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Published: Friday, 12/22/2006

Port board ups salary of Hartung to $172,140

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Without public discussion, the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority board of directors yesterday granted port authority President James Hartung a 4.5 percent raise, pushing his salary above $170,000.

The 10-1 vote followed a 30-minute executive session on the matter.

Afterward, William Carroll, who chaired the meeting in chairman Doni Miller's absence, said the raise accounted for "inflation, plus some merit" because cargo tonnage at the Toledo seaport is up and port staff played a vital role in securing development of a new coke works on agency property near the port.

"There's been a lot of very positive things happening," Mr. Carroll said after the meeting.

Opie Rollison, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said he wasn't criticizing Mr. Hartung's job performance but questioning whether the port authority's presidency is worth the $172,140 Mr. Hartung will be paid next year. "What is the proper pay for that job in our regional economy?" Mr. Rollison asked afterward.

Pete Gerken, a Lucas County commissioner, expressed similar sentiment later in the day.

"Certainly, that's beyond what we've offered any of our staff, or what state officials are getting," he said. "The board probably should have paid attention to what the rest of us are getting. Most people are happy to get 3 percent," and a lot are getting less, he said.

A sharply divided board granted Mr. Hartung a 6 percent raise a year ago, boosting his salary to $164,725. The performance review yesterday was much faster, and conducted entirely behind closed doors except for the vote.

"We think it's deserved," Mr. Carroll said. "We had an excellent year in 2006, and we're going to have an excellent year in 2007."

Ben Konop, a county commissioner-elect, plans to hold Mr. Carroll to that forecast.

"If nothing else, [the raise] sets the bar extremely high for what types of results [Mr. Hartung's] bringing in," Mr. Konop said. "He'll be making more than 98 or 99 percent of the people in Lucas County. For that, he and the port better do well."

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner could not be reached for comment.

When hired in 1994, Mr. Hartung was paid $100,000.

Despite her absence from the meeting, the port board also voted yesterday to re-elect Ms. Miller as its chairman, while Mr. Carroll was re-elected vice chairman.

Those votes were 12-0. By the time Mr. Hartung's performance review came up, Kenneth Dobson had left the meeting.

Through November, cargo shipments through the Port of Toledo were up by 6.1 percent compared with 2005, buoyed largely by a grain boom and increases in liquid and dry-bulk cargo.

General cargo traffic at the port-owned, stevedore-operated general cargo docks is up 2.4 percent despite a downturn in forest products. The facility also has handled some cargoes that have counted toward the dry-bulk increase.

Hammered by airlines' service cuts, passenger traffic at Toledo Express Airport continues a two-year slump. The 26,109 travelers who got on or off planes at the local airport last month was 10.6 percent fewer than in November, 2005, and the 11-month total of 347,844 is down from 426,463 for the first 11 months of 2005 and 555,527 for that part of 2004.

Cargo business at the airport has been relatively stable.

With nearly all of it handled through the BAX Global sorting facility, air freight for the year's first 11 months totals 714.5 million pounds, up slightly from 708.9 million pounds last year and 708.5 million pounds the year before.

But the passenger slump has crimped the airport's budget, with a $400,000 deficit projected in a 2007 port authority budget approved yesterday.

In adopting the budget, the board agreed to transfer debt principal payments on the port-owned BAX Global facility - $764,500 annually - from the airport's operating budget to the capital budget, which is funded by the agency's property-tax levy.

The operating-budget funds formerly assigned to the debt service now will be used to cover the airport's operating deficit and, to the extent possible, to set up an advance fund to pay off the remaining cargo-hub debt should BAX leave Toledo after its lease expires in 2013.

The port authority still will owe $10 million on that facility, scheduled to be paid off over 10 years.

"The levy is pledged to be used for infrastructure," Michael Frank, chairman of the port board's finance committee said. The BAX facility "is a past capital improvement, but it is a current obligation of ours."

Nadeem Salem, the airport committee chairman, said that if BAX renews its lease, the money set aside for the debt payment would become available as a "sinking fund" for airport improvements.

"But in the worst case, we may avoid asking the community for more levy money or take away from other services," Mr. Salem said.

Contact David Patch at:

dpatch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6094.



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