public meeting to review the plan.

The Lincoln County Port Authority will remain in existence with the industrial district taking over management of the mill site as a specific project, Kargol said. Guth said the decision to form the industrial district used the development of property near the airport at Missoula as a model. In that example, ownership was transferred from a port authority to an industrial district and led to successful development of the property, she said.

Funding for the industrial district is independent of the port authority. Revenues will come from rent and beneficial use taxes paid by tenants on the site, from sale of the property and possibly from the county as well, Guth said.

Unlike a port authority, which has no staffing requirements, an industrial district is required by state law to be "adequately staffed," Guth said. The industrial district will be advertising for a site manager in the near future, Kargol said.

The industrial district will meet publicly on a monthly basis, Kargol said. Regular meetings will be held at 5 p.m. on the second Monday of the month at the Lincoln County Campus — the same schedule currently used by the port authority. The port authority will be changing its meetings to a quarterly schedule and when the meetings fall on the same day, the industrial district will meet an hour earlier, Kargol said. Meeting agendas will be posted at least a week in advance at the county courthouse and possibly in other locations as well, Kargol said.