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Troutdale says 'Thanks, but no thanks' to postal center

TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Plans to move the main post office to Troutdale have met with opposition in Troutdale.The prospect of $30 million — or any compensation, for that matter — was not enough for the Troutdale City Council to continue negotiations with the Portland Development Commission to move the main Portland Post Office and Distribution Center to Troutdale.

The council, at its Tuesday night, Nov. 24, meeting, voted unanimously to discontinue the PDC’s offer to relocate the facility to Troutdale Reynolds Industrial Park property off Sundial Road.

With agreement from the U.S. Postal Service to relocate its Pearl district distribution center on Northwest Hoyt Street to make way for PDC-led development, the commission has sought alternative locations for the facility. As a federal agency, the post office does not pay property taxes, prompting PDC to offer a fee in lieu of foregone property tax revenue. That offer was made public in October, with a price tag of $6.45 million. But with Troutdale city staff estimating property taxes for the site topping $20 million, that offer was not well received by the City Council.

Public opinion at the Tuesday, Nov. 24, meeting was largely against this possibility, citing revenue concerns, greener grass and traffic issues. But some viewed a large upfront payment as a key to funding a new or upgraded Troutdale City Hall. Investing the PDC’s payment could earn interest, a citizen suggested, and the interest could build a new City Hall to replace the now-abandoned Kibling Street building deemed unsafe for occupancy.

“Frankly any amount of money is not going to be as good as a steady flow of revenue,” said Councilor Dave Ripma. “I think it simply can’t be justified.”

Mayor Doug Daoust added the estimated tax revenue for the city did not include taxing districts, such as the Reynolds School District. This added to increasing concern and doubt about the deal.

While Daoust wanted to continue with discussions, possibly giving the PDC an inflated figure to consider, councilors Glenn White and John Wilson reached the same conclusion: Accepting a large chunk of money would make the city a target for rate increases and other costs.

“Once you got money, everybody feels they own part of it, except you,” Wilson said. “It would be great looking at it, but that’s all we’d get to do. Look at it and it would be gone.”

White said he was uncomfortable with this form of negotiation.

“It’s almost like picking something out of thin air,” he said. “I don’t have enough information to make any other decision than, ‘Thank you, but no thanks at this time.’”

The council seemed to be in agreement, but were concerned that if they decided against moving forward, USPS could move to Troutdale anyway.

“While they might be able to exercise their federal prerogative and site this whether we like to or not, they will not do so if we don’t agree,” City Manager Craig Ward said. “I take them, the PDC and Port, at their word. If we don’t want that project, we can say no.”