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Favorable audit for Port of St. Helens

Auditor: Ports finances, procedures sound


The Port of St. Helens had a better-than-expected fiscal year, the Port Commission heard Tuesday, Nov. 26, and the head of the independent auditing firm that reviewed its financial statements confirmed the public entity’s books are in order.

Rick Proulx, managing principal of Kern and Thompson LLC, the Portland-based accounting firm that audited the port’s financial statements, described the port’s records as “clean” and said there were “no difficulties” in conducting the audit.

“The port’s procedures were sound,” Proulx told the commission. “They were fully cooperative.”

Proulx added, “You have a sound financial condition.”

The port added about $3.64 million in capital assets from fiscal year 2012 to FY13, an increase its finance manager, Babette Heeftle, described as “fairly significant.” It also finished FY13, which ended June 30, with a larger fund balance than anticipated, at $3.62 million.

“That is nearly a half a million dollars more than what we budgeted for this fiscal year,” Heeftle said. “So we ended the year even better than expected based on budget projections last February, March.”

But Heeftle and Dan Garrison, who sits on the port’s audit committee, also noted that the amount owed in arrears by the port’s tenants has increased.

“Not every single number in our financial statement is, you know, rosy,” Heeftle admitted.

Of the collection of back rent tenants owe, Heftle said, “Those are going well now, in the first half of the fiscal year, but as of June 30th, the number was nearly a half a million [dollars] more than it had been the prior year.”

“I actually have concerns about two of the tenants,” said Garrison, without naming them.

Port Commissioner Chris Iverson expressed frustration over the arrears, suggesting that the port should consider evicting tenants who are overdue on rent payments in favor of prospective tenants whom the port has been unable to accommodate due to limited space.

“I think we’re having more opportunities — people knocking on our door looking for space — now than we’ve ever had, at least since I’ve been associated with the port,” Iverson said. “So it’s a very hard pill for me to swallow to look at a renter that we’ve worked with and worked with and worked with that can’t keep up, when there’s maybe a line of four, five people waiting in line for a building that would be able to take care of it, pay the rent, that type of thing. So I think that’s something we need to look at fairly hard.”

Heeftle said the port has a good track record of collecting on tenants’ arrears without needing to write off large amounts of debt.

Commissioners also approved a resolution Tuesday paving the way for the port to acquire a small piece of property in Rainier, the largest city in the port district where it does not currently own property, from Bank of America.

Although the resolution commissioners unanimously approved Tuesday states that Bank of America accepted the port’s offer of $131,500 for the property at 203 A Street East — almost $100,000 less than the lowest appraisal value the port received for the property — Patrick Trapp, the port’s executive director, said after the meeting that the deal had not yet been finalized.

The resolution authorizes Trapp to “finalize all the documents and approve the funds necessary to complete the purchase transaction.”