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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

Funding & the Future of AMHS

By A.M.Johnson

March 10, 2019
Sunday PM

The following has been submitted to Representative Ortiz regarding the funding and future of our Alaska Marine Highway. I'd recommend that those who hold strong feelings or suggestions, be they contrary or debatable, be submitted to Representative Ortiz. He will accept all forms of input. He has asked for our assistance on this budget item, accommodate him.

Representative Ortiz (Dan):

I am not one for public forums anymore, and I don't stand in lines, so- I will comment via email.

It is noted that each and every community affected by the ferry situation is banging on the door whining about all the damage that will happen with ANY change other than status quo.

Unlike Education cuts where nobody seems to want to equate the equal loss of population with the proposed job loss as families leave communities taking their children with them allowing less need for ALL the teachers that in the discussion seem to be retained giving the assumption that each district would remain in a status quo world.

The ferry system is a different cat all together. While there is a loss of personnel and the hardships portrayed are surely actuate, both jobs, folks and the system all deteriorate with the funding situation.

I have in the past, suggested that the ferry system review the history of the system from its beginning. This would include routes, ship manning (USCG) and shore side personnel manning, What and where did the routes start and finish. PR/Seattle South and Skagway North. Did this initial route include Hoonah, Angoon. or were they added later? (How did these two towns survive prior to ferries? Were they first on the Sitka run. and later the Aurora class?) Yes, the Chilcat ran Met and to Hollis which now is the IFS, subsidized by the State to $500,000 annually. There is another question regarding ferry schedules and who is responsible. How many Port Captains and Port engineers were employed? Were there Commissioners and Deputy commissioners?

In summation of this paragraph, Number of ferries, Start and finish, personnel count.

Suggestions? Well, first I'd say, Do not hire out of state experts with brief cases at hundreds of thousands of dollars to extrapolate established data or create computer models. Better, gather up your current and retired captains, and chief engineers. Ask them to provide a system model using existing ferries, and address the more sensible routing and machinery savings. Ask them to be brutal in their determinations, Let them explore the advantage or disadvantages of a quasi government run system.

Next, as I have mentioned on several post in the past, How many "roosters are required to service the hens"? Commissioners, deputy commissioners, and even multiple supervisors or over the years, splitting of departments into segments that ended up requiring additional supervisors. (This will be found in every state department were the same starting point formula of picking the beginning date of the ferry system extrapolated to existing departments of every aspect of state government) In other words, shrink the system in all aspects, back to the start of the system. What did it look like back in the 60's start?

While there are many possible proposals for vessel assignment, use, and surplus potential this is a better left question to those same Captains, both current and retired. In addition, fleet cost and savings suggestions will be forthcoming from these folks, suggestions on rates may well be in their pilot house given the opportunity to speak to them. If you rely on the on shore personnel giving you on board operational options, you are going to receive job security responses, it is human nature. Better to have the guy in the trench or better yet, retired from the system with lessor reason to protect turf.

In the military, it is the Master Sargent or Master Chief that keeps the unit in tack and working.

There is little reason to make the situation into a hand wringing circus. Step back and formulate an in house gang that has hands on experience to bring forth a operating schedule that will provide year around service, yes, it will be bare bones but doable

Dan, it is a tough nut to address, as any and all of the challenges regarding the budget I don't envy any for the anguish that is. You have my sympathy.


Al Johnson
Ketchikan, Alaska


Related Information: Rep Ortiz serves the people of Hydaburg, Hyder, Ketchikan, Loring, Metlakatla, Meyers Chuck, Saxman, and Wrangell



Editor's Note:

The text of this letter was NOT edited by the SitNews Editor.


Received March 10, 2019 - Published March 10, 2019

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