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Re-think Ward Cove Land Swap
by Walt Bolling


July 30, 2004

Perhaps your readers and the citizens of the Gateway Borough are not aware of actions of the Borough Assembly to sell or trade off for peanuts our public lands in Ward Cove.

I should say four members of the Assembly have done this, they are David Landis, Sam Bergeron, Dave Kiffer and Jack Shay. The other three members have their heads on straight.

Well, what have the four members done? They voted to take the guts out of our $20 million-plus invested when we bailed out Ketchikan Pulp and Gateway Forest Products companies. How did they do this? They voted to swap (even) some 52.5 acres of upland tidelands, which the public owns, for one in in the city next to the Federal Building on Mill Street - something like a half acre. The size of the lot is not so important; what is important is the value of each and the harm to the public if the swap is allowed to proceed.

The borough puts a value of some $1.2 million on our public land, they say that is minimum value. The lot they voted to swap for is valued at $236,000. In other words, we swap and pay more than five times the value of the Mill Street lot. Why would the four members do this?

They say they want to give it to the Arts Council so the Arts Council can apply for a $10 million federal grant to build an arts center. The council tells the Assembly that might take six years or so.

How else is the public harmed? Well, we have between $20 million and $22 million already invested in Ward Cove, we own it; we are and have been spending borough money in an effort to attract an operator for our mill in Ward Cove. We are now spending another million to upgrade an infrastructure there; why jeopardize all that for a $236,000 lot?

Is there any hurry to acquire the lot? No. Does any arts center need to be on that one particular lot? No. There are other options available if and when we should be lucky enough to get a $10 million grant.

Let's go back to the 52.5 acres we lose in Ward Cove, to acquaint the public of the price you are getting for your property and give you a better idea of is size. Start waling at the north end of the Ward Cove cannery property and walk to Ward Cove bridge - that's some 2,200 feet, which includes a filled dry log storage area.

What are the four members selling this, your property for? I calculate they are selling it for something like $1.10 per waterfront foot. Did they offer it to the public for that price? No, they advertised it at something like $337 per waterfront foot. Did I mention that that includes all the patented tidelands in front of the uplands?

Since we don't need the Mill Street lot, there is no pressing need to add that lot to our inventory. Not only is there a glaring inequity in the swap, the public will be severely harmed by the loss of our Ward Cove property.

The four members, Bergeron, Shay, Landis and Kiffer need to re-think this hasty action. Two of the four, Shay and Landis, want us to send them to Juneau to represent us. Say what?

Walt Bolling
Ketchikan, AK - USA



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