City, county and harbor officials ponder next move

Top officials with the city, county and harbor commission will collaborate before bringing recommendations back to their respective boards concerning the future of the financially strapped Tri-Agency Development Authority.

On Monday, the Crescent City Council directed City Manager Eugene Palazzo and City Attorney Bob Black to work with County Administrative Officer Jay Sarina and Crescent City Harbor Commission CEO Richard Young on the restructuring of the Tri-Agency.

"At this point we don't know what the outcome is going to be," Palazzo said. "But (the Council) asked us to sit down with the other agencies involved and try and figure out where we're going."

The city, county and harbor, which make up the joint powers authority for the Tri-Agency, are questioning whether it can continue in its current incarnation after it received a notice of payment acceleration from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in July. The notice was in response to a $17,000 annual loan repayment the agency was unable to make in 2011, but instead of requesting the missed payment, the USDA demanded the entire loan balance of $317,000, according to Executive Director Bill Renfroe.

As a result, any state or federal funding the Tri-Agency receives is at risk of being garnished by the U.S. Treasury Department to pay off the outstanding loan, Renfroe said. The Treasury Department could also access the funds from the Tri-Agency's bank account, he said.

As of Oct. 5, the Tri-Agency had $2,000 in its account, Renfroe said. Its monthly cash flow is about $10,000. Renfroe said his position as executive director is also precarious because the Tri-Agency doesn't have the funds to pay him through June 2013.

At its most recent public meeting, Tri-Agency commissioners directed Renfroe to work with the city, county and harbor to figure out what would be involved in dissolving the Tri-Agency. There has been no official direction from commissioners to shut the agency down, Renfroe said, but staff is trying to figure out ways to reduce its cash flow.

Tri-Agency commissioners will meet again Oct. 24 to discuss the entity's future. Renfroe said he issued 45 invitations to representatives from local tribal governments, Curry County, Brookings and local businesses, including the owners of the Trees of Mystery and Ocean World.

"The whole concept is what do we as a community - or maybe even as a region - what do we want to do in terms of economic development and what direction do we want to take," Renfroe said. "Before all this started falling apart, this had already been in the works. We discussed this back in August (and) September. Invitations went out in early September."

Renfroe said the Tri-Agency started as a disaster recovery entity and has gone through several incarnations.

"It's not that unusual for it to have to morph again into something else," he said. "The whole point (of) this meeting is to try to get input from folks."

The Tri-Agency commission meets at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 24 at the Crescent City Wastewater Treatment Plant on Battery Street.

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