SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


White Cliff not another Schoenbar
By Lance Mertz


May 06, 2008
Tuesday PM

Reading comments about the White Cliff lease from Dawson Construction by the Borough makes me wonder if the people writing and complaining are discussing the same lease arrangement that I have read about and discussed with Borough staff.

Dawson Construction is assuming all risk in this arrangement, not the Borough; read the proposal and the terms.

They purchase the building at the amount optioned, taking it out of the Borough's hands, thereby reducing Borough costs while construction is going on. It goes back on the tax rolls as well. Good deal for the Borough.

Dawson construction has a track record of profitable, well built development at a reasonable price and with high quality. As the builder, the development and lessor they are in the best position to do this job and do it right. Look at Cambria and the commercial development there, the job they did on Fawn Mountain and the First Bank buildings. None of the other bidders have this type of track record or experience and would depend on third parties to do the work. I will take this proposal to the bank any day over the other bidders,

They must remodel the building, which is very old and poorly maintained and has been subject to weather and who knows what since the Borough got it from the City to Borough specification and then lease it at a fixed cost, regardless of their investment costs. Good deal for the Borough.

The Borough gets out of a dangerous, unhealthy rat trap of a building where employees are getting sick from the mold and there is no ventilation. Good deal for the Borough.

The public works and assessment department will be collocated with other Borough offices, adding efficiency and effectiveness to the public process. Good deal for everyone.

The Borough gets 80 parking spots that their employees and the public can utilize at no additional cost. This relieves some of the parking and traffic congestion in downtown during the summer. Good deal for the employees, the public and the Borough.

Better access by the public with easy parking, elevators and a single location to take care of all Borough business.

A state of the art, well maintained structure with:
A public meeting room both larger and better arranged than the old one downtown. (which the Borough will not have to pay rent for!)
Safe and to code wiring.
New network wiring.
Full ADA compliance and accessibility.
Adequate lighting.
Logically arranged and properly laid out offices which should improve employee workspace and efficiency.
Good deal for everyone!

We live in a representative democracy, not a democracy and elected the Borough Assembly to make these decisions. They may not have made one you like, but they were elected. If you don't like it, unelect them. Yes, they listen to staff. That is why they hired them. They are the ones with the in-depth knowledge, the time to investigate and conduct due diligence. That is the system we live under. It may not be perfect, but it is the best one around.

The Mall would provide some of this, but with the union labor requirements and other major work it would probably be much more expensive. There would probably be other costs as well. You can't really tear everything out like you can at White Cliff.

The other options downtown are non-starters for many of the above reasons, or should I say non-reasons. We can't wait for the City to complete the Taj-Mahal library edifice that they are insisting on, which may be built in 10 years and the other locations had all the problems of the current one, except that they would be very expensive and lack parking and access.

Those that want government offices downtown are, according to them, business people. Well, that may be, but they lack a basic understanding of economics and business if they are. Government never made a job or developed an economy. Only capitalism, the free market system and growth makes jobs. Keeping government offices in a commercial core is counterproductive and reduces opportunity for private enterprise. By the way, what services are there downtown that Borough employees avail themselves of any more except a couple of restaurants and the bank? White Cliff is near the mall and west end businesses that will benefit from the Borough presence much more than the tourist shops do. Downtown as a local destination is dead; that shipped sailed about 10 years ago. The Borough's current building is at ground zero for tourism and should be sold to someone to develop for that purpose, putting it back on the tax rolls.

The Borough has done a good job of picking the best and most likely to succeed proposal. Even at an overall higher cost, which is not the case for the Dawson proposal, it has no risk at all for the Borough. They will get a building on time and under budget. So, get over your sour grapes and move on.

There may be some arguments against a few of my points, as they are my informed opinion, but having worked in that run-down piece of crap for almost 5 years (and that was 7 years ago!) I can tell you it is neither safe nor healthy. It is long overdue for demolition and I applaud the Borough assembly and the staff for their actions.

Lance Mertz, CPA
Ketchikan, AK and Kent, Washington

Received May 06, 2008 - Published May 06, 2008


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