By Rodney Dial
January 12, 2013
Well, the paint is barely dry on the new library and Ketchikan City Manager Karl the Tax Man Amylon is already pushing a nearly 10 million dollar project to renovate the Centennial Building and expand the museum.
Keep in mind that Amylon has been saying for years now that massive tax increases are necessary; has pushed through two years of property tax increases, harbor fee increases, water rate increases that are 300% higher than inflation, wants to increase sewer rates, transferred non-profit funding to KPU increasing costs there, AND has been trying for years to increase sales taxes just to repair/maintain current City property. We are the highest taxed community in SE Alaska, and our tax burden is more than DOUBLE other communities such as Sitka.
We have been told the City is BROKE running on reserves with not enough money to develop the electrical resources this community needs to keep our cost of living from going even higher (see diesel surcharge on your next six months of electrical bills). Mr. Amylon, do you even care that the Ship Yard (our modern day pulp mill) needs large amounts of low cost energy to compete with those on the west coast?
City Leaders you seriously considered canceling the new hydro plant because you were a few million short, but have 10 million to expand a museum, amazing. While you are off building libraries, museums, fire stations, etc. the private sector is simply trying to survive in our high cost environment and you seem to not care.
To be fair, it's not just the city leaders who put nice things before needed things. The business community has been telling both governments for YEARS that additional parking is needed for downtown businesses to grow... crickets chirping.
The borough gives lip service every few years by directing the planning department to ask - yet again - for community input regarding downtown parking and nothing ever changes. No courage, no commitment, no follow-through to focus on supporting jobs in our community. Keep kicking that can down the road, scratching your heads wondering why our downtown is boarded up half the year and locals don't dare to go there in the summer.
City Leaders (if that is what we can call them) seem interested in taking the easy path and pay little care to those simply trying to make ends meet. A young single mother at my work is leaving Ketchikan soon in part because of the high cost of living here. She recently told me an entire paycheck goes to rent. People, our cost of living is driving our young population off the island and it is getting worse.
The KDN on Friday reported that the library move to its new location is costing the City an extra $50,000 a year in costs at the Centennial building. I must have been out of town when library supporters informed the citizens of all these new costs, or the 10 million that would be needed to expand the museum after the library moved.
What we need.
1. We need a Mayor who leads or the ability to elect a City Manager. We are tired of the tail wagging the dog.
2. We need a city/borough ordinance that prohibits elected officials or City/Borough Managers from claiming sales and property tax exemptions. If you are going to increase our taxes you need to have skin in the game. I dare one leader (City/Borough) to have the stones to introduce a resolution to make this happen.
3. We need a City Assembly with the courage to tell the non-profits no or at least require/impose performance standards. Where is your oversight regarding discretionary spending?
4. We need out-of-the box thinking. If you are seriously going to increase the debt and tax burden in this community for another non-essential project do your research. What is the monthly usage of the facility and why can't it be SEASONAL, can you lower overhead costs at the library and museum by combing administrative staff? Can you increase admission costs and develop a building fund?
It almost seems as if the decision has been made to leave the museum where it is - why? Why not lease a private building long term? The State of Alaska does this all the time, and it eliminates all future maintenance issues.
If the City must own the building why not do something bold like sell the Centennial building and use the proceeds to renovate the old fire station? The fire station has an old historic look to it and we don't need a monster sized building for a museum anyway. The top floor could be used for storage, with displays rotated on the bottom floor (viewing area) routinely. Advertise the new exhibits and maybe you could increase interest and local visitation at the same time. Do this right and the proceeds obtained from selling the Centennial building could completely pay to renovate the old fire station into an attractive old style museum.
In closing I am not against a museum in the community, and personally know a person who works there that I highly respect. People who run facilities like this and the library are good, decent community members. My concern is not directed at them, but at the schizophrenic leaders in this community that constantly cry about not having enough money without raising taxes and then right after they raise taxes increase spending.
We all recently had our federal payroll taxes increased, our local property taxes and water rates increased again and need to be a little more focused on holding the line. As I understand it, even without spending ANY money on expanding the museum Amylon will likely request ANOTHER property tax increase next year, and is still trying to increase sewer rates this year and next.
It's time for cooler heads to prevail.
Received January 11, 2013 - Published January 12, 2013
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