SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Make South Point Higgins Beach Ours
By Kathleen Wiechelman


October 04, 2008

Opposition to the purchase of South Point Higgins Beach has been based on the needs of a defective Mike Smithers swimming pool, but that argument is flawed. The beach purchase and pool repair or replacement are entirely different issues, and lumping them together makes no sense to me.

First, decisions on these issues are years apart. The beach purchase must take place NOW. The agreement between the Borough and the Alaska Mental Health Trust requires voter approval and sale completion by the end of 2008, or the Trust can offer the property at competitive bid whenever it wishes. On the other hand, the swimming pool problem requires study and community discussion of available options. Sorting out questions of size, methods, cost, possible relocation and funding will take two to three years. Then it can be done wherever and whenever the citizenry decides to do it.

Secondly, the cost comparison is lopsided. Approval by the voters of a $1.17 million purchase will encourage the Rasmuson Foundation to provide up to a $570,000 grant toward the purchase. Just this week, Rasmuson expressed additional interest in the project, met with Borough staff, and visited the Beach. The Borough might sell a conservation easement for about $200,000 in Bear Valley wetlands, reducing cash outlay to about $400,000, or about one third of the selling price. Alternatively, solutions to the swimming pool problem have been estimated at $12 to $20 to $30 million, depending on community choices.

Finally, the payment method would be entirely different. The South Point Higgins Beach purchase can be self-financed by the Borough to avoid bond interest payments. The $400,000 to $1.17 million (depending on developments) would come from the Borough's Land Trust Fund and be repaid to that fund by already planned future land sales. But the swimming pool cost could only be funded by a bond sale or by a very large State appropriation. Losing the beach to save its cost would have no meaningful effect on the pool issue, and the loss would be permanent.

There is no reason to lose a popular local recreation beach to try and make a future swimming pool project possible. Please vote according to what Borough planning documents have been telling us for more than 30 years and what hordes of Borough residents have been telling us for decades: South Point Higgins Beach needs to be a park! Make It Ours.

Kathleen Wiechelman
Ketchikan, AK

Received October 03, 2008 - Published October 04, 2008


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