SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions


By Janalee L Minnich Gage  


August 27, 2019
Tuesday PM

Dear Editor,

While I have been on the Ketchikan city council since 2015, in this statement I speak for myself as a member of this community. I do not speak for other members of the council or the council as a whole. 
Community Members are very busy, and expect their elected officials to do the job of planning and administering the City. I believe everyone on this council truly has the community’s best interest at the heart of their decisions. However; there are people and groups that would like to skew the facts, so that we don’t see the truth, or that what they get is more beneficial to their pocketbook not the community as a whole. 
It is also very important that we all stay on top of the most important issues especially if we want change and we are frustrated because we are not seeing any change. I will tell you that right now the people who are making time to show up at every council meeting are the same 45 people who have benefited the most, from the current system we have in place. This is the very system that benefits a small fraction of our community, which is the main reason many of our community members who see no benefit in the cruise industry are complaining, but at the same time are not showing up to speak out against it.  

This weekend there was an ad in the paper by a group called OURPORT sponsored by the public interest? Who is that? And who’s interest are they really watching out for? 

The ad questions how the city of Ketchikan can maintain and spend 20 million dollars to upgrade our own port as it has done for more than a century? I would like to make some corrections here. 

The City of Ketchikan has spent $80 million  dollars  to develop our ports, the port enterprise  fund was started in 1975, 44 years ago, So, the city did not run the port for over a 100 years. Until the fires that burned down the waterfront, including one of my families businesses and home, The Hunt Store, and a portion of the cold storage that sat where the parking lot by Tongass now sits. 

That March 1960 fire devastated many long-time residents and changed the lives and waterfront of Ketchikan forever.  

Ketchikan is already in bed with the owners of Berth 4, with a 30 year lease, with years still left to go on this lease, and a request by them to renew and add to that lease.  The City of Ketchikan currently pays through that lease, Berth 4’s docking, maintenance, property tax, and sales tax for the owners. 

The owners, are Survey point holdings Inc. and the Dock company, and CLIA a cruise ship company, Business is Business, They made a very good deal for themselves and they will do everything necessary to protect that investment, again, a good business deal for them but I do not  believe it is a benefit to the residence of Ketchikan. 
The City Pays a Base Rent for Berth 4 at 1 million eight hundred thousand dollars $1,800,000.00 which is paid in two semi annual payments.

This Base Rent is adjusted per the rise in the number of cruise ship passengers. For example the wharfage fee goes up if  the city exceeds 820,000 passengers. This doesn’t just mean if the passenger numbers increase at berth 4, it means the number of passengers who come to Ketchikan a year total no matter what dock they berth at. 1,2,3, or 4.

The adjustment for passengers over 820,000 is equal to $7.50 per passenger when the number of passengers reaches 900,000 the annual base rent will be a minimum of $2.4 million a year. 

We are currently at 1.3 million passengers;  Of course, they want more passengers! It means more money from our city the people of Ketchikan.  

They will tell you it comes from the head tax, and so we the people are not paying it. But think about it, as the number of passengers goes up the more money we take from the other three docks to pay them. But is this really the point? 

NO, what everyone needs to understand is that, we can not use the funds collected from the port and apply it to what is really impacted by these big ships and passengers. The $11 million dollars that the ad from OUR PORT talks about can  be used for the Berths, the port. This means we can not use it for the infrastructures that the visitors use and impact daily when they are here. 

So who does pay for those impacted infrastructures? We do, those of us who live here year round, we have to maintain our water, sewer, garabage, etc and as the cost goes up, we only have sales tax, property tax, and fees to pay for these. So who ended up paying for this WE DO. 

So for the past 5 years we as a council have been talking about how to move forward and accommodate the larger cruise ships that are being built without putting the burden on the community.

Going out for a bond, and doing it ourselves would be great, but, leaves us with a huge debt, which is a burden that sits on the community, all of us, to pay off. Is it realistic? I don’t believe so. 

A concession isn’t about selling out or losing control of our port, it is about brokering a deal as smart as the owners of Berth 4 has with the City.  Someone else is paying for the improvements, Maintenance, staffing, and leasing it from the city, with an iron clad lease agreement we design that  puts into place what we the city of Ketchikan decide is fair and good for our community. WE still own it, but instead of having funding that is tied up and can only be used due to federal laws in port items only.  We get funding annually that can be used for what we need as a community and not just for the cruise ships, which is where that projected $11 Million dollars will have to go in wharfage revenues, because it is illegal to use it for anything else. 

In a concessions agreement we can say the port is ours to use as we see fit when no ships are in off season, and when ships leave the port at night, etc. we can create a 20 year lease where the company we do business with takes on all the responsibility of the upkeep and construction of additions with our approval, the same agreement we have with Berth 4, without the burden of cost on the community. 

Again, the same question I posed earlier: Who is OURPORT? And why is it that the community doesn’t know that we are already in bed with a cruise line?

Janalee L Minnich Gage  
Ketchikan, Alaska 



Editor's Note:

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


Received August 27, 2019 - Published August 27, 2019

Related Viewpoint:



Viewpoints - Opinion Letters:

Webmail Your Opinion Letter to the Editor


E-mail your letters & opinions to
Your full name, city and state are required for letter publication.

Published letters become the property of SitNews.

SitNews ©2019
Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska

Articles & photographs that appear in SitNews are considered protected by copyright and may not be reprinted without written permission from and payment of any required fees to the proper sources.

E-mail your news & photos to

Photographers choosing to submit photographs for publication to SitNews are in doing so granting their permission for publication and for archiving. SitNews does not sell photographs. All requests for purchasing a photograph will be emailed to the photographer.