The Oxnard Harbor District has asked the Ventura County Superior Court to intervene in an increasingly contentious battle over revamping a decades-old revenue agreement with the city of Port Hueneme.
The district, which controls the Port of Hueneme, sought relief in court on Sept. 30 on a technical issue related to arbitration. The district has agreed to arbitrate one issue in an agreement that dates back to 1995 but, according to court filings, the city wants to arbitrate additional points. The port has agreed to hear those issues, but only if it retains legal rights on those issues.
The port said an earlier hearing by the district court upheld its position that arbitration provisions did not apply beyond a single issue spelled out in its 1995 agreement with the city.
“The district would like to reach an agreement outside of costly court proceedings and has offered to help the city find additional revenue in a positive and cooperative manner. The district will continue to reach out to the City to resolve this by negotiation,” Port Director and CEO Kristen Decas said in a statement.
The dispute comes as city of Port Hueneme voters are being asked to weigh in on Measure M, an initiative that would create new business taxes for companies doing business at the port. The port has maintained that it pays some $1.4 million in fees and other costs in lieu of business taxes.
The port moves $8 billion in goods each year and consistently ranks among the top 10 U.S. ports for cars and fresh produce. It recently posted its best year ever as auto exports rose 30 percent in 2013. A recent economic impact study concluded that port operations produce about $1.1 billion in economic activity and create 10,200 trade-related jobs.
City officials have said that without additional tax revenue, they can’t balance the city budget and meet pension obligations.