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7/3/2019
PoV: Citizens panel needed to keep First City moving

By MARY L. STEPHENSON

The Plan Part 1. The editorial in the Ketchikan Daily News on June 29-30, 2019, summarized the waterfront from downtown to Ward Cove challenges Ketchikan must address within the tourism industry. The June 25 community meeting heard from the residents and business owners, however not from Ward Cove Group or Survey Point Holdings. The July 10 meeting with Bermello Ajamil & Partners will review marketing analysis and a strategy proposal; and it will come with a hefty price tag. The editorial stated: “The city’s next step would be to issue a request for proposals. Both port and uplands work will be necessary if Ketchikan is to meet the demand of the cruise industry.”

B&A has an agenda to promote the mega-ships to Southeast seaports. Norwegian Cruise Lines is one of their clients. Should we expect this presentation to include Ward Cove 2020 into their downtown logistics?

“The Plan” editorial continues, ‘It is clear Ketchikan needs a plan in addition to RFP proposals for the port; the Ketchikan Gateway Borough will be conducting a boroughwide tourism plan.’

The City of Ketchikan owns Berths 1, 2 and 3; Survey Point Holdings owns Berth 4; and Ward Cove Group owns the mill site in Ward Cove. The June 25 community meeting agenda should have led off with presentations from SPH, WCG and public comments. It could have, should have, but didn’t. Our community welcomes the spirit of entrepreneurship and competitive bidding for product and services. The July 10 meeting with B&A will end speculation where alliances are and with whom.

Let me regress to make a point: Years ago, assignments were given to study and report on the impact of neopanamax ships on infrastructure, uplands and neighborhoods, using economic studies, and inputs from residents and tour operators for planning and management.

In good faith, we were expecting this spring, a return on our investment with a summary report of the options for consideration: 1) issue RFP outlining improvements to one or all three city-owned berths,

2) Improve privately owned Berth 4 to receive neopanamax ships,

3) Maintain current status of all four berths and make upgrades based on safety and function as needed while Ward Cove Group increases dockage space to handle larger ships.

The Plan Part 2 Option 4.    

A house divided against itself cannot stand; get the house in order first.

City of Ketchikan Mayor Bob Sivertsen stated there are no projects for repairs or upgrades to city docks pending other than Pinnacle Rock removal this fall thus, assuming no urgency of health or safety, our facilities could continue to accommodate the cruise schedule for at least another year. The mayor also stated, with heartfelt burden, “we want only the best for Ketchikan and that means getting it right the first time.”  

With all due respect, if our mayors were truly listening to constituents on June 25, then the next step is The Plan Part 2 Option 4, which is to slow down the process and prepare benchmarks for limits yet sustainable budgets. According to Richard Harney, the borough planning director who is launching the 2020 Community Strategy Plan ($80,000 CPV funds) this fall, “get our house in order” before we invite 1.3 million distance relatives next summer. He is right, we do not have our ducks in order and until then, we should be prudent when entertaining any financial obligations suggested by RFP contracts. See The Plan Part 3 below.

With the community and governing bodies’ approval, I am making a “call-to-duty” seeking leadership past and present to serve on a Special Panel; an independent, nonpartisan board that works with city and borough staff reviewing general budgets, Port and Airport Enterprise Fund, tourism partnerships vs. independent financing, short- and long-term infrastructure projects such as water, sewer treatment, electricity, telecommunications, and road system.

Mission, goals and to-do list is too extensive for this Point of View. A detailed copy of this article will be made available to my social media circle and at the July 10 meeting.

Timeline: Sept. 1, 2019 to April 1, 2020: submit report to city and borough with final round table discussion with the residents. Based on report’s conclusion, cruise ship schedule each year after 2020 will depend on best decision made by residents.  

The Plan Part 3.

The Plan Part 3 will become self-evident when the process and accountability is questioned, short term (and easy) projects completed, and our house is cleaner, better organized and safer.

The nonpartisan process and report will affirm what is best for all and Keep the First City Moving.

Mary L. Stephenson is a Ketchikan resident; employed in tourism.