It's Not A Question Of Beach
By Eric Muench
October 04, 2008
Opposition to purchase of South Point Higgins Beach has been
based on other needs for the money, but the argument is flawed.
The high cost of dealing with a defective Mike Smithers swimming
pool was raised as reason to abandon a public swimming beach.
How odd. But the two are different and separate issues. Lumping
them is not like comparing apples and oranges. It is more like
grapes and watermelons.
In the critical issue of timing they are years apart. A negotiated
purchase agreement between the Borough and Mental Health Trust
requires voter approval and sale completion in 2008. Failing
that there is no agreement. The Trust would then assume that
there is no Borough purchase interest and will be free to offer
the property at competitive bid whenever it wishes. Because
of its road access and ease of subdivision, the place is ripe
for sale and thus for its permanent loss to the public. On the
other hand the swimming pool problem requires intensive study
of its defects and community discussion of available options.
Answering questions of size, methods, cost, possible relocation
and funding will take two to three years to sort out.
There is the issue of consequences. There are no new public
beaches being created anywhere close to our populated areas.
In fact there has been no additional near-shoreline road built
in 46 years, since the road to Beaver Falls was completed in
the fall of 1962. And none is on the horizon. This loss would
be permanent. But fixing, rebuilding or relocating an artificial
swimming pool can be done wherever and whenever the citizenry
decides to do it.
Then there is the lopsided cost comparison. Beach purchase would
be guaranteed by a commitment of the Borough to the $1.17 million
price. Approval by the voters will encourage the Rasmusson fund
provide up to a $570,000 grant toward the purchase. In addition
the Borough might sell a conservation easement for about $200,000
in Bear Valley wetlands. These steps could reduce the cash outlay
to as little as about $400,000, or a bit over one third of its
selling price. Solutions to the swimming pool problem have been
estimated at $12 to $20 to $30 million, depending on community
choices. This could range from 10 to 75 times the beach purchase
Finally the payment method would be entirely different. South
Point Higgins Beach purchase is cheap enough so that the Borough
can self-finance and avoid interest payments to Wall Street bond
merchants. The $400,000 to $1,170,000 (depending on developments)
would come from the Borough s Land Trust Fund and be repaid to
that fund by already planned future land sales. The Borough
s loss of interest income from a temporary Lands Trust Fund drawdown
would be less than saved bond interest payments for a similar
amount. On the other hand the much higher cost of the swimming
pool could only be funded through a bond sale with a lengthy
repayment period including hefty interest sums each year, or
by a very large State capital improvement appropriation. Losing
the beach to save its cost would have no meaningful effect on
the pool issue.
Some other s opposition reasons,
such as substituting a 5 mile trail from the end of the new Gravina
Road to Black Sands Beach are so impractical and expensive as
to be non-starters. In short, there is no reason to lose a popular
local recreation beach to try and make a future swimming pool
About: "A 46 year Alaska
resident who wants valuable public use land to remain accessible
to the public "
Received October 01, 2008 -
Published October 04, 2008
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