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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

Ketchikan Visitors Bureau building
By Joseph Wharton


November 07, 2011
Monday PM

Editor, Sitnews:

Recently there has been media coverage of the impending move and replacement of the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau building located on berth two. I would like to take this opportunity to clarify the status of this project.

The City of Ketchikan has been planning the refurbishment of berth two for several years. The Ketchikan Visitors Bureau was advised in 2007 that construction would likely require moving our building from its present location. Our board of directors has been planning for this eventuality since that time.

City sponsored meetings among port users and businesses, and public open houses in 2007-2008 were held. As a result, the city created a plan that addressed vehicle and pedestrian safety and access, visitor services, public art and other aspects of dock operations. It was determined that the group desired close proximity of visitor services but the shape of the existing KVB building should be modified to improve  usability of the dock.  In 2008, the city awarded a grant to the KVB for preliminary design work on a new building that would meet our needs and conform to the space allocated in the new dock plan.  The City Council approved a conceptual plan for the dock re-design in January 2009.  

Throughout the planning process, the KVB has been engaged in discussions with the city on how construction would affect our organization financially.  It is important to note that the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau owns the existing building and is responsible for its upkeep and the mortgage.  The KVB is a non-profit organization, with contracts for funds awarded by the City and the Borough to market Ketchikan as a visitor destination, enhance the economy and provide information and services to our visitors.  Our facility houses a visitor center, tour sales booths, public restrooms and office space for staff.   A new building and a remodeled version of our existing structure have been considered and cost estimates for those options have been provided to the Council.   The KVB board supports keeping our operation in one building, to manage overhead costs and make more funds available to market Ketchikan.

A special meeting of the City Council has been scheduled for November 10 due to deferral of this issue last month. I hope that the meeting will provide answers to the questions we have regarding the future of our building and how the costs incurred from the dock project will be allocated. 

There may be a misperception that our meeting with the Council concerns the Yates building as a possible location for our offices.  While the KVB recognizes the interest among some community members in preserving the building, the idea of its use as office space for our staff comes following a multi-year process undertaken by our board to consider every option available.  Our board reviewed lease or purchase of an off dock location but still feels that our work is best accomplished in close proximity to the visitors we serve; and that maintaining a single location makes the most sense financially and for efficient use of our staff.

We hope that the council will support the work already done by the KVB to select the best alternative for visitor services and to maximize our ability to provide a tourism marketing program for the community.

Submitted by

Joseph Wharton, Chairman
Ketchikan Visitors Bureau Board of Directors
Ketchikan, AK

About: Josephy Wharton has served on the board of directors of the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau since 2004.  He is employed by Cape Fox Corporation.

Received November 04, 2011 - Published November 07, 2011


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