Taking the long view on Fort Worden

by Thomas Mullen paperboy@vcn.com
Posted 9/27/23

“It’s as if the PDA (Fort Worden Public Development Authority) got sprayed by a skunk and there wasn’t enough tomato juice. Rightly or wrongly, mistakes had been made and they kind …

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Taking the long view on Fort Worden


“It’s as if the PDA (Fort Worden Public Development Authority) got sprayed by a skunk and there wasn’t enough tomato juice. Rightly or wrongly, mistakes had been made and they kind of lost control and we’ve been trying to get back that control.”

Such is the perspective of David Timmons, who was integral in the PDA’s creation as Port Townsend city manager and most recently as its executive director. His last day in that role is Thursday, Sept. 28. In an interview with The Leader, Timmons said that those mistakes have “hobbled and will continue to hobble the PDA for quite some time.

“It was never the intent of the city to provide the oversight. It was always viewed, that was the responsibility of the (Washington State) Parks. We created the PDA to administer for Parks. The city oversight and involvement was pretty hands-off by design. At the time of the creation and prior to the PDA, folks over-promised. Their economic model - it was unrealistic, what they sold to Parks,” he said.

Hence the need to reach out to one of PDA’s creators (Timmons) to steady the ship in a gathering storm. Timmons took the long view, to the PDA’s beginnings.

“A lot of it is just going back to reconstruct things – to segregate roles and responsibilities. One of the things, PDA assumed all responsibility from Parks, even the wharf, and it was just way too much responsibility and obligation for the PDA to assume.

“The other thing, they were too co-mingled with hospitality. You had a private enterprise being run by a public entity and that just doesn’t mix,” Timmons explained. Both of those problems are in the process of changing.

“They’re still in transition – it isn’t something that can happen overnight. The biggest crippling development of the whole thing was the diversion of capital funds – over a million dollars-by the former director of finance. I had to pay it back but the only way I could do it was negotiate with the bank.”

In his letter of resignation, Timmons credited local lenders, among many others, for helping the PDA survive this time of transition.

“First Federal’s commitment to the completion of the $2.3 million Historic Tax Credits and a bridge loan to advance fund the credits saved the Makers Square project from failure. Kitsap Bank stepped in to help not once but three times to assist in financing to bring stability to a very unstable $6.1 million debt situation. And Craft3 for lending $800,000 to support the startup of a local not-for-profit to run hospitality services at the Fort,” he wrote in his June letter.

Timmons also credited his board, the people who work at Fort Worden.

“We have had and continue to benefit from committed and dedicated staff, as well as contractors, putting Humpy Dumpty back together,” he wrote, and told The Leader he does have hope.

Although a glamping project has been suspended, a geo-thermal project, which would remove Fort Worden from fossil fuel dependence and go a long way toward fiscal solvency, is still on target, thanks to a $40 million tax credit, and the support of the governor and State Legislature for a $1.2 billion cap and trade project.

“That will pay off the debt and secure a fund, in terms of money going back into the fort. We’ve laid the groundwork and they have their agreements, they have their marching orders – we’ll get back. It’s like climbing a sand dune: every time you start moving forward something breaks because everything out there is so old and in such a state, it’s nearly impossible to get things done. I kind of hope things will just take, moving forward."