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Concerns About AMHS Headquarters Move Addressed


March 19, 2004
Friday - 1:10 am

Ketchikan, Alaska - Recently there have been a number of questions raised by Juneau's elected officials regarding both the suitability of the former KPC Administration building as an office building for AMHS employees, and regarding the loss of State jobs in Juneau. According to Ketchikan Borough Manager Roy Eckert and Borough Mayor Michael Salazar, while the questions raised may be important they are easily answered.

Ward Cove - Admin Building - photo by Dick Kauffman©

Ward Cove - The former KPC Administration building is visible top center.
File photo by Dick Kauffman© - August 2003

One question raised asked about the potential for asbestos or other hazardous materials in the structure. The Pulp Mill site and this building have been preliminarily reviewed, and asbestos containing flooring tiles have been identified. The type of asbestos in these tiles is non-friable and is not considered a health risk. "The request for a building condition survey and structural review of the building is a reasonable request, and the Borough intends to cooperate fully with the State Department of Administration in addressing these and any issues which might be identified from such a review." said Borough Manager Roy Eckert.

"The information currently available does not show any health risks or concerns which would prevent building occupancy. If further review identifies concerns, those concerns will be addressed in a timely fashion, and in a manner which facilitates the State's responsibility to operate the Marine Highway System in an efficient and cost effective manner." Eckert said.

The Borough's proposal holds the State harmless for costs associated with the move. A guiding principal is that this action saves money for the State. "The Borough thanks the Governor for recognizing this opportunity to save the State money, and his willingness to take advantage of that opportunity" said Borough Mayor Michael Salazar.

Another issue raised is related to potential liability of the State for contamination in the Ward Cove area. According to information provided by Salazar & Eckert, with respect to liability under State and Federal environmental laws the State's position as a tenant in the Administration building at Ward Cove would be no different than the State's position as a tenant at any other structure anywhere else in the State. The site has been thoroughly reviewed by DEC and EPA and approved for this intended use.

Ward Cove photo by Gigi Pilcher©

Ward Cove as viewed from the Tongass Narrows...
Photo by Gigi Pilcher© - March 16, 2004

Eckert said "It is not uncommon for entities to seek what is referred to as a "Phase One Environmental Review" of a site, prior to occupation. If such a review is desired by the State the Borough has no objections and has every intention to cooperate fully with satisfying concerns the State may have in this regard."

Quoting a release from Salazar and Eckert, review of the site has not indicated any concerns about potential environmental contamination either on the lot or in the structure. If in the future contamination is discovered, responsibility for that contamination would fall on the owner of the property and the entity causing the contamination. Eckert said, "There is nothing different about this site which renders it more or less favorable in this regard than any other site in the State."

Salazar and Eckert noted that critics have also complained of jobs moving from Juneau. With respect to the shift of employees from Juneau to other parts of Southeast Alaska, statistics provided by Salazar and Eckert reported by the State of Alaska Department of Labor, from 1997, the year the Pulp mill in Ketchikan closed, until 2002, show significant reductions in the level of State employment in Ketchikan and simultaneously significant increases in the level of State employment in Juneau. Department of Labor statistics report that, from 1997 to 2002 , the annual monthly average number of State employees in Ketchikan dropped by 13%. Over the same time period the annual monthly average number of State employees in Juneau increased by 5%. The reduction in Ketchikan totaled 77 employees, while the increase in Juneau totaled 232 employees. The shift of 45 employees from Juneau to Ketchikan would be far smaller than the shift from Ketchikan to Juneau, which has taken place since 1997, according information provided by Mayor Salazar and Borough Manager Eckert.

Eckert said "Ketchikan is a friendly welcoming community which is seeing its fortunes turn the corner economically. As a community we look forward to welcoming the AMHS headquarters and its employees and their families. We hope to cooperate with the Department of Administration and the AMHS system to make any transitions as smooth as possible." Eckert said, "I thank the Assembly for their unanimous support of this significant step in the future development of the Ward Cove Maritime Center."



Sources of News Release:

Office of KGB Mayor Michael Salazar
Office of KGB Manager Roy Eckert



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