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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

Irregularities in Ketchikan's Fiscal Forecast
By Ed Plute


August 21, 2012

Currently the City of Ketchikan is $158 million in debt according to the 2012 annual budget. Established here are just a few examples of financial irresponsibilities that need to addressed and not behind closed doors.

If you think the bridge to nowhere was ridiculous, wait till you see this... look at the bonds already in place!

The hospital bond is a 22 million dollar loan that will cost us 42 million. The city leases the building for a nominal fee yet the hospital is making immense yearly revenue, a nonprofit organization that generates more than enough revenue to operate independently yet is supported by the city through bonds. In addition they provide maintenance and vehicles. What does the city gain by continuing to support this tax burden? Sell it!

The pool bond cost 26 million loan that will cost 52 million. The pool has a crack in it already and the contractors passed all the repair and maintenance cost to the Borough for an undisclosed amount. The contract signed also required pilings to be installed that were never constructed and the Borough is responsible for any damage as a result of this. Now why did the newly constructed pool have a crack in it and what was wrong with the existing facility?

In 2002, the annual budget for the ports and harbor was $200,000. Last year the budget was 49 million in operations cost for a town of 8,000. In contrast, the city of Seattle's budget for ports, harbor, and SeaTac combined is 149 million for a population of 800,000. Where is the benefit for this unreasonable increase in cost to the taxpayer?

The fire station bond is an 5 million loan that will cost 8 million. Response time to an emergency is being inhibited by dispatch protocols influenced by federal incentives rewarding mileage on response vehicles. This puts lives at risk when the wrong facility is dispatched from so the emergency vehicle can be paid for mileage. In addition the recent fire station was built on prime real estate for commercial business and expansion of the town.

The new library was initially projected to be 5 million, the end cost was 9.5 million. The contract included pilings to support the building due to its location above a sinking landfill. The pilings were not installed and the contract left unfilled. The roof was installed during heavy rains, the same conditions that led to the re-installation of Schoenbar High School's roof at the cost to the Borough of 2 million after a black mold infestation rendered it a health risk immediately after construction. For 4.5 million dollars over budget, we're receiving a building with definite impending repair costs that were supposed to be included in the initial contract. In addition, the new location is in a more difficult location to access via bike and bus and removes a recognizable landmark and community meeting place in downtown. What was wrong with the old location? Who gains from the library vacating its current location?

In addition to these glaring gross misappropriations, there are smaller examples throughout the budget such as $32,000 for a can crusher, $20,000 for furnishing folding tables and chairs, a replacement generator for $230,000 for the North Tongass Fire Station when a generator of comparable size to run City Hall is $30,000. A simple break room for the Wastewater Treatment Plan B cost $300,000! What kind of beautiful house could be built for this price? All of these "small" expenses add up and can be found in the city books.

We, the Coalition for Fiscal Responsibility represent a growing majority of citizens that are concerned about our community. The principal interest of all loans when it's all said and done will be 750 million dollars. Where is our money going? This information is free to the public but difficult to access and interpret. I tried to submit this in the Ketchikan Daily News and it was not published! Spread the real news! This is only the tip of the iceberg that will sink our community if there is no action. The city leaders are running us off the track of prosperity, and we are doomed in the face of this ongoing recession with no public oversight of these important decisions. We will be sunk too deep in debt with no way to recover if we continue in the same wasteful spending we have indulged in these recent years. These bonds passed are paid for at a cost to the individual and the community as a whole through taxes. If the Borough and City of Ketchikan goes bankrupt, these bonds still must be satisfied through seizure of personal property and assets because YOU voted for it! This is already happening in cities across the United States, don't let Ketchikan be next.

All information presented here is available on public record online at and at City Hall.

Ed Plute
Chairman of the Coalition for Fiscal Responsibility
edplute [at]
Ketchikan, AK


About: "I am a concerned taxpayer tired of wasteful spending practices in our local government, Chairman of the Coalition for Fiscal Responsibility and a member of Seattle Ethics Committee. I ran for mayor of Ketchikan in 2006 and investigated many possible examples of improper appropriations of taxpayer's money. "

Received August 19, 2012 - Published August 21, 2012



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