By Melinda Munson
Voters will decide Oct. 4 whether or not to authorize up to $65 million in port revenue bonds. If approved, the Ore Peninsula Redevelopment Base Project would replace the aging Ore Dock.
Ports and Harbors Advisory Board Chair Tim Bourcy described the project as “multi-use that allows for industrial transfer of fuel, freight and ore through this port while also accommodating a cruise ship.”
“Current Ore Dock has holes in the pilings underwater,” Mayor Andrew Cremata said, “…there are spots you can lean against the railing and put your life at risk.”
According to Ordinance 22-07, the bond would be used “to pay costs to acquire, construct and equip a floater cruise ship dock, an industrial transfer bridge, relocation of marine fuel header and lines and associated improvements in the borough’s port facilities…”
“This is revenue bonding. It’s not coming out of your sales tax,” Assemblymember Orion Hanson explained. “It’s not coming out of anything else. The funds from this dock, that are generated both through the tariffs and through taxes from the ships, will pay for this infrastructure, not out of your pocket.”
The July 7 assembly packet on skagway.org shows Alternative 3 and Additive B2, which the assembly approved March 17. The Marine Service Platform design was approved May 5. All voting was unanimous, bringing the KPFF Consulting Engineers design to nearly 60 percent. https://www.skagway.org/bc-ba/page/borough-assembly-133
Dave Hunz pointed out at the July 6 Ports and Harbor Advisory meeting that the 30% plans were not available online until that morning, leaving little time to study the document before the board approved the plan and forwarded it to the assembly.
Timothy Cochran of Petro Marine has repeatedly testified during Citizens Present about concerns he sees with the dock design, including fueling schedule issues and a too-small header platform.
“The nagging thing in the back of my mind is we’re going so fast. We’re going 30 [%] now to 60 [%]. We’ve had several concerns from everyone that works down there that are putting years and years of experience on the waterfront. And again, we don’t feel we’re being heard,” he said at the Aug. 4 assembly meeting. “…Let’s work together, seize the opportunity and do it right.”
John Tronrud, a member of the Ports and Harbors Advisory Board, expressed a similar sentiment at the July 21 assembly meeting. “There’s no sense to rush this thing,” he said. “I would like to see that we take the $65 million Band Aid project and maybe redesign it a little better. Because it’s nothing more than, I say, a status quo project.”
Hanson took exception to Tronrud’s testimony, and similar comments he’d heard.
“…A hundred and some years of experience in here and you’ve kicked it right in our laps … And I totally disagreed with the status quo, it’s actually improving on every aspect of it. In terms of efficiencies, it’s increasing the length. So, increasing the depth. It’s modernizing a roll on roll off dock. It’s a 500 foot float, which means longshoremen don’t have to work so hard. It’s very frustrating for me to sit up here because I think a lot of what I’m hearing is self interest. This is a ballot measure for the voters to vote and you keep throwing things against the wall. You hope they stick…”
Resident and engineer Paul Taylor submitted alternate dock plans, which include two cruise ship berths and can be found in the Sept. 1 assembly packet.
Hanson expressed concern about “scheduling industrial uses” around two cruise ships.
Assemblymember Dustin Stone asked for clarification regarding voting for the bond measure.
“So I’m correct in understanding that this doesn’t lock us into a plan, it just secures funding, and then we have flexibility to continue that conversation. Reevaluate the plans and adjust if it becomes necessary,” he said.
Borough Manager Brad Ryan confirmed and clarified.
“…if we decided to do something that isn’t in this realm, or tied to it, clearly, we would go back to you [the assembly] and the bond bank to make sure it was okay,” he said.
Bourcy described the process of taking over the port “as going on since 2007” and said he witnessed “multiple iterations of all the designs” by KPFF.
“This plan [Ore Peninsula Redevelopment Base Project] has been vetted through the community,” Cremata said. It’s been vetted through the Ports and Harbors Committee. It’s been vetted with this body. It’s been worked on by staff. This isn’t new. So I mean, the idea that we’d be moving too fast is hard for me to wrap my head around.”
Long-time resident Steve Hites was passionate when he took the microphone to discuss taking control of the port and the bond measure.
“God bless you. You’ve got to pass this. We’ve got to do this. I mean, this room is full of ghosts, people all of whom would have been here tonight to say go for it. Because it’s going to cost every single penny of that money to do this.”
If approved, the entire project is estimated to be completed by spring of 2025.