SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Newtown gets the shaft
By Tom Ferry


May 24, 2007

I don't even know where to start. I am so seething mad about some citizens thinking they know what is best for me. I guess I will have to give all the retired people and government workers and multi millionaires who have signed the initiative petition a lesson on free enterprise. Before that I have to say I agree with the other letter writers who oppose the draconian initiative to stop a certain type of business whom tourists patronized to a tune of $30 million dollars last year. Lets take the old Marine bar property as an example of a dilapidated mess that will probably stay that way if this initiative gets on the ballot and passes. It will take at least $1.3 million dollars to tear down and rebuild a steel piling concrete deck commercial structure with sprinklers and a faux historic theme. What is the note on that 1.3 million? Can you figure that one out? That does not include property taxes of about 12 grand a year and insurance of another 5 grand a year, plus maintenance and management fees. There is no way a local business like Johnny's Nick Nak shop or Ben Franklin's or Piggly Wiggly can pay the 5 dollars per square foot it would take to pay for this massive debt.

But the feel gooders have not thought it through. While I thank Bobbie McCreary for the kind words and encouragement, that will not pay my bills. I just spent $30,000. in three weeks to get my empty commercial space ready for the first curio store in Newtown. I hope all the petition signers stop in and buy something from the shop. Put your money where your mouth is. And don't be like half the population that whines about local prices and buys pallet loads from Costco and Home Depot. The people at the barge lines can tell you how many hundreds of pallets come in weekly from Seattle to the same whiners who probably will sign this petition. I bought this building 2 years ago in hopes of someday being able to retire from the income it will generate. Is there something wrong with that?

Not including the price I paid, I have sunk $300,000.00 into the building so far. Remodeling the three apartments upstairs, upgrading 60 percent of the electrical and doing just a fraction of the needed piling replacement work. I estimate there is another $300,000.00 to go before the outside is restyled and the piling issues are done. This includes making the back side facing Hopkins Alley into three distinctive storefronts with decorative brackets and period wood siding . The building is actually three buildings that were tacked together years ago by common siding. This will be a great historical look for the alley. But guess what, I cannot afford to do any more work until I get $3 to $5 a square foot when the leases expire on present businesses. There are no local businesses that can afford to pay this amount.

If the Citizens for Ketchikan's Future can get me some phone numbers of the locals that are clamoring to rent in Newtown I can then finish what I have started. Do you people think money grows on trees??? This whole dream world you live in is a personal attack on myself and all the other commercial property owners in Newtown. Some of you are probably muttering to yourselves as you read this that I don't know what I am talking about and I am a greedy business owner who does not care about Ketchikan. Well give my uninformed self a call and straighten me out and then write me a check for $300,000.00 out of your retirement account. I have no retirement or medical coverage this is it! To get the same medical coverage as union local or state government workers I will have to pay three grand a month that's $36 grand a year. How can I afford this when I'm being hacked with these kind of oppressive ordinances.

I have a rare disease called ledderhose on the soles of my feet and some days can barely walk. I can only stay on my feet 6 hours a day and the disease gets worse by the year. Thank you petitioners for not allowing me to fulfill my dreams of getting off my feet and dooming me to a life of continued broke drudgery.

There are many many Ketchikanites that have rental property as their only income. What you all want to do is ruin people's income and do away with the possibility of property owners' incomes increasing. You are messing with my retirement!!!!!

Just think if I was starting a petition to cap a teacher's retirement or cutting in half a city or state worker's medical benefits, I would probably be taken out and tarred and feathered. But this is exactly what you well intentioned folks are doing to us. I say well intentioned because I understand your vision but it is just not possible without hurting myself, my mother, and my co-patriots that own commercial property in Newtown.

Commercial property values are based on the dollar amount per square foot that the renters pay for their place of business. In Newtown the price per square foot has been from 47 cents to 98 cents per square ft for years.(Where were all the locals to take advantage of this deal?) But that is not enough money for any maintenance and is why the area has fallen into such a bad state of disrepair. If you have a 1,000 sq ft commercial space in a prime tourist location and could get the going rate of 5 dollars sq ft, that's five grand a month income. But if you are forced by a goofy socialist ordinance to rent to someone who cannot afford the prevailing rate and can only afford 2 dollars a square foot then your building when appraised, is only worth half of what it should be thus cutting the commercial property owners retirement in half if you want to sell out. And that is UN-American and anti capitalist. I thought this stuff only happened in Iran and Cuba.

In the beginning at the Cape Fox meeting on Newtown where many good and bad ideas were batted around, there were post it notes on the walls that said, make it affordable for locals. Which really means RENT CONTROL. When I was on the Newtown Steering Committee, we also batted this around and decided that rent control was a bad idea. The sneaky thing about this feel good initiative is it does the same thing as rent control in a round about way by limiting a jewelry store every 200 feet so everything between will be cheapo rent and it is enforced by law.

How would you feel if you owned a building and the guy right next to you is getting 5 grand a month and your getting 2 grand a month because of an ordinance jammed down your throat? How fair is that?

We commercial property owners in Newtown are working on our own historical overlay that would make new buildings look historic. We want to see an ordinance that would require store owners that open only for the tourist season to not plywood up their windows. You could have shutters or have some sort of display inside. We want wood or faux wood materials used in construction. We do not want to see a gold elephants head hanging off some tacky building. I, nor anyone else wants to see seasonal businesses. But that's what you get when a cruise ship ties up in front of you. And it is just a fact that most people nowadays do not want to go into business, it is just too hard.

Everyone wants a government job because of the benefits. People that share Patti Fay Hickox's views have no clue about private enterprise or Ketchikan's history or future. There needs to be a public forum where people can speak out and vent whatever they want. Maybe Rob Skinner and I can debate the proponents on the radio. I will debate anyone, anywhere, anytime on this subject.

Why not pass an ordinance to get rid of all the jewelry stores? I will have to dig out a family photo of 1899 Dawson City lined with jewelry stores and the merchants dripping with gold standing out in front of their establishments. Does anyone remember our heritage?

I have also talked with many tourists. The smart ones realize that if they want to see Alaska they have to go on a local tour of some sort. What dummies think they might see a couple grizzled loggers fly through some bar room doors and land in the street in an old fashioned brawl? Or maybe see Rocky the miner bellowing, "I've struck the mother lode"?

Of course these same people probably want to lock up the whole state and make it into a park.

This is not the same town it was 20 years ago - plain and simple. Here's my cell number, 617- 1527. I want people to call me and tell me where I am wrong. I will bet I can convince you to take your name off that petition. I do care about Ketchikan's future. I just have a different way to do it.

Thank you,

Tom Ferry
Ketchikan, AK

Received May 23, 2007 - Published May 24, 2007

About: "Can't retire because of oppressive initiatives. I was born here and will die here."




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Ketchikan, Alaska