Who is OURPORT?
By Janalee L Minnich Gage
August 27, 2019
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.
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.
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
Received August 27, 2019 - Published August 27, 2019
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