Port of Bellingham approves Olympic center lease

BELLINGHAM - Port of Bellingham commissioners have approved a two-year lease with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for establishment of an Olympics Coordination Center inside a port-owned building on Bellingham International Airport industrial land.

The federal agency will use about 25,000 square feet on the west side of the International Trade Building, 3888 Sound Way, to establish a center to coordinate federal, state and local law enforcement agencies' security efforts during the 2009 World Police and Fire Games, the 2010 Winter Olympics and the 2010 Paralympics in Vancouver, B.C.

The port will get about $983,000 a year in lease payments during the two-year term of the lease, which includes about $780,000 a year to cover the port's building improvement costs, plus an 11 percent return.

Homeland Security also has two one-year renewal options, but lease payments in the third and fourth year would be $203,000 a year, because the cost of the improvements would be paid back in the first two years.

Homeland Security is also expected to pay the port a lump payment of about $940,000 to cover other port costs in getting the building ready for use, real estate development manager Shirley McFearin told port commissioners.

Approval of the lease had been delayed by a dispute between the port and the city of Bellingham over availability of new city water hookups on the port's airport real estate, which lies outside the city limits. But port and city officials recently worked out a compromise.

Reach John Stark at 715-2274 or john.stark@bellinghamherald.com